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Vermont and the 10th Mountain Division

10th Mountain DivisionOn November 9, 2003, the Vermont Ski Museum inducted into the Vermont Ski Hall of Fame the over 260 Vermonters who served in the 10 th Mountain Division during World War II. In recognition of their valor, Senator James Jeffords addressed the President on Veterans Day 2003. This exhibit celebrates the contributions of these men towards ending World War II and creating the ski industry.

The 10 th was a unique group. Formed by C. Minot "Minnie" Dole, the founder of the National Ski Patrol, the 10 th is the only military group founded by a civilian. Activated in November 1941, it began with a 1000 men. Part of the IV Corps of the 5 th Army, the 10 th Division quickly grew to three regiments, over 33,000 men by the end of the War. After rigorous training in mountain warfare at high altitudes in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, the 10 th shipped to the Mediterranean theater at the end of 1944. They swiftly moved through the Apennine Mountains of Italy, cutting off supply routes and capturing the high ground. They closed the Italian front, changing the tide of the War, but not without the horrific losses of War. On May 2, 1945, the Germans in Italy surrendered. On October 20, 1945, the 10 th Mountain Division was deactivated.

10th Mountain DivisionThe Finnish Army inspired Dole to push the concept of soldiers on skis. The Finns boldly and unexpectedly kept the stronger Russian Army at bay during 1939. In the late 1930s, skiing was just becoming a major recreational sport in the United States: the first lift was installed at the White Cupboard Inn in 1934; the National Ski Patrol in 1938. However, there was a large, dedicated group of outdoors-men, skiers, mountaineers, and hikers who loved the mountains and their country. This educated, lively, adventurous population became the 10 th Mountain Division.

These men flourished during their training at Camp Hale. Taught by leading ski racers and instructors, they became lovers of the sport and the mountains. During the tribulations of training in such isolation, they formed lasting bonds, resulting in their legendary camaraderie. They carried both their dedication to skiing and their affection for their fellow soldiers into their post-War lives.

Sergeant Walter Prager, a Dartmouth ski coach and Hall of Fame inductee, said in Ski News December 1945: "It is difficult to foretell just how much the returning veterans will influence post-war skiing, but the thousands of GIs who learned or taught skiing in the 10 th Mountain Division will be taking an active part in every phase of skiing." In Vermont, these men started lodges, shops, ski schools, ski patrols; they became coaches; they opened ski areas; they formed and supported ski organizations such as Vermont Alpine Racing Association; they instigated technological innovations; they inspired the formation of the Mountain Warfare School and Battalion in Jericho, Vermont; and they breed another generation of skiers.

This exhibit tells their story - from the early days of training to their post-War legacy. Throughout there are quotes and reminiscences from the Vermonters who served in the 10 th Mountain Division. The Vermont Ski Museum salutes these men, many just boys in 1941, for their bravery and their contributions to the skiing world.

1941 September 15 George Marshall authorizes 1000 men to start the TMD at Fort Lewis
1941 September 18 FM 31-15 Basic Field Manual - Operations in Snow and Extreme Cold
1941 December 7 Attack on Pearl Harbor
1942 May 12 Need to recruit less skiers and more men w/ mountain experience"By means of questionnaire we have been trying to help skiers and mountaineers to go to the 87 th We have now been called upon as a patriotic duty to go out and help get the men"
1942 June 3-4 Japanese hit Dutch Harbor, 1 of 6 army posts in Alaska, then withdraw to Kiska, 700 miles west
1942 June 5 Kiska first occupied by the Japanese, from 500 to 25oo by September
1942 June 7-11 Air recon sees Japanese on Kiska and Attu
1942 July 8 "notice of Temporary Suspension of Recruiting for 87 th Mountain Infantry Regiment"
1942 Summer Construction on Camp Hale (7 months to develop 17 square acres)
1942 August 30 US land on Adak; willawaw (the wild wind of Kiska) makes it difficult to take action
1942 October Set up on Adak (200 miles from Kiska)
1943 January 12 US occupies Amchitka
1943 May 11 Land on Attu Attack Attu first because Japanese expect to attack Kiska and this traps Japanese on island between 2 US occupied.
1943 May 30 Japanese gone from Attu "The battle of Attu was not the turning point of the War It was, however, the last stand of the invasion on North American soil"
1943 July 28 Evacuation of Japanese complete
1943 July 29 F company, 87 th , depart US for Kiska
1943 August 15 US and Canadian troops occupy Kiska
1943 August 18 F Company lands on Kiska
1944 Summer To Camp Swift - flatland Infantry training
1944 Fall Prepare for "transfer of TMD to a combat area"
1944 November 11 General Robinson E Duff Assistant Division Commander goes to Washington, DC Orders to move from TX to Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Decide to leave mules as part of T/E for possible shipment. Prepare 86 th for immediate departure
1944 November 14 Duff to Naples - 1 st TMD member there - to tour front lines
1944 November 23 Brigadier General George P Hays comes to Camp Swift to take over command
1944 November 28 86 th cleared out of Camp Swift
1944 December 2 Camp Patrick Henry, VA, for overseas clearing
1944 December 11 On board the SS Argentina to Italy
1944 December 16 Advance party join at Livorno, Italy, the command post for the TMD
1944 December 23 86 th in Naples, travel to Staging Area 1 Bagnoli
1944 December 25-27 86 th moving from Livorno on the Sestriare to Staging Area 3, SE of Pisa 85 th and 87 th preparing to leave from Camp Patrick Henry.
1945 January 4 85 and 87 th on USS West Point
1945 January 6 1 st casualties, mine explodes killing 8, wounding 4; remainder of Division on USAT Meigs for Italy.
1945 January 8 86 th to front line to relieve Task Force 45
1945 January 9 86 th engage in enemy fire
1945 January 12 Patrolling in heavy snows with no skis or snowshoes Member s of the 86 th commit to mountains - 1 st battalion moving to Mt. Belvedere.
1945 January 13-18 85 th /87 th moving to Staging Area 3; rest of troops in Naples.
1945 January 19 All 85 th on front lines; 87 th making bivouac area
1945 January 21 Patrols up Mt Spigolino with limited equipment and rations,
1945 January 26 86 th sees first real combat
1945 January 28 Final stages of movement complete - General Hays in charge; recorded complaints from troops about lack of equipment - need crampons, ice axes, scabbards, and carbines
1945 February 2 13,054 Enlisted Men and officers in Italy
1945 February 8 Raids and attacks; enemy visible; lobbing anti-American pamphlets behind lines
1945 February 12 1 st and 3 rd battalions of 85 th execute Regimental Field exercise in preparation for assault on Mt. Belvedere
1945 February 15 Field Order #9 - "TMD will attack on D to seize, occupy, organize, and defend the Mt. Belvedere-Mt Della Torracia ridge, prepare for action to the northeast" To be held by 4 battalions, 83 guns However, enemy has strategic heights, communications difficult (terrain makes use of vehicles nearly impossible); each regiment assigned a Field Artillery unit to help combat against heavy land mine placement
1945 February 19 Attack on Mt. Mancinello and Pizzo di Camperano ridge: 1 st battalion, 86 th climbs rock face and lays fixed lines Secured by morning - move towards Mt Belvedere. 87 th to attack across valley floor up Dargagna River.
1945 February 21 4 tanks on top of Mt Belvedere - require artillery and air attacks (Rover Joe)
1945 February 26 Line secured. 850 casualties (195 killed, 10 missing, 645 wounded - counts change within week)
1945 February 27 Field Order #1 - move towards Bologna (on 28 th postponed)
1945 March 2 Head towards Mt. Della Castellana and Mt. Della Croce Attack develops rapidly thanks to air force and recon. 252 casualties (36 killed, 22 missing, 194 wounded)
1945 March 4-6 Battle continues, heavy air raids Casualties up to 549 - 107 killed, 25 missing, 403 wounded.
1945 April 4 Find German document outlining knowledge of mountain warfare, terrain conditions, alpine distress signals, tactics of a mountain soldier, battle tactics of squad leaders, and dangers of winter warfare.
1945 April 13 Increase enemy reinforcement - troop supplies moving in even during daylight in preparation for pending attack.
1945 April 14 Attack begins after 2 day postponement
1945 April 16 Take Mt. Croce - enemy retreat to Mt Mosca, launch attack from ridge between these two mountains
1945 April 16-19 Enemy retreating to Po Valley - quick retreat makes it difficult to get supplies to troops
1945 April 19 Reach objective day - cut off Ponte Samoggia, the main supply route from Bologna
1945 April 22 General Duff wounded by mine
1945 April 23 Need to move men and materials across Po River. Men paddle and Corp of Engineers then build pontoon bridge No casualties crossing the river. Enemy had expected the crossing in three days
1945 April 25 Final objective Villa Franca air field. Task Force Darby - reach Verona and cut off enemy retreat through Brenner Pass
1945 April 27-30 Clearing tunnels and moving north along beach
1945 May 2 BBC announces Germans in Italy surrendered unconditionally at headquarters in Caserta. TMD to aid in orderly surrender and maintenance of security.
1945 May 9 Allied National Holiday - day of relaxation
1945 October 20 TMD deactivated at Camp Carson, CO.