|By Alexander of Volzhsky||See other fanon and fan fiction works from Alexander of Volzhsky.|
The 88th Division was a unit of the Earth Kingdom Army that was active during and after the Hundred Year War. Originally trained by Fire Nation military advisers prior to the War, and supplemented by composed of the Earth Kingdom Army's most experienced troops later on, it established a reputation for being one of the kingdom's best military units.
Formation and early actions
In the years leading up to Sozin's ascension to the crown, the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation actually maintained close relations. The industries of the Fire Nation required large amounts of raw materials from the Earth Kingdom to function, and in return, the 50th Earth King had requested advisers from the military of the Fire Nation to train his army. Sozin had initially agreed and dispatched a military mission to the kingdom of a couple hundred officers to train the Earth Kingdom Army. General , the head of the Fire Nation Military Mission in the Earth Kingdom, had devised a plan to form an army of one hundred divisions of professional troops. The Earth King agreed, and his Fire Nation advisers began drilling the first units of the royal army assigned to them. However, as he became more calculating and ambitious, Fire Lord Sozin canceled the agreement with the Earth King and recalled the military advisers. They only managed to train four divisions before they left: the 1st, 36th, 87th, and 88th.
The 88th Division had been stationed in the Ba Sing Se Military District and was led by Colonel Council of Five, the Earth Kingdom Army general staff, predicted, Zikai got along well with Gonnosuke and the others. They put the men of the 88th Division through one of the harshest and most brutal training regimens in the world, at a camp in the plains about forty kilometers south of Ba Sing Se. By the time it was over, the 88th Division's troops were some of the best-trained soldiers in the Earth Kingdom Army. The men of the 1st, 36th, and 87th divisions underwent similar trials, and by the time their training was complete, these four units were considered to be the best in the Earth King's forces., who had trained at a military academy in the Fire Nation. It was believed that he would be able to work with the advisers better than a commander who no prior interactions with Fire Nation natives, and so the 88th was one of the units selected for the program. As the
However, as the set invasion date of the Earth Kingdom by drew nearer, Sozin had the military advisers recalled back to the Fire Nation. By that point, the Fire Nation had gained several colonies in the Kingdom in return for their military assistance. Sozin believed he had reached the point at which the Earth King would make no more concessions, and prepared for his plan to invade the Earth Kingdom.
Hundred Year War
Early stages (0―20 AG)
Battle of Taku
When Sozin launched his assault on the four Air Temples to wipe out the Air Nomads and the next Avatar, the attack on the Earth Kingdom began simultaneously. The Fire Nation Navy struck several major port cities on the kingdom's western coast, and began landing troops. The government in Ba Sing Se had suspicions of the Fire Nation, and so the 88th Division was stationed in Taku, a major port and center of commerce. The city became one of the Fire Nation's first targets. Following a lengthy bombardment by the Fire Nation fleet, which reduced much of the city to rubble, the 2nd Army landed in what remained of the port, while the 3rd Army landed on the shoreline to the south. Colonel Zikai's 88th Division, along with the rest of the city garrison, fought against the advancing Fire Nation troops. The 88th was positioned closest to the docks, so it was one of the first to face the enemy.
The troops of the 88th managed to hold off the first waves of the 2nd Army's 4th Infantry Division in the large market beyond the docks, which became the site of savage close-quarters fighting. The division fought for three days against overwhelming odds before two regiments from the 1st Infantry Division moved in to reinforce the depleted 4th. Despite having dealt the attacking Fire Nation forces heavy casualties, Zikai and his men were forced to withdraw towards the city center. The fighting continued for several more days before the 2nd Army managed to clear out that area, forcing the 88th Division to retreat northwards. On the colonel's orders, the 88th Division troops made their positions in the northern suburbs of Taku, which they were able to defend more effectively due to the uneven terrain. The Fire Nation's 1st and 3rd Infantry Divisions fought against the 88th for another six days before Zikai had gotten word that the rest of the garrison had fled.
He decided to order a retreat before the 2nd Army could bring its full force to bear against them, and the 88th quietly abandoned its positions at night once the fighting had briefly ceased. The troops of the 88th (what remained of them) were shocked at the sudden Fire Nation attacked and at what they had witnessed during the ferocious battle. Colonel Zikai, who had considered himself to be pro-Fire Nation, felt betrayed. Meanwhile, the Fire Nation troops noted that the 88th Division had been the most dangerous Earth Kingdom unit they faced, and were nervous at the prospect of having to fight other divisions of that quality. After arriving in the nearest town, Zikai and the division staff recorded their losses: more than half of their number. Two of the three infantry regiments had been almost completely wiped out, while the earthbender regiment lost half of its men, and as did the cavalry regiment. The smaller formations of the division had likewise taken heavy casualties.
Hu Xin Campaign
Around the time that the 88th Division and other surviving units abandoned Taku, the Fire Nation had made similar successes across the entire western seaboard. The Fire Nation Army continued to pursue fleeing Earth Kingdom Army troops further inland, rapidly gaining ground. The 88th Division attempted to defend the town it retreated to, and fought off several Fire Nation despite its weakened state, before being forced to withdraw by Fire Nation reinforcements. About two weeks after Taku, the 88th eventually made it to the Hu Xin Provinces. The region had been led by local noble families for centuries, who received some autonomy from Ba Sing Se in exchange for pledging allegiance to the Earth King. It was the next target of the Fire Nation assault. Upon arrival, the 88th was replenished with soldiers from other units that were nearly wiped out. This way, the professionalism of the unit continued despite the deaths of many of its Fire Nation-trained troops, due to the influx of more experienced soldiers.
As the Fire Nation entered the region, the division was deployed as part of the Earth Kingdom 5th Army in defense of the Hu Xin Provinces. Colonel Zikai led his troops in defending several cities on the border of the provinces. The 88th again proved itself in combat and took lighter casualties than it had at Taku, but ultimately, the 5th Army was pushed back. The Earth Kingdom forces managed to eventually halt the Fire Nation advance at a city known as Han Tui. The first battle there had resulted in the burning of the city by troops under Fire Lord Sozin himself, but the 5th Army then counterattacked after their victory. The 88th Division, along with the 87th, spearheaded the assault. Their troops fought the surprised Fire Nation soldiers in the ruins of Han Tui, pushing them back, while the 6th Army surrounded the city. The garrison fought to the death, but the relentless Fire Nation assault was finally halted.
Battle of Garsai
The 88th Division was replenished with more troops following the actions at Han Tui, and spent the next two years mainly performing security and police duties in Garsai, the capital of the Hu Xin Provinces, at the behest of the region's governor. In 9 AG, Zikai was promoted to general and was given command of the 9th Army, further north, and command of the division passed to his deputy, Colonel Gongsun.
Order of battle
When the war with the Fire Nation broke out, the 88th consisted of the following units:
- 3 infantry regiments (3,900 men)
- 1 earthbender regiment (1,300 men)
- 1 ostrich horse cavalry regiment (1,300 men)
- 1 trebuchet artillery battalion (750 men)
- 1 reconnaissance/communications company (140 men)
- 1 division hospital (250 men)
- 1 division headquarters (60 men)
Chiefs of staff
- The unit is based on the 88th Division of Chinese National Revolutionary Army, which had been trained by German military advisers and had the reputation of being one of the best Chinese units. It took heavy casualties at Shanghai against the Japanese in 1937, however, and did not play a significant role for the rest of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
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