Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home

Flint Whitlock - Soldiers on Skis

Chapter 1 - Many Paths to the Mountain

p. 1: Next to a photo of Charles M. Dole in 1942, the author describes ways in which the 10th Mountain Division was unique. "The 10th Mountain Division was created almost singlehandedly by one civilian--Charles Minot Dole, an insurance man and the founder and chairman of the National Ski Patrol System, a part of the National Ski Association. It is safe to say that, without Dole's vision and tenacity, there never would have been a division such as the 10th." Succeeding pages describe the efforts of Dole and others to convince the War Department to create ski troops.

p. 6a: On 4 December 1941, twelve officers and one enlisted man were officially designated the 87th Infantry, Mountain, 1st Ballalion, Reinforced. Lt. Col Onslow "Pinkie" Rolfe was made its first commanding officer.

p. 6b: The author describes some of the elite skiers and mountaineers who volunteered for the 87th, including Walter Prager, Peter Gabriel, Robert Livermore, Paul Petzoldt, Friedl Pfeifer, Florian Haemerle, Olaf Rodegaard and Torger Tokle. A photo of Walter Prager is shown.

p. 8: Construction of Camp Hale in Colorado began on 10 April 1942. The 87th Regiment moved to Hale in January 1943.

p. 10: "In addition to normal infantry schooling in close-order drill, marksmanship, bayonet, and grenades, plus equipment and vehicle maintenance, artillery operations for those in the 75mm howitzer battalions, and bridge building and mine detecting for the engineers, the men were taught military skiing, snowshoeing, snow-freighting, trail breaking for toboggans, mountain rescue work, avalanche prevention, rock climbing, mule packing, forest-fire fighting, dog-sled operation, and snow-cave building--in short, everything needed to fight and survive at high altitudes, in varying terrain, and in extreme weather conditions."

p. 12: Several veterans describe their efforts to get into the 10th.

p. 15: Dick Wilson describes being trained as an instructor of the Arlberg ski technique in six or eight weeks. He was also trained as a rock-climbing instructor in an intensive four-week rock-climbing school on Mt Holy Cross near Camp Hale.

Chapter 2 - Adventure in the Aleutians

p. 19: This chapter describes the Kiska operation, during which the 87th Regiment joined a landing force of 34,426 troops and a large part of the Pacific Fleet to evict the Japanese. The Japanese evacuated the island under cover of fog before the invasion. In the confusion following their landing, 23 members of the 87th Regiment were killed and 55 injured.

Chapter 3 - From the Heights to the Depths

p. 31a: The 10th Light Division was activated on 15 July 1943. "The division was issued a distinctive shoulder patch: two scarlet crossed bayonets forming the Roman numeral ten, set against an infantry-blue background in the shape of a powder keg."

p. 31b: "Unlike other outfits that featured pinup photos of pretty, swimsuit-clad girls in their division newspapers, the 10th's paper, the Ski-zett (later renamed the Blizzard), printed photos of snowcapped mountains under the heading, 'Pin-Up Mountain of the Week,' in deference to the skiers and mountaineers in the division. (The mule skinners wondered why their favorite animals didn't received equal treatment.)"

p. 33: The 10th was unique in its use of mules and horses at a time when the army had all but phased out animals. Several mule stories are recounted.

p. 42: The D-Series division-level maneuvers were carried out from 26 March to 15 April, 1944.

p. 44: "In May 1944, serious consideration was given to implementing the Army Ground Forces recommendations and turning the 10th into a regular flatland division."

Chapter 4 - Six Months in Purgatory

p. 47: This chapter describes the transfer of the 10th to Camp Swift, Texas in June 1944.

p. 52: On 6 November 1944, the division was declared reorganized and given the name 10th Mountain Division. After Thanksgiving, General George P. Hays was assigned as the division's new commanding officer. In December 1944, the division was ordered to ship out overseas.

Chapter 5 - Welcome to Italy

p. 55: The author describes the strategic situation in Europe at the time the 10th Mountain Division shipped out and the difficulties the Allies faced trying to liberate Italy.

p. 66: There are several pages of photos of early patrols in Italy on skis and snowshoes. There is a photo of a T-15 Weasel towing a ski patrol toward the enemy line.

p. 68: Photo of Lt. Don Traynor, Cragg Gilbert (mispelled Craig) and Dick Johnson preparing for a ski patrol near Bagna di Lucca.

Chapter 6 - A Ridge Called Riva

p. 74: An excerpt from the memoirs of General Hays describes the rationale for taking Riva Ridge. On 15 January 1945, SSgt. Carl Casperson and four other expert climbers scouted the first trail up the ridge. Over several weeks, five trails were established.

p. 77: The Riva Ridge attack, beginning on the evening of 18 February is described through the recollections of several veterans.

p. 81: Several pages describe the actions of Lt. James Loose and his platoon on Pizzo di Campiano when they were outnumbered and pinned down and had to call in artillery fire virtually on top of themselves. The chapter includes excerpts from an interview with Loose.

Chapter 7 - Baptism at Belvedere

p. 90: In his memoirs, General Hays describes the plan for the night attack on Belvedere: "No small-arms fire to be permitted by our troops. They could only use hand grenades and bayonets. In the approach to the objective, avoid enemy fire, avoid a fight as far as possible, and gain the high ground behind the enemy by daylight. Then deal with the enemy. In order not to alert the enemy, our activity would be as usual. No additional artillery fire or other activity. In other words, the night attack was not an attack at all. It was simply slipping through and around enemy positions to gain the high ground behind them, so as to deal with the enemy at daybreak." The remainder of the chapter contains vivid first-hand accounts of the fighting on Belvedere.

p. 107: In the battle for Riva Ridge and the Belvedere hill mass, the 10th lost 203 men killed, 686 wounded, and 12 missing.

Chapter 8 - The Push Northward

p. 109: This chapter describes the limited offensive from 3-6 March, during which the 10th Mountain Division advanced to Mt Della Spe. On p. 113 the death of champion ski jumper Torger Tokle, probably the most famous member of the division, is recounted.

p. 124: During those four days, the 10th lost 175 men killed, 736 wounded, and 47 missing.

Chapter 9 - The Spring Offensive

p. 132: On 13 April 1945, one day before the 10th Mountain Division and other elements of the Fifth Army began Operation Craftsman, news was received that President Roosevelt had died.

p. 133: April 14 was the bloodiest single day of the war for the division, with 553 men killed, wounded, or listed as missing in action. Pvt. John Magrath, killed in action that day, was posthumously awarded the 10th's only Medal of Honor.

p. 146: In five days of heavy combat, the division lost 1,283 men killed, wounded, or missing. On 20 April, the 10th became the first American division to break out of the Northern Apennines into the Lombardy Plain of the Po River valley. On this page is described the last horse-mounted charge in the history of the U.S. Army, by 176 members of the 10th Recon. The charge rode into a German machine gun trap and ended disastrously.

Chapter 10 - Into the Valley of the Po

p. 149: This chapter describes the accelerating advance toward and across the Po River.

Chapter 11 - The Last Battle

p. 167: This chapter describes the fighting to the head of Lake Garda, reaching Riva on April 30.

p. 175: On 2 May 1945, just as the 10th Mountain Division was preparing to continue its push toward Bolzano, word arrived that the German army in Italy had surrendered.

p. 181a: Including the 23 killed on Kiska, the 10th lost 992 men killed and 4,154 wounded during the war.

p. 181b: On 3 June, on the slopes of 8,927-foot Mt Mangart, "the 10th celebrated the end of the war in the one way that seemed appropriately unique for them: they organized a ski race." First Sgt. Walter Prager, former Dartmouth College ski coach, won.


p. 190: The contributions of 10th Mountain veterans in developing American ski areas are detailed. In Washington, Ed Link and Roe Duke Watson are credited with establishing Crystal Mountain. Nelson Bennett "put the White Pass ski area on the map." Walter Hampton created Mission Ridge. Clayton Anderson became the state park director in Washington.

p. 195: Although deactivated after the war, the 10th came back to life several times, most recently as the 10th Mountain Division (Light) which participated in Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf in 1991.

Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page

Copyright © 2002 Lowell Skoog. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: Fri Feb 28 22:27:22 PST 2003