The 10th Mountain Division here in Colorado have always been spoken about with high
reverence and respect due to their impact on not only mountain warfare, but also the impact of
the Mountain Division soldiers who returned home here to Colorado. The Gore Range around
Vail was home to Camp Hale, training grounds of the 10th Mountain Division and future site of
Vail Mountain Resort. Pete Seibert who was a member of the division would later come back to
Colorado after the war and become a ski patrol member at Aspen before making his way over
to the Vail area and starting the resort with rancher Earl Eaton who had helped build Camp Hale
with Seibert. The rest from then on his history; with Pete and Earl’s love for creating a world
class ski resort, Vail was directly born out of the 10th Mountain Division and it’s members.
The 10th Division was formed all the way back in 1918 during World War I, but it wasn’t until
World War II that the importance of mountain warfare took center stage. In 1939 the Russian
military became extremely frustrated during their invasion of Finland because unlike the Russian
army, the Finnish had soldiers on skis who could easily navigate both down and up the
mountainous terrain unlike their enemy. This event caught global attention and it was when the
former head of the National Ski Patrol in the United States, Charles Minot Dole, heard about this
tactic that he started to lobby the War Department to create a division of the Army which
specifically focuses on mountain and winter warfare. Dole took his thoughts to General George
C. Marshall who was the Army Chief of Staff at the time and he also agreed that the United
States Army did in fact need a mountain combat unit.
In December 1941 the first mountain unit, the 87th Mountain Infantry Battalion, was officially
activated at Fort Lewis, Washington. It is extremely interesting to note that the National Ski
Patrol were doing the recruiting for this unit; to this day it has been the only civilian recruiting
agency in US military history. Training conditions were tough as troops would quite often train at
the 14,411 foot summit of Mount Rainier; a new camp was also built at Camp Hale, Colorado at
an elevation of 9,200 feet. Eventually the Mountain Warfare School was also established at
Camp Carson (which later became Ft. Carson) further expanding mountain warfare training
capabilities and support.
The 10th Mountain Division was officially activated July 15, 1943 at Camp hale with a strength
8,500 soldiers and an initial planned total size of 16,000; this size meant that a few other
divisions from the Army would have to fill in the gaps. The division would consist of specialized
regiments that would not only have the training to take on the terrain, but also the proper
training with the vehicles and equipment that excel in mountainous environments. Vehicles like
the tracked M29 Weasel that could move through snow with ease or soldier’s equipment that
helped in both mobility and evasion in winter weather like white camouflage and skis that were
specifically designed for the division. Late in 1944, the 10th division was officially renamed the
10th Mountain Division and also the now famous blue and red Mountain Division tab was also
In December 1944, the division set sail to Italy in two parts and was ready to join the battle once
they arrived. The division fought steadily through the mountains of Italy encountering enemy
troops and capturing towns and key strategic points for the Allies to continue their advance
through Europe. On May 2, 1945 after the German surrender the 10th Mountain Division would
remain in Europe to provide security and also receive the surrendering of German units.
Subsequently, the division would meet up with the British forces and starting on May 8, 1945
would aid in preventing further westward movement of forces from the Yugoslavian Republic.
During their campaign the division suffered a total of 992 soldiers killed in action, 4,154
wounded in action during a total of 114 days of combat. There was one Medal of Honor, three
Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, 449 Silver Star Medals, seven
Legion of Merit medals, 15 Soldier’s Medals, and 7,729 Bronze stars.