America's Mountain Soldiers
In memory of the men who gave their lives.
In appreciation for the great contribution the returning veterans have made to Breckenridge skiing.
In gratitude for the men and women of the new 10th Mountain Division who are now serving so valiantly. bc
America's Mountain Soldiers
History of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II
To the 996 men killed in action
To the 3,938 men wounded
And 28 POWs
To the courageous men who fought for our freedom
This memorial is dedicated
The People of the United States thank you
And may God be with you
The Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939, and the heroic defense by Finnish Soldiers mounted on skis and wearing camouflage whites, convinced many Americans of the need for American soldiers specially trained for mountain and winter warfare.
May 40 · The American Alpine Club
urges the War Department
to introduce mountain warfare training in the U.S. Army.
18 Jul 40 · Charles Minot Dale,
Chairman of the National Ski Patrol Committee
(of the National Ski Association
) writes a letter to President Roosevelt
, offering to recruit experienced skiers to help train troops in ski patrol work. He contends that, "it is more reasonable to make soldiers out of skiers than skiers out of soldiers.
5 Nov 40 · The War Department forms ski patrol units in six infantry division. U.S. Olympic captain Rolf Monson
leads the first patrol to start training (the 1st Division Patrol at Plattsburg Barracks and Lake Placid, NY).
15 Nov 41 · A mountain division is born:
the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment,
is activated at Fort Lewis, WA.
With Lt. Col. Onslow S. Rolfe
in command, skiing and mountain training begin on on Mt. Rainier.
Over the coming months the National Ski Patrol
, under the terms of a contract with the War Department, will recruit 7000 men
for the mountain division—the only time in our nation's history when a civilian sports organization recruits, screens and approves volunteers for the military.
7 Dec 41 · The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
pushes the U.S. into a war for which it is not ready. Astounded American unite behind President Roosevelt, and the barracks at Fort Lewis fill rapidly.
Apr 42 · With the War Department's decision now made to forman entire division of mountain troops, construction of Camp Hale
as a training site begins in the high Rockies near Leadville, CO.
Jun 42 · With the activation of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions at Fort Lewis, organization of the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment is now complete. By December, the entire regiment is in training at Camp Hale.
3 Sep 42 · Lt. John Woodward,
noted skier and mountaineer and formerly captain of the University of Washington ski team, is ordered to form a Training Detachment
by picking 100 experienced skiers and mountaineers.
26 Nov 42 · The 1st Battalion of the 86th Regiment
is activated. By April 1943, all three of the 86th battalions are in training with the 87th at Camp Hale.
13 Jun 43 · The 87th Regiment
moves to Fort Ord, CA, for amphibious training as part of the 30,000-man Amphibian Training Force 9
. ATF-9's mission is to recapture the Aleutian island of Kiska
, now occupied by Japanese troops.
15 Jul 43 · The 10th Light Division (Alpine)
with Maj. Gen. Lloyd E. Jones
in command, is activated at Camp Hale. Simultaneously, the 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment
is activated and assigned to the 10th Light. Other combat units now include the 604th, 605th
and 616th Field Artillery Battalions (Pack)
, whose howitzers are carried by mule; the 126th Mountain Engineer Battalion
; and other units.
15 Aug 43 · Through the morning fog, the 87th
land on Kiska's north shore
. Unknown to the ATF-9, the enemy has left the island; but 11 men are killed by friendly fire, eight others will die of various causes, including booby traps and accidents; and a U.S. Navy destroyer hits a mine and is lost with all hands.
9 Sep 43 · The Allied invasion of Italy
begins when four infantry division of the U.S. Fifth Army force a landing at Salerno, in the ankle of the Italian boot, while two British divisions land on the toe and heel. Twenty months of hard fighting lie ahead before victory is achieved.
23 Feb 44 · The 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment returns to Camp Hale from Kiska.
6 Jun 44 · D Day Invasion of France.
20 Jun 44 · 10th Light Division is transferred from Camp Hale to Camp Swift, TX.
6 Nov 44 · The 10th Light Division is renamed the 10th Mountain Division
and reorganized to increase its firepower by adding three heavy weapons companies, one to each battalion (D, H, and M).
23 Nov 44 · Brig. Gen. George P. Hays
, a WW I Medal of Honor recipient, arrives at Camp Swift and takes command of the division. (He will soon be promoted to Major General.) Twelve days earlier he had been in command of the 2nd Infantry Division's artillery in France. Our artillery units remain under the command of Brig. Gen. David L. Ruffner.
11 Dec 44 · The 86th Regiment embarks for Naples, Italy,
arriving 22 December - 15 months after the allied invasion of Italy began.
8 Jan 45 · The 86th is now on the front lines north of Bagni di Lucca,
with the rest of the division on their way to join them.
11 Hab 45 · General Hays confers with Lt. Gen. L. K. Truscott, Jr.,
commander of the Fifth Army
and receives orders to capture Mt. Belvedere,
a strongly held position important because it provides the enemy with artillery observation on the approach to the Po Valley along Route 64.
Map 1 · General Hays decides that an attack on Mt. Belvedere would be successful only if German positions on Riva Ridge
—which overlooks Mt. Belvedere and provides German artillery observers a clear view of Mt. Belvedere—-are captured. He assigns that task to five companies of the 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment, led by Lt. Col. Henry J. Hampton.
" is a code name for a ridge that from north to south, includes Pizzo di Campiano
(elev. 3,175'), Mt. Cappel Buso, Mt. Serrasiccia, Mt. Riva,
and Mt. Manicinello
15 Jan 45 · B Company of the 86th sends a patrol of five expert mountaineers led by S/Sgt Carl E. Casperson
to scout enemy positions on Pizzo di Campiano. The trail is coverd with snow and ice. After a firefight, the patrol returns safely. Five weeks later, Casperson will be KIA during a German counterattack on Riva Ridge.
21 Jan 45 · A ski patrol in camouflage whites from the 86th HQ Company and consisting of 1st Lt. Donald E. Traynor, Sgt. Stephen P. Knowlton, Cpl. Harry Brandt, and Pfcs. Cragg D. Gilbert and Harvey Slater
, begins a three-day reconnoiters of German positions near Mt. Spigolino.
18 Feb 45 · On the evening of the 18th, 700 men of the 86th Regiment make a daring night climb and successful assault on Riva Ridge
, which rises steeply 1700-2000 feet above the rushing Dardagna River. Using five carefully prepared climbing routes, including two that require fixed ropes, the attack takes the enemy by complete surprise.
Map 1 · American casualties result from fierce counterattacks that occur over tyhe next four days. For their heroism on Riva Ridge, three soldiers receive Silver Stars
posthumously: Pvt. Michael G. Bostonia, Pfc. Ferdinand Lebrecht
, and 1st Lt. John A. McCown II
. Eight other Silver Stars are awarded to: Pfc. Jack A. Booh, Pfc. Franklyn C. Fairweather, 1st Lt. Frank D. Gorham, Jr., 2nd Lt. Floyd P. Hallett, Lt. Col. Henry J. Hampton, 1st Lt. James W. Loose, Jr., Pfc. Roy Steen
, and S/Sgt. Robert P. Thomposn.
Two days later, engineers from D. Company of the 126th Engineers complete an aerial tramway
to a point near the top of one of Riva's peaks, Mt. Cappel Buso
. On the first day of operation, 30 wounded are evacuated and 5 tons of supplies delivered.
Just before midnight, without artillery preparation, five other battlaions of the 10th Mountain Division begin their attack of Mt. Belvedere
and its sister peak, Mt. Gorgolesco
. Orders are to use only grenades and bayonets until first light. By dawn the positions have been taken.
20 Feb 45 · With the initial objectives achieved, the division carries the attack northeast along the ridge. Fierce counterattacks slow this assault, and Mt. Ddella Torraccia
is not taken until the 24th.
Map 1 · These battles for control of Riva Ridge and the Mt. Belvedere-Mt. Della Torraccia massif cost the division 909 casualties: 203 KIA and 706 WIA.
3 Mar 45 · The 86th and 87th Regiments lead the attack to the northeast supported by armor, heavy artillery, aerial strafing and bombardment. But German resistance is determined, and among other casualties this day, legendary ski jumper T/Sgt Torger D. Tokle
(86-A) is killed in the village of Iola
5 Mar 45 · Map 2 · While the 87th captures the crossroads town of Castel d'Aiano
, the 85th Regiment capturesMt. Della Spe
, a key ridge just to the east, and hangs onto this gain in spite of counterattacksthat come immediately, and intensive shelling that batters the position over the next twoweeks. Among the defenders of Mt. Della Spe is Sgt. Werner Von Trapp
, one of the famous Von Trapp Family Singers. (His brother T/S Rupert Fon Trapp
is a medic in the 86th.) The stage is now set for the coming spring offensive.
12 Apr 45 · President Roosevelt dies.
14 Apr 45 · On the first day of the Spring Offensive, and 24 hours ahead of the other Allied forces, the 10thassaults German positions on the hills north of Mt. Della Spe.
Map 3 · This time there is no surprise, and the division has its bloodiest day in spite of an extensive preparatory bombardment by our artillery and aircraft. 2nd Lt. Robert Dole
(85-I) is seriously 20 wounded on Hill 913. Pfc. John Magrath
(85-G) knocks out four German machine guns on Hill 909, and then volunteers for another mission in which he is killed by mortar fire. For these heroic acts, Magrath will receive the posthumous award of the 10th Division's only Medal of Honor
17 Apr 45 · The breakthrough of the German defense line is completed when the 87th captures Tol?
, four miles northreast of Mt. Della Spe. Henceforth, the 10th will operate on a terrain of gentler slopes descending gradually toward the Po Valley
19 Apr 45 · These battles cost the division 1349 casualties: 290 KIA, 1059 WIA.
Map 4 · Moving rapidly north along the high ground east of the Samoggia River
, advance elements of the division capture positions on Mt. Avezzano
and Mt. San Michele
and soon occupy spurs overlooking the Po Valley.
20 Apr 45 · The 10th breaks out of the Apennines
into the Po Valley. Elements of the British Eighth Army are already in the Velley and advancing west toward Bologna
Map 4 · General Hays
orders his assistant division commander, Brig Gen. Robinson E. Duff
, to organize a task force consisting of tanks, tank destroyers, a signal platoon, a company of engineers, and infantry. Task Force Duff
then spearheads the drive north to the Po River
, with the rest of the division following and mopping up in one of the fastest drives of the war.
22 Apr 45 · Map 5 · The 3rd Battalion, 85th replaces the 2nd Battalion, 86th, as the striking infantry unit in Task Force Duff
. This force is now the spearhead of the Fifth Army drive to reach the Po River. About an hour before reaching the Po. Gen. Duff is seriously wounded by the explosion off an antitank mine. General Hays takes over command of the spearhead.
23 Apr 45 · At 12:45 AM, the Task Force reaches the banks of the Po and sets up a defensive ring around the area from which crossings art to be made.
Map 6 · At noon, the 1st Battalion, 87th crosses the Po River
, under fire, with men from the 126th Engineers manning the assault boats. By nightfall the 85th Regiment has crossed the river.
25 Apr 45 · Map 7 · Early in the morning, 1st Battalion, 85th heads for the airport at Villafranca di Verona
. Meanwhile, a Task Force led by Col. William O. Darby
, famed commander of the First Ranger Battalion
, is 25 given the mission of capturing Verona, 10 miles NE of Villafranca.
26 Apr 45 · Map 7 · Task Force Darby
arrives in Verona to find that elements of the 85th Infantry Division have already entered the town and largely silenced German opposition there. By evening, the task force accomplished its final mission, the capture of Lazise
, a town on the southeast shore of Lake Garda
28 Apr 45 · Map 8 · Although the German Army is now in full retreat, the 86th's advance is slowed because the Germans have blown the first of six tunnels
through which the road along Lake Garda's east shore passes. On the 29th, direct enemy fire into Tunnel No. 5, kills five and wounds many.
30 Apr 45 · Map 8 · Our troops take the town of Torbole
, and head for Riva
, three miles away at the north end of Lake Garda. The same day, an assault force consisting of 85-K and one platoon of heavy machine guns from 85-M cross the lake in amphibious vehicles called DUKW's
and enter Mussolini's
villa and office in Gargnano
A German 88-mm artillery shell explosion in Torbole kills Col. Darby
and Sgt. Maj. John ("Tim") Evans
of the 86th.
2 May 45 · The German Army in Italy surrenders
. In northern Europe the Germans fight on. The German commander, General Fricks Von Senger und Etterlin, who signed the surrender documents for his country and who had experienced combat on three fronts, wrote in his diaries, "The 10th Mountain Division had been my most dangerous opponent in the past fighting."
7 May 45 · Germany surrenders.
20 May 45 · The 10th moves to Udine
in northeastern Italy, near Trieste
. Its mission is to join with troops of the British Eighth Army in preventing further westward movement by Yugoslav forces.
14 Jul 45 · The 10th is ordered back to the U.S. for further training in preparation for the invasion of Japan.
6 Aug 45 · News is received that an atomic bomb has been dropped on Hiroshima.
11 Aug 45 · By this date, all units of the 10th Mountain Division are back in the States.
15 Aug 45 · Japan surrenders.
15 Sep 45 · Men report to Camp Carson, CO
after 30-day furloghs.
30 Nov 45 · 10th Mountain Division is inactivated.
A total of 19,912 men served in the 10th in Italy - 14,200 who went overseas together, plus 5,712 replacements. Of these, 977 men were killed in action in Italy, 19 men were killed on Kiska Island along the Aleutian chain in the Bering Sea, 3,938 men were wounded in action, and 28 Prisoners of War.
For Heroic Actions: 1 Congressional Medal of Honor,5 Distinquished Service Crosses,449 Silver Stars and 8,010 Bronze Stars were awarded to the soldiers of the 10th in Italy.
Maps by Armand Casini (10th Hq.)
Text by Barbara Z. and John Imbrie (85-C) and Ann G. and Hugh W. Evans (85-A-C) November 2001
Plaque Design by Marietta P. and Donald R. Carlson (85-A)