Wow! Summer is here and it's time to head to the high country and take in some scenery, and catch some sun like this Tenth Mountain Division soldier is in the Yugoslavian Alps ~ what a place to get military leave! Many of our 10th Mountain photos were taken in Europe, and many others here in Colorado where these elite ski troops trained.
The 10th Mountain Division is a light infantry division in the United States Army that trained in the Colorado mountains for battle in World War II and is still active, now based at Fort Drum, New York. The division was originally constituted as a unique mountain warfare unit, specializing in fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions. You can find out more about the 10th and our collections here, and here. We have almost 800 photos in our Tenth Mountain Division collection, here, and you can see a selection of choice images in our gallery below.
And be sure to get out and enjoy some of those beautiful mountain vistas while the Rockies are in bloom!
"Wow Photo Wednesday" celebrates photographs in the Denver Public Library's Digital Collections that have "The Wow Factor" and that highlight the myriad delightful nuggets in our database.
Too bad it wasn't that pleasant once they saw combat. Here's an excerpt from a recent NPR retrospective:
During World War II, the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division served in combat for only four months, but it had one of the conflict's highest casualty rates.The division started out as an experiment to train skiers and climbers to fight in the most difficult, mountainous terrain in Europe.
Some of the men who joined the division were skiers already, while others had never seen a ski in their lives. Their training at Camp Hale, near Pando, Colo., included skiing, snowshoeing and rock climbing. They also learned cold-weather survival tactics, such as keeping warm by building snow caves.
The men lived in the mountains for weeks, working in altitudes of up to 13,500 feet, in five to six feet of snow and in temperatures that dropped to 20 degrees below zero at night. At the end of 1944, the 10th Division was finally deployed and began the first of a series of daring assaults against the German army in the northern Apennine Mountains of Italy.mMount Belvedere was the highest mountain in the Apennines, and the Germans had stymied the U.S. Army there for nearly six months.
On Feb. 18, 1945, the 10th Division took Riva Ridge — to prevent the Germans from being able to survey U.S. positions below — in a nighttime operation. The steep mountain was covered in snow and ice. At night, the Germans did not bother with guard patrols, because the conditions were so difficult that they did not believe any American unit could climb the ridge — day or night.
But the Germans were wrong, and the soldiers of the 10th climbed, silently, to the top and secured Riva Ridge with minimal casualties.The next day's operation, the assault on Mount Belvedere, would prove to be very different. The American soldiers ended up victorious, but not without a price: Nearly 1,000 of the 13,000 soldiers in the division died.
In the postwar years, many veterans of the 10th returned to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, and formed the foundation of the U.S. ski industry. They worked as ski instructors, ski school directors, Olympic and college coaches, and helped found resort areas in Colorado, such as Winter Park, Arapahoe Basin and Vail.
One veteran didn't stop skiing until he was 90; others are still skiing (with oxygen tanks) in their 80s. In this audio history, former soldiers Newc Eldredge, Dan Kennerly, Robert Nordhaus, Bob Parker, Al Waverek and Dick Wilson share memories of their days as men of the 10th Mountain Division, including the assault on Riva Ridge and battle at Mount Belvedere in 1945. (Nordhaus and Wilson died earlier this year.)
Joe Richman of Radio Diaries produced this story, with help from Deborah George and Ben Shapiro.
Wow, thanks! That's just the kind of historical information we like to include!