by Maurice Isserman
The epic story of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, whose elite soldiers broke the last line of German defenses in Italy’s mountains in 1945, spearheading the Allied advance to the Alps and final victory
At the start of World War II, the US Army had two cavalry divisions—and no mountain troops. The German Wehrmacht, in contrast, had many well-trained and battle-hardened mountain divisions, some of whom, by 1943, had blocked the Allied advance in the Italian campaign. Starting from scratch, the US Army developed a unique military fighting force, the 10th Mountain Division, drawn from the ranks of civilian skiers, mountaineers, and others with outdoor experience. The resulting mix of Ivy League students, park rangers, Olympic skiers, and European refugees formed the first specialized alpine fighting force in US history. By the time they deployed to Italy at the beginning of 1945, this ragtag group had coalesced into a tight-knit unit. In the months that followed, at a terrible cost, they spearheaded the Allied drive in Italy to final victory.