Mission Mt. Mangart, a 10th Mountain Division story coming from Chris Anthony
Chris Anthony’s documentary film project chronicles post-war activities of the 10th Mountain Division.
As we reflect upon those who lost their lives while fighting for our freedoms this Memorial Day weekend, we’re fortunate to have the resources to share the stories of the famed 10th Mountain Division, the winter warfare unit that trained for battles in Europe during World War II just south of Vail at Camp Hale, right here in the Vail Valley. The Colorado Snowsports Museum has an entire section of its newly remodeled location dedicated to sharing the stories of the 10th. Local professional skier and filmmaker Chris Anthony is on a quest to keep those stories alive and give us another look at the men of the 10th.
Anthony is no stranger to telling stories, he’s traveled with the Warren Miller film crew for 27 years skiing the most amazing terrain and sharing that experience with the audience. He also was instrumental in developing “Climb to Glory,” a documentary that plays daily at the Colorado Snowsports Museum about the famed 10th Mountain Division and the role they played during WWII and how they transformed the U.S. ski industry upon their return.
His travels to Europe and ties to Camp Hale keep bringing Anthony back to his next project: Mission Mt. Mangart.
“The story goes that on June 3, 1945, a ski race was held in the former Yugoslavia. It was hosted and organized by the men of the 10th Mountain Division and nowhere in our libraries is this ski race documented, yet they celebrated it over in Slovenia,” Anthony said.
Through much research, many contacts and a bit of luck, Anthony has been able to learn more details about the time surrounding this event and has even received help from some key players in Slovenia. Janez Kavar is a retired brigadier general of the Slovenian Mountain Troops and has helped Anthony gather interest from the natives. Some of them even helped film a few scenes for the upcoming documentary.
“Old-time locals and retired mountain troops out of the village of Bovec, Slovenia, heard about my project and not only volunteered to dress up in vintage 1940s ski clothes and film a few scenes reenacting the race, they also came to the site where the race was on Mt. Mangart the week prior to try to clear avalanches and rock slides from the road,” Anthony said. “There were also younger guys sent by NATO. They were current active Slovenian mountain troops and they helped as well. Everyone has just been so supportive of this project.”
Anthony’s goal is to have the documentary finished by June of 2020, which will be the 75th anniversary of the event itself.
Germany had surrendered in May of 1945, but Japan was still fighting in the Pacific and some of the members of the 10th were sent to help. So how did they end up in the former Yugoslavia?
“Yugoslavia decided that they would invade Italy and they had to do it over a mountain range called the Julian Alps, where Mt. Mangart is located,” Anthony said. “This was a very important strategic location to occupy. So the 10th Mountain Division received a new set of orders that they were going to have to march farther northeast to push the Yugoslavian Army back over the Julian Alps and they successfully did it.”
That successful act called for a celebration, and keep in mind, these soldiers were young men around the ages of 18, 19, 20, even 17 if they lied about their age to get into the Army. Plus, they were good skiers, so why not put on a race?
“That day, 73 guys started the race, 23 finished. The race was won by a Swiss-American named Walter Prager, he was actually the current world champion, so it was a legit field,” Anthony said. “Steve Knowlton, a very famous Aspenite was second. Nobody documented it on film, but there are photos of it, so my mission is to go over and recreate the race and bring it back so we can build this story around it,” Anthony said.
Anthony is currently pouring over interviews and footage right now to arrange all of this information into a documentary that will be used for educational purposes. To follow his progress, provide information about the event or contribute to this documentary, follow Anthony on his social media channels or visit http://www.chrisanthony.com.