Original U.S. WWII 10th Mountain Division Skis and Poles by Northland Ski Company
Original Items: Only One Set Available. Fantastic example of 10th Mountain Division ski equipment. A pair of wood skis with metal edges manufactured by the Northland Ski Co. of Laconia, New Hampshire for WWII. The center of the skis are marked:
The steel spring bindings are marked NORTHLAND TRAILMASTER on the toe catch and the foot plate. The base of the skis are black and have been waxed at some point indicating use, though they are offered in excellent condition. The skis measure approximately 82 inches in overall length. They are include very rare white cotton ski tip covers, wood ski stays and a matching set of bamboo ski poles with leather woven baskets.
Born out of the sport of skiing, the WWII 10th Mountain Division was formed in 1943 and sent to Italy when the US Army identified that it needed an elite winter-warfare force to fight in the Italian mountains. Ironically, the idea of a winter-warfare unit did not originate within the U.S. Army, but was conceived by a man who was well-versed in history, had been in the military during WWI, and was adamant that a corps of “mountain troops” was vital to America’s national security. As founder and chairman of the National Ski Patrol, Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole, along with his Vermont friends, Robert Langley and Roger Livermore, often discussed and feared that Hitler could eventually invade the United States through the northeast like America’s enemies had done during the French and Indian War. At the beginning of WWII, Germany had three units of mountain troops compared to none for the United States. In 1941, Dole, who borrowed the mountain troop concept from the Finnish, began a robust campaign to persuade the military to establish a winter-warfare force. As a learned man, Dole knew the Finnish had used ski troops to effectively fight Russia in its history. At this point, the U.S. Army was training its troops to operate in hot environments and the idea of ”winter troops” wasn’t even on its radar. Initially rebuffed by the military, Dole was tenacious and continued to write and phone Pentagon officials and President Roosevelt until Army Chief of Staff, General George Marshall, adopted Dole’s mountain-troop idea. In December, 1941, twelve officers and one enlisted man were deemed the 87th Infantry, Mountain, First Battalion, Reinforced and were sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where they and soon-to-be-recruits trained on Mt. Ranier. Lt. Colonel Onslow “Pinkie” Rolfe became the first commanding officer. After persuading the U.S. Army to develop a winter-warfare unit, Dole was eager to help and he and Langley, who was the then-acting president of the National Ski Patrol, offered the organization’s assistance in recruiting, training, and recommending ski equipment. In the early stages of its development, the 87th was an all-volunteer unit. To join, early recruits had to have three letters of recommendation and some type of “outdoors” experience/knowledge. Fifteen-thousand men applied, but only 8,000 were accepted. The “outdoors” criteria would later be dropped as the need for more recruits elevated as the war progressed. Initially, the “mountain troops” attracted mountain climbers, alpine guides, lumber jacks, forest rangers, black smiths, and skiers, including some famous European ones, who had migrated to the United States after war broke out on the continent. Skiers attending high-end U.S. universities also joined, many at the personal urging of Dole. These early recruits were nicknamed, “Minnie’s Ski Troops.” With a multitude of its recruits coming from U.S. Universities, the 10th Mountain Division would earn the distinction of being the Army’s most highly-educated unit, with many of its soldiers having above-average IQs.
Originally activated as the 10th Light Division (Alpine) in 1943, the division was redesignated the 10th Mountain Division in 1944 and fought in the mountains of Italy in some of the roughest terrain in the country. On the 5th of May 1945 the Division reached Nauders, Austria, beyond the Resia Pass, where it made contact with German forces being pushed south by the U.S. Seventh Army. A status quo was maintained until the enemy headquarters involved had completed their surrender to the Seventh. On the 6th, 10th Mountain troops met the 44th Infantry Division of Seventh Army.
World War II
The 10th Light Division (Alpine) was constituted on 10 July 1943 and activated five days later at Camp Hale under the command of Brigadier General Lloyd E. Jones. At the time, the division had a strength of 8,500 out of the 16,000 planned, so the military transferred troops from the 30th, 31st, and 33rd Infantry Divisions to fill out the remainder of the division. This lowered morale and the division faced many difficulties in the new training, which had no established army doctrine. The 10th Light Division was centered on regimental commands; the 85th, 86th, and 87th Infantry Regiments. Also assigned to the division were the 604th, 605th, and 616th Field Artillery battalions, the 110th Signal Company, the 710th Ordnance Company, the 10th Quartermaster Company, the 10th Reconnaissance Troop, the 126th Engineer Battalion, the 10th Medical Battalion, and the 10th Counter-Intelligence Detachment. The 10th Light Division was unique in that it was the only division in the army with three field artillery battalions instead of four. It was equipped with vehicles specialized in snow operation, such as the M29 Weasel, and winter weather gear, such as white camouflage and skis specifically designed for the division. The division practiced its rock climbing skills in preparation for the invasion of Italy on the challenging peaks of Seneca Rocks in West Virginia.
On 22 June 1944, the division was shipped to Camp Swift, Texas to prepare for maneuvers in Louisiana, which were later canceled. A period of acclimation to a low altitude and hot climate was necessary to prepare for this training. On 6 November 1944, the 10th Division was redesignated the 10th Mountain Division. That same month, the blue and white "Mountain" tab was authorized for the division's new shoulder sleeve insignia.
The division, now commanded by Major General George Price Hays, sailed for Italy in two parts, with the 86th Infantry and support leaving Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia on 11 December aboard the SS Argentina and arrived in Naples, Italy on 22 December. The 85th and 87th Infantry left Hampton Roads, Virginia on 4 January 1945 aboard the SS West Point arriving on 13 January 1945. By 6 January, its support units were preparing to head to the front lines. It was attached to Major General Willis D. Crittenberger's IV Corps, part of the American Fifth Army, under Lieutenant General Lucian Truscott. By 8 January, the 86th Infantry had moved to Bagni di Lucca near Mount Belvedere in preparation for an offensive by the Fifth Army to capture the mountain along with surrounding high ground, which allowed the Axis to block advances to Po Valley. Starting 14 January, the division began moving to Pisa as part of the Fifth Army massing for this attack.
It entered combat near the town of Cutigliano on 16 February. Preliminary defensive actions in mid February were followed by Encore Operation, a series of attacks in conjunction with troops of the 1st Brazilian Infantry Division, to dislodge the Germans from their artillery positions in the Northern Apennines on the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna regions, in order to make possible the Allied advance over the Po Valley. While the Brazilian division was in charge of taking Monte Castello and Castelnuovo di Vergato, the 10th Mountain Division was responsible for the Mound Belvedere area, climbing nearby Riva Ridge during the night of 18 February and attacking mound Della Torraccia on 20 February. These peaks were cleared after four days of heavy fighting, as Axis troops launched several counterattacks in these positions.
In early March, the division fought its way north of Canolle and moving to within 15 miles (24 km) of Bologna. On 5 March, while Brazilian units captured Castelnuovo, the 85th and the 87th Infantry took respectively Mound Della Spe and Castel D'Aiano, cutting the Axis routes of resupply and communication into the Po Valley, setting the stage for the next Fifth Army offensive.The division maintained defensive positions in this area for three weeks, anticipating a counteroffensive by the German forces.
The division resumed its attack on 14 April, attacking Torre Iussi and Rocca Roffeno to the north of Mount Della Spe. On 17 April, it broke through the German defenses, which allowed it to advance into the Po Valley area. It captured Mongiorgio on 20 April and entered the valley, seizing the strategic points Pradalbino and Bomporto. The 10th crossed the Po River on 23 April, reaching Verona 25 April, and ran into heavy opposition at Torbole and Nago. After an amphibious crossing of Lake Garda, it secured Gargnano and Porto di Tremosine, on 30 April, as German resistance in Italy ended. After the German surrender in Italy on 2 May 1945, the division went on security duty. On 5 May 1945 the Division reached Nauders, Austria, beyond the Resia Pass, where it made contact with German forces being pushed south by the U.S. Seventh Army. A status quo was maintained until the enemy headquarters involved had completed their surrender to the Seventh. On the 6th, 10th Mountain Division troops met the 44th Infantry Division of the Seventh Army. Between the 2nd and Victory in Europe Day on 8 May the 10th Mountain Division received the surrender of various German units and screened areas of occupation near Trieste, Kobarid, Bovec and Log pod Mangartom, Slovenia. The division moved to Udine on 20 May and joined the British Eighth Army in preventing further westward movement of ground forces from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Total battle casualties: 4,072
Killed in action: 872 (1000 total KIA by name per Tenth Mountain Division Foundation, Inc, as listed on monument at Tennessee Pass)
Wounded in action: 3,134
Missing in action: 38
Prisoners of war: 28
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