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 A Summary History of the 10th Mountain Division

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"Climb to Glory"

10th Mountain Division - Climb to Glory(Updated 5-9-08)

The 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) is a non-mechanized, light infantry division that is currently part of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Like the rest of the 18th Corps, the 10th Mountain is designed to be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world. The 10th Mountain Division is currently home based at Fort Drum, in upstate New York.

The specialty of the 10th Mountain Division (LI) is to fight on harsh terrain. This comes from their origins as a unit designed for winter warfare. In November of 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland. Finnish soldiers on skis humiliated the Russians depending on armor in the harsh winter conditions. Forward thinking Americans watched these developments. They assumed that the United States would be soon drawn into the escalating World War. Charles Minot (Minnie) Dole, the president of the National Ski Patrol, knew that the U.S. Army would need mountain troops in the upcoming war. He lobbied the War Department to train troops in mountain and winter warfare. In September of 1940, Dole made a presentation to the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, and convinced him to act on Dole's proposals for ski units.

Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comOn December 8, 1941 the 87th Mountain Infantry Battalion was activated at Fort Lewis, Washington. The 87th was the Army's first mountain unit and would later be expanded to a regiment. The Battalion was nicknamed "Minnie's Ski Troops" in honor of Minnie Dole. The National Ski Patrol took on the role of recruiter for the 87th Infantry Regiment and later the Division. The 87th trained on Mount Rainier near Fort Lewis and participated in the Kiska Campaign in the Aleutian Islands. After returning home the 87th formed the core of the new 10th Mountain Division.

The Division was activated on July 15, 1943 at Camp Hale, Colorado as the 10th Light Division (Alpine). The maneuver brigades of the Division were contained in the 85th, 86th, and 87th Infantry Regiments. The Division's year of training at the 9,200 foot high Camp Hale provided the skills necessary to fight and survive in mountain terrain and winter conditions.

On June 22, 1944 the Division moved to Camp Swift, Texas to prepare for the Louisiana maneuvers of 1944. Although those maneuvers were cancelled, a period of acclimation to low altitude and hot climate was necessary to prepare for the maneuvers. On November 6, 1944 the Division was re-designated as the 10th Mountain Division and that same month the blue and white "Mountain" tab was added to the Divisions shoulder patch.

The 10th Mountain Division started to arrive in Italy in late December of 1944. It was one of the last Divisions to enter combat during World War II. However after a brief training period, the 10th Mountain entered combat on January 8, 1945 near Cutigliano and Orsigna. The initial defensive actions were followed by Operation Encore that kicked off on February 18, 1945. The Division conducted attacks on the Monte Della Torraccia ridge and Monte Belvedere which constituted an approximately five mile front. Other divisions had attempted to assault this sector three previous times, but none had any lasting success. The 10th Mountain Division cleared the sector in a few days of heavy fighting. The Germans had made seven counterattacks to retake the ground, but never succeeded.

In early March the Division fought to a line north of Canolle and moved to within 15 miles of Bologna. The 10th Mountain Division maintained defensive positions for the next three weeks before starting another offensive. The Division captured Mongiorgio on April 20th, and then entered the Po Valley. The 10th Mountain Division crossed the Po River on April 23rd and reached Verona by April 25th. Here the Division met heavy resistance at Torbole and Nago. After an amphibious crossing of Lake Garda, the 10th Mountain Division secured Gargnano and Porto di Tremosine on April 30th as German resistance in Italy ended. The Germans in Italy surrendered on May 2, 1945. After serving some time on security duty and receiving the surrender of various German units, the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division returned to the United States. The Division was deactivated on November 30, 1945.

Veterans of the 10th Mountain Division were in a large part responsible for the development of skiing into a big name sport, national pastime, and vacation industry in the years after World War II. Former soldiers from the 10th laid out ski hills, built ski lodges, designed ski lifts and improved ski equipment. They started ski magazines and opened ski schools. Winter resort towns of Vail, Aspen, Sugarbush, Crystal Mountain, and Whiteface Mountain are but a few of the ski areas built by 10th Mountain Division Veterans.

The Division was reactivated as the 10th Infantry Division to operate as a training division in 1948. It was deactivated again in 1958 with no service in the Korean War. It was not until the Reagan buildup of the military in the 1980s that the 10th Mountain Division was brought back to the active army. On September 11, 1984 the Army announced that Fort Drum, New York would be the new home of the 10th Light Infantry Division. The unit was officially activated on February 13, 1985 with the designation changed to 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). The 10th was the first division of any kind formed by the Army since 1975 and the first based in the Northeast United States since WWII. The Division was designed to meet a wide range of worldwide infantry-intensive contingency missions. Equipment design was oriented toward reduced size and weight for reasons of both strategic and tactical mobility.

The modern 10th Mountain Division's first deployment came in 1990 when some Division units were deployed to support Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Although the Division didn't deploy to Southwest Asia as a unit, about 1,200 10th Mountain Division soldiers did go. The largest unit to deploy was the 548th Supply and Services Battalion with almost 1,000 soldiers. The 548th supported the 24th Infantry Division (Mech) as it drove into Iraq.

After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in August of 1992, an estimated 250,000 people were left homeless and damages were in excess of 20 billion dollars. The 10th Mountain Division deployed to assist in the recovery effort. Soldiers of the Division set up relief camps, distributed food, clothing, medical necessities and building supplies as well as helping to rebuild homes and clear debris.

During 1993, the 10th Mountain Division was deployed to Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope. When Task Force Ranger and the SAR team were pinned down during a raid in what later became known as the Battle of Mogadishu, 10th Mountain Division units provided infantry for the UN quick reaction force sent to rescue them. The Division had two soldiers KIA during the fighting.

The 10th Mountain Division was also deployed to Haiti and Bosnia in the 1990s. Due to the number of deployments, the 10th Mountain Division gained a reputation as the most deployed division in the army. During the 2000 presidential campaign, the readiness of the 10th Mountain Division became a political issue when then candidate George W. Bush asserted that the division was "not ready for duty". The division's low readiness was attributed on the recent redeployment of division units which had not had the time to refit for future missions.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, 10th Mountain units have deployed at an even greater frequency. Division units have played significant roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among these has been the rescue of downed Navy SEALs during "Operation Anaconda" in Afghanistan in 2001, and the successful maintenance of security of Western Baghdad during the first democratic Iraqi elections of 2004. They returned from that duty in November of 2004. The 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team returned to Iraq in 2007.

 

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