In the winter of 1940, a group of civilian skiers was sitting by a fire in a ski lodge in Vermont shooting the breeze about how the US Army needed an alpine division like the militaries in Europe had. That conversation transformed into a concerted effort to turn their idea into a reality, and the creation of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division — a unit which would play a vital role fighting in the mountains of Italy during World War II.

My guest today has written a book on these skiing, snow-bound soldiers. His name is Maurice Isserman, and he’s a professor of history and the author of The Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey of the 10th Mountain Division, America’s Elite Alpine Warriors. We begin our conversation discussing why the US Army didn’t have an alpine division before WWII and how a group of civilian skiers led by a man named Minnie Dole spearheaded the movement to create one. Maurice then shares why the 10th Mountain Division heavily recruited from top tier colleges, and how the unusual make-up of the division influenced its unique culture. We then discuss how the military figured out what new equipment this new mountain division needed and the vigorous training its members undertook high in the mountains of Colorado. Maurice then digs into the 10th’s involvement in the war and whether they actually got to use the skills they trained for years to hone. We end our conversation discussing the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division, including their role in America’s post-war boom in recreational skiing.

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Show Highlights

  • Why didn’t the US military have a mountain division prior to WWII?
  • So how did the military develop the training and curriculum for this alpine division?
  • Minnie Dole and the National Ski Patrol
  • Why civilians played such a big role in this division’s creation 
  • The outdoorsy, unique culture of the 10 Mountain Division 
  • The technical innovations in outfitting and equipping these guys 
  • How this group captured the imagination of the American public 
  • When and where did the 10th start seeing action?
  • The major battles and achievements of the 10th Mountain Division
  • The impact these veterans had on the consumer ski environment 
  • Did the 10th leave a lasting impact on the military?

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The post Podcast #586: The Story of the Skiing Soldiers of WWII appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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