Retired Marine will share presentation on 10th Mountain Division in Aspen on Tuesday
The Aspen Times
What: ‘Ski Troops: The 10th Mountain Division.’ Lecture to be followed by book signing.
When: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Pitkin County Library
Cost: Free and open to the public
Retired Marine Col. Thomas Duhs gained respect and some insight into the famed U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division during his years of military service in cold-weather operations between 1981 and 1992.
Duhs used his own experience training troops and his research into the official regimental history to co-write two books about the 10th Mountain Division. Now he’s working with people in Hollywood to try to bring the story to a broader audience.
“I asked myself, ‘This is such a good story, why isn’t it a movie?'” he said of the mountain troop’s history.
There are numerous history books and some film documentaries on the 10th Mountain Division. Duhs felt the story could be presented in a more engaging way, though still historically accurate.
He teamed with Kris Tualla, a published author of romance novels, to write two fact-based novels about the mountain division. “Sempre Avanti Always Forward: A Novel about the Tenth Mountain Division in WW II” came out about one year ago and “Ice and Granite: The Snow Soldiers of Riva Ridge” followed about six months later.
Duhs, 70, will make a presentation at Pitkin County Library on Tuesday about the 10th Mountain Division. The lecture will be at 5:30 p.m., followed by a book signing. He will sell the books for $15 apiece or $25 for both.
“I can’t wait to get there again and go to the Jerome for an Aspen Crud,” he said, referring to the milkshake with whiskey that was a favorite of visiting 10th Mountain soldiers. He also plans to refresh his memory of Aspen Mountain since he last hit the slopes there in 1968. He settled in Colorado Springs upon retiring after 30 years in the Marines.
Duhs has compiled numerous stories of soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division through attending their presentations or via informal visits and interviews over the years. He believes he is able to connect with them because of his experience in military cold weather operations, which included training troops in skiing, climbing, stream crossing and similar skills — just like the 10th Mountain soldiers experienced at Camp Hale, 40 miles from Aspen near Tennessee Pass.
He said one of the greatest compliments he received was when an old-timer from the 10th Mountain told him, “If you were a young guy in 1941, you would have been one of us.”
The hero of the Sempre Avanti book is a composite of the experiences of four actual soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division.
His lecture starts with “the singing slides” — a preamble that features 100 or so historical photos of the 10th Mountain Division with a background of the troops singing the division’s songs.
He will discuss how Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole convinced the U.S. War Department to form the winter combat troops and how he went about recruiting soldiers and building the division.
He will talk about the 10th Mountain Division’s military record, most famously in Italy, and how returning troops were so important to the formation of the U.S. ski industry.
He invited a special guest, John Tripp, a 10th Mountain veteran from Carbondale, as well as a handful of local residents who are descendants of 10th Mountain soldiers.
The Aspen presentation is free for the public. He is hopeful his writing and research will eventually provide the grunt work for a movie or mini-series.
“We have something that I think will be very appealing and it will be the best thing since ‘Band of Brothers’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan,'” he said, referring to a mini-series and movie, respectively.