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Peter Shelton - Climb To Conquer
This book was published around the same time as jenkins-2003 and is similar in content. This book may be somewhat more accurate, judging by the author's treatment of the Riva Ridge operation. To personalize the story, the author relies on interviews and/or writings of division veterans, including David Brower, John Jennings, Dan Kennerly, Bob Parker, Harry Poschman, Bud Winter, Bob Woody, and others. The book does a good job of placing the Italian campaign in the larger context of World War II.


p. 1: Describes an army ski patrol with John Jennings on Mt Belvedere in the Apennine Mountains of Italy in January 1945.

Chapter 1 - Minnie's Ski Troops

p. 7: This chapter discusses the efforts of Minnie Dole and others to form U.S. ski troops in light of the Russo-Finnish Winter War, the perceived threat from Nazi Germany, German offensives in Norway and western Europe (p. 18), and the Italian debacle in Albania (p. 24). The author discusses the influence of immigrants on the growth of U.S. skiing during the Depression (p. 16), Army ski patrols in the winter of 1940-41 (p. 20), and testing of gear by the Army Quartermaster staff (p. 23).

Chapter 2 - Paradise

p. 27: Up to the winter of 1941-42, the war in Europe had largely gone the Axis way. The author provides background on Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, and Japanese expansion in the Pacific. Most of this chapter covers training of the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment on Mt Rainier that winter, profiling well-known recruits and describing the May climb to the summit, which tested equipment.

Chapter 3 - "I Love a Soldier"

p. 45: The National Ski Patrol handled recruiting to fill out the ranks of the mountain troops after they moved to Camp Hale at the end of 1942. The author includes letters of recommendation for several recruits and describes films that boosted the effort, including The Basic Principles of Skiing, Mountain Fighters, and Ski Patrol. Ultimately, about half the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale were volunteers who came through the National Ski Patrol System (p. 54).

Chapter 4 - The Homestake Fiasco

p. 57: On June 7, 1942, the Japanese occupied the undefended islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians. This was a diversion for the attack on Midway Island, which became a turning point in the Pacific war. Most of this chapter describes the Homestake Peak maneuvers near Camp Hale in February 1943, which included experiments such as the use of artillery to trigger avalanches.

Chapter 5 - "Too Beautiful a Place to Die"

p. 70: The May 1943 recapture of Attu resulted in many American casualties from the severe weather. All 2,600 Japanese soldiers on the island died. Eighty percent casualties were expected for the Kiska invasion scheduled for August 15 (p. 72). The Japanese slipped away before the Americans arrived, and in the confusion of the first days, there were many casualties from friendly fire.

p. 80: In May 1942, the Allies finally defeated General Rommel and accepted the surrender of Germany's Afrika Korps. Two months later the Allies invaded Sicily and by September they had hopped across to the boot toe of Italy.

Chapter 6 - Sport Imitates War

p. 86: In The Face of Battle, historian John Keegan surmised that "Mountaineering has become in our time a sort of military operation in which sport imitates war." The romanticist philosophy of mountaineering has been largely replaced by a desire to "push to the limits of what is physically and psychologically possible."

p. 91: The author provides background on the Allied invasion of the Italian peninsula in 1943. Most of this chapter describes training at Camp Hale in 1943-44, skiing at Cooper Hill, the "trooper traverse" from Pando to Aspen (p. 97), and the D-Series maneuvers (p. 104). On June 6, 1944, Operation Overlord commenced with the Allied landings at Normandy (p. 106).

Chapter 7 - Not Too Swift

p. 107: Describes flat-land training at Camp Swift, Texas, during which the mountain troops were reorganized, renamed the 10th Mountain Division, and assigned a new commander, Gen. George Hays.

p. 116: Eight pages of photographs of people and events in the life of the 10th Mountain Division.

Chapter 8 - The Winter Line

p. 118: The author provides background on the campaign to take the "soft underbelly of Europe," including Allied offensives at Cassino and Anzio during the winter of 1944 and the liberation of Rome on June 5, 1944. In August, the Allies launched Operation Dragoon, to open a second front on France's Mediterranean coast. This drained away several divisions from Gen. Mark Clark's Fifth Army. The 10th was the last U.S. division to enter the war in Europe (p. 120).

p. 126: Describing the east face of Riva Ridge, the author writes: "There were routes that an experienced hiker could negotiate with relative ease." On two of the five routes scouted up the ridge, the 10th attached fixed ropes for the benefit of troops burdened with rifles and ammunition. These were placed in advance of the attack, not during the attack itself. About 800 men participated in the February 18, 1945, attack on Riva Ridge (p. 128).

Chapter 9 - Riva Ridge

p. 133: Surprise was essential to the Riva Ridge attack. Maj. John Hay said of the German advantage, "A dozen men, each with a handful of rocks, could have defended those positions." The author provides a good, unsensationalized account of the attack and the German counter-attacks. Almost no one back home heard about the Riva Ridge success, because attention focused on the Marine landing on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945 (p. 141).

Chapter 10 - Belvedere

p. 143: Gen. Hays ordered that the attack on Belvedere occur without loaded rifles, using only bayonets, knives and grenades. No arms were to be used before daylight. The author describes the fighting on Mounts Belvedere, Gorgolesco, and della Torraccia, starting on February 19. On March 3, a "limited offensive" was launched to extend Allied control another three or four miles along the hills overlooking Highway 64 to Monte della Spe (p. 158). Torger Tokle was killed during this fighting.

Chapter 11 - R&R

p. 171: After the successes on Belvedere and della Spe, an admiring article about the 10th appeared in Yank, which feuled resentment in divisions that had been in the Italian theatre longer. Operation Craftsman, the long-awaited spring push northward in Italy, commenced on April 14.

Chapter 12 - Race to the Alps

p. 179: Describes the bloody offensive that broke out of the Apennine foothills. The 10th left the hills behind on April 20 and was told by Gen. Clark to stop and wait for the 85th and 88th Divisions to catch up and move through. Gen. Hays threw Clark's message away and continued driving his men northward toward to the Po River (p. 184).

Chapter 13 - Tunnel of the Dead

p. 193: The author summarizes developments in Europe and the Pacific during April 1945. The 10th advanced up the east shore of Lake Garda, fighting their way around or through several lakeshore tunnels. On April 29, secret negotiations resulted in a surrender of German forces in Italy (p. 203). But, since the agreement was made without Hitler's knowledge or consent, the fighting continued. Hitler committed suicide on April 30 and news of the surrender in Italy arrived on May 2 (p. 208).

Chapter 14 - Mountain Idylls

p. 216: When Gen Frido von Senger was presented surrender documents, he asked as a point of honor to be allowed to surrender to Gen. Hays and the 10th Mountain Division, which he called "my most dangerous opponent." VE Day came on May 8. The author summarizes the casualties suffered by the 10th Mountain Division (p. 217).

p. 220: On June 3, a group of men formerly with the Mountain Training Group held a ski race on Mount Mangart, won by Sgt. Walter Prager. In late July, the 10th steamed for home, where after a thirty-day leave the division was to reassemble for a planned November 2 attack on Kyushu, the southern island of Japan (pp. 218, 224). On August 6, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Japan surrendered four days later.

Chapter 15 - "We Could Do Almost Anything"

p. 225: Describes the efforts of 10th Mountain veterans establishing Aspen, Vail, and a score of ski areas throughout the country. By 1970, there were over 700 full-fledged ski areas in the U.S. (p. 229).

Chapter 16 - A New World Outside

p. 237: Describes the influence of 10th Mountain veterans on outdoor recreation in the U.S., particularly David Brower, Paul Petzold, Bill Bowerman, Fritz Benedict, John Jay, Monty Atwater, and Morley Nelson.

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Last Updated: Tue Apr 4 16:37:13 PDT 2006