WWII ski troops will soon get a big boost from Biden

Colorado writer and historian Tom Duhs thinks the Camp Hale story is ripe for Hollywood.

The film would tell the true story of ‘WWII Ski Troops’, the 10th Mountain Division which trained in freezing conditions in the Rocky Mountains and then deployed to the northern Apennines. Italy in 1945, defeating German forces in a key battle during the final months of the war.

And when the war ended, the soldiers returned home and used their military experience to help start the ski industry in the United States.

Camp Hale as it appeared in 1943.
| Photo courtesy of Greg Poschman

“We’re talking from Maine to California – 64 different ski areas have been founded and affiliated with the 10th Mountain guys,” said Duhs, 74, a retired Marine Corps colonel.

It’s a story the federal government will soon permanently commemorate as President Joe Biden prepares to officially designate Camp Hale as the nation’s newest national monument, according to a person familiar with the move.

On Wednesday, Biden will travel to the Centennial State, where he is expected to announce the decision in the afternoon. It will be the first time Biden has used his executive power to create a national monument, with the authority granted to all presidents under the Antiquities Act of 1906 (E&E News PMOctober 6).

The designation, expected for weeks, is a major victory for Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennett, a 14-year-old senator who lobbied for the new monument ahead of his November 8 re-election bid (Daily O&MSeptember 30).

Although exact size details are not known, the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument may include the Camp Hale National Historic Site near Leadville, Colorado, as well as 28,000 acres of land surrounding the former camp of the army and part of the Tenmile Interval (green wireSeptember 13).

The field was a brutal training ground for Sgt. John Tripp, a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division and one of the national monument project’s biggest supporters, died in June at the age of 102.

As part of an oral history project, Tripp recalled how soldiers set up lines of fire in the mountains “and we kind of played war.” But he said it was hard work setting up bivouacs, since Camp Hale had an elevation of 9,200 feet.

“We carried everything we could on our own backs: our own food, our own sleeping bags, etc.,” Tripp said. “As a rule, the rest of our equipment came by mule – we at one point had 2,000 mules in the 10th Division.”

And he said the soldiers had learned to fight the freezing cold: “Sometimes we had to live without fire for a week or two at a time, without fire and it could go down to 20 or 30 below freezing”.

“The president listens to Westerners”

Hike in Camp Hale.
Hike in Camp Hale.
| ActiveSteve/Flickr

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said the designation will be “great news for Coloradans and military veterans.”

“It’s a welcome sign that the president is listening to Westerners who want to see public lands and monuments protected for future generations,” she said.

But the designation could also provide ammunition for opponents.

More than a third of all land in Colorado is already owned by the US government, and many Republicans in the state fear the monument will only increase the size of that footprint.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who also faces a tough re-election bid, last week called the idea a “land grab by the left.” encloses our land” (E&E News PMSeptember 23).

The proposal won wide support from Coloradans on both sides of the political aisle.

“I’m a staunch Republican, and I don’t see what they can do to stop this from being a national historic landmark — I don’t understand,” said Duhs, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman, a Democrat from Aspen, Colorado, called Camp Hale an “incredible repository of memories” and said the proposed monument has broad support from demographic groups across the country. ‘State. He said it would honor the country’s “greatest generation” veterans – those who served in World War II.

sergeant.  Harry Poschmann
sergeant. Harry Poschman is shown here performing maneuvers during ski instruction at Camp Hale in 1943.
| Poschmann collection

Poschman, a professional filmmaker, also has a personal stake in the designation: his father, Sgt. Harry Poschman, was a ski instructor for the 10th Mountain Division and led a machine gun team in Italy. He also taught his son to ski when he moved to Aspen and opened his own ski lodge after the war.

“I’m very, very excited about it,” Greg Poschman said.

“There were no elevators in New England”

Tripp won the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals after being injured in the battle in Italy.

He said he learned to ski as a teenager growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut, taking the sport seriously in 1938 before going to Camp Hale in 1942, according to an oral history by the Aspen Veterans History Project.

“There were no elevators in New England. … I walked a lot; sometimes we would do two runs a day in the mountains and we were lucky,” Tripp said. “And I think that prepared me.”

He said the division was going to Texas for additional training before receiving its big mission in Italy.

sergeant.  John Tripp
John Tripp, veteran of the 10th Mountain Division and one of the national monument project’s biggest supporters, died in June at the age of 102.
| Photo courtesy of Greg Poschman

“I don’t think the US military knew what to do with us,” Tripp said. “Then all of a sudden someone realized that the German army was in the Alps. They were in the mountains of Italy through the Apennines, and they needed someone who could watch a mountain that didn’t scare them to death.

Duhs, an author who has lectured on the 10th Mountain Division, said the Army’s interest in starting Camp Hale came after Finnish troops on skis again managed to defeat Russian forces. after the attack on Finland in 1939.

While thousands of soldiers were part of the division, one stood out as the most famous: Bob Dole, who was wounded in Italy and became a Republican senator from Kansas and his party’s presidential candidate in 1996. He died last year at the age of 98.

While Dole became a second lieutenant in the 10th Division, he was not among those who skied.

“No, Bob Dole never had a pair of skis in his life,” Duhs said.

Duhs is serious about trying to get Hollywood interested in the story, saying he’s already “intimately involved” with a studio and a producer. But he declined to provide further details.

Poschman, who has also researched Camp Hale extensively, said he grew up in Aspen only because his parents were both avid skiers and moved to Aspen in 1950 after the war. His parents founded a ski lodge called the Edelweiss, and his father was the sole operator of the local chamber of commerce, promoting skiing in Aspen in the early 1950s.

Many other veterans of the 10th Mountain Division also played major roles in launching the national outdoor sports and recreation industry, including David Brower, a leading environmentalist who would become the Sierra Club’s first executive director. ; Nike Inc. co-founder Bill Bowerman; and National Ski Patrol founder Charles Minot Dole.

After the war, Tripp and his wife, Irene, moved to Colorado to ski, camp, and hike, settling near Carbondale, where they woke each morning to a view of Mount Sopris.

“I love nature, it’s the greatest thing we have,” Tripp said in 2018, according to his obituary.