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McKay Jenkins - The Last Ridge
This book includes previously unpublished information from the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center at the Denver Public Library (DPL-WHG). To personalize the story, the author relies on interviews and/or writings of division veterans, including Stuart Abbott, Hugh Evans, Dan Kennerly, Denis Nunan, Dick Wilson, and others. The book does a good job of explaining 10th's role in the overall Italian campaign. See also shelton-2003.


p. 3: Provides background on the situation in the northern Apennines at the start of the winter of 1944-45.

Chapter 1 - Skiers

p. 13: The author discusses the media hype surrounding the mountain troops long before they got into combat: "Attention so focused on the men's physical prowess and athletic skills that newspaper coverage of their military training seemed as appropriate for the sports pages as for the sections devoted to war preparations."

p. 15: Inspired by the success of the Finns during the Winter War of 1939-40, Charles Minot Dole and others associated with the National Ski Patrol lobbied the U.S. army to form mountain troops.

Chapter 2 - Mountaineers

p. 23: Bob Bates, Adams Carter, Charles Houston and others associated with the American Alpine Club developed and tested equipment for mountain soldiers and provided additional encouragement to the Army to form mountain troops. Resistance came from Lt. Gen. Leslie James McNair, in charge of all ground troops in the continental U.S. (p. 31). Intense lobbying from several quarters, and word of the problems of the Italian army in Albania, finally persuaded the War Department to activate the 1st Battalion of the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis on November 15, 1941.

Chapter 3 - Cascades and Ice Fields

p. 34: The Allies learned from the fate of the German army in Operation Barabarossa, when their advance on Moscow was stalled in the winter of 1941-42. This chapter describes training of the 87th Regiment on Mt Rainier that winter, recruiting efforts by the National Ski Patrol, equipment testing on Mt McKinley, and testing of the "weasel" oversnow vehicle on the Columbia Icefields. According to the author, the weasel was designed to help destroy a Nazi heavy-water plant in Norway.

Chapter 4 - The Land of the Black Snow

p. 48: After an extended visit to Camp Hale, Colorado, Col. Carl Stenerson of the Norwegian army wrote to Minnie Dole: "The German authorities are in for efficiency and they do understand that 99 percent of military skiing is cross-country skiing--and they will not allow their skiers to fumble around for months on a hill with play skiing. They know how to travel on their skis." The author describes the Homestake Maneuvers (p. 60) and the training/promotional movie Mountain Fighers filmed at Camp Hale by Warner Brothers (p. 62).

Chapter 5 - Climbing and Falling

p. 65: The author describes the German defeat at Stalingrad and the background of Gen. Frido von Senger, who would later command the troops that the 10th Mountain Division would face in the northern Apennines.

p. 70: The 10th Mountain Division had five hundred foreign-born soldiers.

p. 72: Describes early Allied efforts in the Italian campaign, including the invasion of Sicily (July 10, 1943), the push to the mainland near Reggio di Calabria (September 3, 1943), the Italian capitulation (September 8, 1943), and the landing at Salerno (September 9, 1943).

Chapter 6 - Optical Aleutian

p. 82: An account of the invasion of Kiska with a good description of the Japanese escape (p. 88).

Chapter 7 - The March Up the Boot

p. 98: This chapter describes the Allied advance up the Italian peninsula, including the battles of San Pietro (December 12, 1943), Rapido River (January 20, 1944), Anzio and Cassino (January through March, 1944). Allied losses were heavy and criticism of the Italian campaign grew (p. 103). News of the fighting in Italy added to simmering frustrations of soldiers at Camp Hale and lowered their already poor morale.

Chapter 8 - The D Series

p. 116: The D Series war games in April 1944 became known as the most gruelling exercise in the history of the American military. According to one history, the division suffered five times as many illnesses and injuries preparing for combat as any other American division in World War II.

p. 123: On June 4, 1944, Gen. Mark Clark, against the orders of Allied Commander Harold Alexander, took the Italian capital of Rome. Two days later, the Allies landed at Normandy.

p. 123: Morale in the mountain troops reached an all-time low in late June 1944, when they were shipped to Camp Swift, Texas. Things turned around in November when Gen. George P. Hays was named commander of the division and they received orders to ship out for combat duty.

Chapter 9 - See Naples and Die

p. 129: As the Allied armies moved northward from Rome in the summer of 1944, Winston Churchill nursed ambitions of driving all the way to Vienna to counter Stalin's postwar designs for Eastern Europe. Neither Franklin D. Roosevelt nor Dwight Eisenhower shared Churchill's enthusiasm, preferring to focus on the invasion of France. The author discusses the Allied and German strategies on either side of the Gothic Line in the northern Apennines as well as initial attempts to take Mount Belvedere. Within the ranks, soldiers wondered why it was necessary to push northward in Italy at all, considering the progress being made on the western and eastern fronts (p. 137).

Chapter 10 - Riva Ridge

p. 145: This chapter describes the approach to Riva Ridge, early patrols (p. 150), scouting routes up the ridge (p. 159), and the plan of attack (p. 160). Military doctrine holds that in the mountains, assaulting troop superiority should be around ten to one (p. 153). On Riva Ridge, the army expected a 90 percent casualty rate (p. 161). Instead, the attack force, consisting mainly of the 1st Battalion of the 86th Regiment, encountered surprisingly little resistance (p. 171).

p. 174: Sixteen pages of fine photographs depict people and events associated with the mountain troops from Mt Rainier to Lake Garda.

Chapter 11 - Mount Belvedere

p. 179: An account of the assault on Mount Belvedere and the ridge to the north. The author describes the battle on Mount della Torraccia as "apocalyptic" but provides few details. A March 3, 1945, story in the Seattle P-I heralded the division's success but was full of hype and inaccuracies and was resented in the ranks (p. 196).

Chapter 12 - Mountain of Hope

p. 197: This chapter describes the push northward to Mount della Spe during which Torger Tokle was killed (p. 200). This was followed by a six-week halt in the fighting.

Chapter 13 - The Cruelest Month

p. 212: Starting on April 14, 1945, the spring offensive of the Fifth Army broke out of the Apennines into the flat country to the north.

Chapter 14 - Across the Po and Into the Alps

p. 227: The drive to the Po River.

Chapter 15 - Sleeping in Mussolini's Bed

p. 237: This chapter describes the push to the head of Lake Garda, at the foot of the Alps, and the surrender of German forces in Italy. By the end of the Italian campaign, the Allies had suffered 312,000 casualties. German casualties were estimated at 435,000 (p. 244). The 10th Mountain Division had faced a total of 100,000 German soldiers and had effectively destroyed five full divisions. Gen. Senger told Gen. Hays that the 10th was the most impressive opposing force he had ever faced (p. 245).


p. 253: The mountain troops had one of the highest casualty rates in the Italian campaign, more than 1,200 per month. Fortunately, the division did not have to fight long, so total casualties were less than many other Allied units. The author writes: "If nothing else, the mountain troops executed one of the most important strategies of war: Arrive late, fight hard, leave early."

p. 254: Reflecting on the country's romantic attachment to the mountain troops, the author writes: "The mountain troops represented a fighting unit the popular imagination could celebrate for reasons that went far beyond fighting. [... They] seemed to offer a hint of something slightly more evolved, a 'moral equivalent to war.'"

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