"Vires montesque vincimus’ | VailDaily.com

"Vires montesque vincimus’

Every one of them is a story, a history lesson, a reminder to remain grateful.Vail’s Trudy Richardson is the proud daughter of the 10th Mountain Division’s Norman James Richardson, a skilled amateur photographer who captured both the brutality and the fun he and his comrades went through during World War II. She’s careful not to say “lived through,” because so many in the 10th Mountain Division did not.Trudy has been tireless in compiling her father’s photographs into The Richardson Collection. Large parts of the collection are now on display in the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa and the Vail Public Library.Members of the 10th Mountain Division gather at Tennessee Pass every Memorial Day to celebrate their comrades, living and dead, in what is one of the nation’s most emotional memorial ceremonies. Almost every time they get together, someone reads excerpts from Henry Moscow’s article “Soldiers Don’t Cry,” first published in the April 14, 1945, edition of The Blizzard, the 10th Mountain Division’s newspaper.Each time they remember; each time they cry.Many of these heroes marched straight from their high school commencement line to the front line. Some 10th soldiers were with the division from the beginning, when they were an Army experiment. Others were replacements who began fighting at Mount Belvedere and continued throughout Italy’s northern Alps. It was one mountain to the next. They liked to say we have a worm’s-eye view of Italy.War is nothing if not brutal in its simplicity.The enemy occupied the high ground.The 10th was ordered to take the high ground.The enemy was willing to kill to keep it.The 10th was willing to kill to take it.People died.It’s how wars are fought.In 141 days of combat, the 10th Mountain Division saw 992 men killed and 4,100 wounded in some of the war’s toughest fighting.The historyThe 10th Mountain Division started as an experimental infantry division after civilian Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole, founder and chairman of National Ski Patrol System, persuaded President Franklin D. Roosevelt to incorporate a skiing division into the U.S. Army.At the beginning of World War II the Germans were equipped with several infantry divisions trained in winter warfare; the United States had none. Dole’s vision of an infantry division skilled at fighting in the harsh conditions of the mountains evolved into the 10th Mountain Division.On Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the first unit, the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., began training on 14,408-foot Mount Rainier.The men of the all-volunteer 87th, which would become the 10th Mountain Division, included European mountaineers and ski experts, such as Walter Prager, a 33-year-old Swiss citizen, and Paul Petzoldt, who had climbed higher in the Himalayas – 26,000 feet on K2 – than any other American.When the word was out the Army had created a mountain division, ski teams from some of the most elite schools and resorts emptied. “Ski bums” in today’s language, the men who volunteered perfected skiing on some of the most pristine ski slopes, all for the U.S. Army. Recruits included Paul and Ralph Townsend, skiing brothers from the University of New Hampshire, their teammate Steve Knowlton, Glenn Stanley, Aspen founder Friedl Pfeifer, Arapaho Basin founder Larry Jump and Torger Dahl Tokle, holder of the world’s ski jump record at the time, 289 feet.Camp HaleThe division settled into the its permanent training grounds at Cape Hale in the Pando Valley, between Minturn and Leadville, by mid-1943. At a cost of about $30 million, Cape Hale was built in a mountain meadow filled with 2 million cubic yards of earth excavated from the surrounding hillsides. More than 800 white-painted buildings – barns, a hospital, officer’s club, a post office and more – were built to accommodate 15,000 officers and enlisted men, as well as 3,925 horses and mules.The 10th Mountain Division entered World War II in May 1943, heading first to the Aleutian islands of Kiska and Attu to fight the Japanese.In 1945 the 10th Mountain Division distinguished itself by defeating Axis forces while scrambling mountain peaks at night through the Italian Apennines, living up to its motto: “Vires montesque vincimus,”or “We conquer mountains and men.”

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