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10th Mountain Division

When the all-out drive to clear the German forces from Italy began early in 1945, Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, commanding general of the Fifth Army, chose as the spearhead of that push the 10th Mountain Division. It was the sort of break the men of the Army's only mountain division had been waiting for, and their method of waging warfare on the rugged Italian heights more than justified the General’s faith in them.

The 10th had been in Italy less than a month before it was in the line in one of the toughest sectors of the Fifth Army front. It was given the task of dislodging the crack German mountain troops from the heights of Mount Belvedere. It was country which a St.Bernard would think twice before traversing, but it didn’t bother the hardy men of the 10th, who call themselves the “Mountaineers.” For years they had trained in sub-zero weather, and they were chiefly men who had been battling the elements all their lives. The Doughboys who fought through the snowy passes and over the gale-swept peaks were famous American skiers, climbers, forest rangers, park and wildlife service men.

After chasing the Germans from the grim heights of Belvedere, the Mountaineers of the 10th—an admiring high commander called them the “Cat’s Whiskers”—piled on the pressure and broke through the stubborn German defense lines in the Apennine Mountains near Bologna. Fighting in the clouds, the 10th is credited with having cleared the last of the mountain barriers in Italy and paved the way for armored elements of the Fifth Army to chase the Germans northward in the Po Valley.

In the relatively short time the 10th was in action it established a reputation through the Fifth Army as an outfit which could scale the heights and stay on top. Once the outfit gained a height it held it. Not once did it yield a peak it had secured.

The Division had many individual heroes.

One was Sergeant Torger Tokle, world champion ski jumper, who was killed in action in March 1945. A buddy of his, telling of Tokle’s death, said that the ski champ had died “fighting a one-man campaign to repay the Nazis for the hardship and indignities visited on his family and former countrymen.” Tokle’s family had been caught in Norway by the German invasion.

Another was Colonel William O. Darby, famous organizer of The Rangers, who was killed on May 1, just before the end of hostilities, while serving as assistant commander of the 10th.

The division was activated at Camp Hale, Colorado, July 1943, and at that time was known as the 10th Division (Light). It was not officially designated as the 10th Mountain Division until more than a year later.

Despite the activation date, the Division’s origin dates back to small units which had been in training since 1921, during a period when the Army was experimenting with outfits which would be especially trained to fight in the snow and mountainous terrain. These units were usually composed of volunteers from already activated divisions.

During a training period near the Continental Divide, a pilot, bringing in his bomber to a Colorado airport after dark, reported by radio: “No. 15 to Pueblo. No. 15 to Pueblo. Coming in at eight thousand feet. Gliding. Gliding. Gliding.” He flipped over the switch to receive, but instead of the control tower he picked up a tired and slightly bored voice with a New England twang. “Sugar Loaf Mountain Patrol to 10th Division Headquarters,” the voice said. “Coming in at twelve thousand feet. Coming in at twelve thousand feet. Walking. Walking. Walking.”

The shoulder patch of the 10th has a blue background, the outline of a powder keg, and over this crossed bayonets. Above the patch the men wear a tab bearing the word “Mountain.”

From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.

10th Mountain Division World War II Missing in Action

There are 31 soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division World War II still listed as missing in action.

Private First Class Walter J. Armstrong 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Corporal William R. Armstrong 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Harold W. Brezina 85th Infantry Regiment 04/23/1945
Private Merle Britton 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Corporal Max L. Champion 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Willard E. Chapman 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Sergeant David T. Deane 27th Infantry Regiment 04/17/1946
Private First Class Jerry T. Dillard 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private Guillermo N. Garcia 85th Infantry Regiment 04/17/1945
Corporal Emory E. Hamilton 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private Howard Harper 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Corporal James Harwell 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private James Hilley 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Leroy A. King 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Edward E. Koskela 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Stanley R. Lade 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Corporal William E. Madara 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Frank J. Miller 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private William C. Morrison 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private Roger L. Murray 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Charles G. Norton 85th Infantry Regiment 01/19/1945
Private First Class Elmer C. Paulson 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Sergeant Robert C. Rapp 85th Infantry Regiment 04/23/1945
Private First Class Xwell Y. Reynolds 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Frederick A. Romberg 85th Infantry Regiment 04/14/1945
Private First Class Gayle W. Russell 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Norman B. Russell 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class William A. Ryan 85th Infantry Regiment 01/22/1946
Private Frank Tame 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Charles E. Tannehill 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945
Private First Class Richard Wright 605th Field Artillery Battalion 04/30/1945

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