A Memorial Day Wish ~ The 10th Mountain Division • 1943-2010
While Many of Us Americans enjoy Barbecues & Ballgames for Memorial Day ~
There are a lot of Intrepid Americans out there who may not have quite the Three-Day Holiday most of us are looking forward to…Airports, Backyards & Bars Across America will be Filled to the Brim with Happy Hour Americans for the Duration of the Downtime. Americans are Pre-occupied with Partying, Pre-Game & Postgame, The Playoffs, Pabst Blue Ribbon & Plastic Surgery these days. Once Upon a Time ~ Then & Now…there were a lot of Americans who Did it the Hard Way so a complete generation of us don’t even have to look up from our iPhones or Facebook or ESPN to consider a time or a place where Hardship Prevails…
(Above) Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division wait to board a 214th Aviation Regiment helicopter near Ghazni, Afghanistan.
The 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) is a light infantry division of the United States Army based at Fort Drum, New York. It is a subordinate unit of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the only division-sized element of the US Army to specialize in fighting under harsh terrain and weather conditions. The division retains the “mountain” designation for historical purposes but is actually organized as a light infantry division.
Activated in 1943, the 10th Mountain Division was the last among currently active divisions to enter combat during World War II. (According to “World War II Order of Battle” by Shelby L. Stanton, the 10th Mountain Division entered combat on January 8, 1945, followed by the 8th, 13th, 16th, and 20th Armored, and the 65th, 71st, 76th, 86th, 89th and 97th Infantry divisions in the final months of the war.) The 10th fought in the mountains of Italy in some of the roughest terrain in the country. After the war, the division was briefly redesignated as the 10th Infantry Division, a training unit.
There is no ‘Bottle Service’ or Swimming Pools, or Babes in Bikinis or even a Beach for these guys. They live largely outside in conditions that range from searing heat to extreme cold, and their Holiday Outfits consist of sometimes over 100lbs. of gear. Personnel in this Division come from places like Colorado, or North Dakota, Montana and the Mountains of California. They are trained in all the Usual Requisite Soldiering skills, and have an additional resume’ that includes Heavy Hiking, Mountaineering, Snowshoeing & Skiing in the course of their Duties.
The history of the 10th Mountain Division is rooted in developments prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. Influenced by the 1939 success of Finnish troops in warfare against invading Soviet units and by concern over escalating hostilities across Europe, individuals in the War Department and the military turned their attention to the status of military preparedness for winter warfare. Troops stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota had engaged in specialized training, yet no large-scale maneuvers had taken place. In May of 1940, the American Alpine club urged the Department of War to begin mountain warfare training and subsequently began advising the military on equipment necessary for mountain and winter warfare.
Additional pressure for the development of elite mountain troops came from Charles Minot Dole (Minnie Dole), Chair of the National Ski Patrol Association of the National Ski Association. Dole believed the need for trained alpine soldiers existed and he emphasized the presence of skilled skiers in the US able to meet these special needs of the military. When the War Department created ski patrol units within several existing divisions, the National Ski Association reviewed equipment and training and by the end of the winter the advisory relationship had become formalized.
So just a Little Reminder ~ These guys, or Other Guys just like the originals above from 1945, are Out There Right Now. They may have a Cerveza or Two for their Holiday, they May Not. So ~ while you’re Kicking Back & Having a Good Time, or you’re Hung Over, or complaining you had one too many Slices of Aunt Esther’s Pie, or the Zone Defense of your favorite NBA team broke down in the 4th Quarter, or What to Wear, or you’re Stuck in Traffic ~ maybe Raise A Toast to These Guys, and the Thousands of American Ladies & Gentlemen in the Armed Services out there on the job doing what they do ~ So we don’t have to…Happy Memorial Day ~ FdeC.