.William F. OhmannThe 10th Mountain Division was originally activated as the 10th Light Division (Alpine) in 1943,  The division was re-designated the 10th Mountain Division in 1944 and fought in the mountains of Italy in some of the roughest terrain in the country.  Charles Minot Doledirector of the National Ski Patrol in 1938 convinced the War Department to form the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.

A number of local residents served in the division, including:

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 10, 2007

A veteran of the 10th Mountain Division

By Howard Riley

The 10th Mountain Division is playing a major role in the war in Iraq ... but on a cold Nov. 15, 1941, 66 years ago, it was just being born as the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, and Bill Gallagher of Saranac Lake was one of the early recruits of that elite fighting outfit.

Sounded like a vacation

It's a great story of how he decided to join the "ski troops" when he was a sophomore at Princeton University. Gallagher said, "This roommate of mine, Johnny Ryan, came up one day with this 'propaganda' about a recruiting program for these mountain troops. ... It sounded like a good deal. ... Ryan said you live in snow caves in the mountains, and they teach you how to ski. ... It sounded more like a vacation to me than it did like joining the Army ... and we were going to be drafted anyway." He volunteered in December 1942 and was accepted for training in March 1943.

Gallagher continued, "While the Selective Service was drafting all physically fit young men, 'Minnie's Ski Troop,' as the outfit came to be known, was requiring letters of recommendation from all potential recruits ... and most were expected to be at least adequate skiers ... but the legend was stricter than the truth."

He supplied the required letters from his Princeton football coach and others, but he had never skied before joining the unit. He said many of the recruits from the South had no idea how to ski.

The founders

"Minnie" was actually C. Minot Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol. He spent his summers here and is buried at St. John's in the Wilderness in Paul Smiths. He and others had gone to Gen. George Marshall with the idea for the ski troops because of their admiration for the heroic efforts of the outnumbered Finnish soldiers who fought on skis to hold off Russians invading their country in 1940. The other prime movers behind the 10th Mountain Division were Robert Livermore, a member of the 1936 Olympic Ski Team; Roger Langley, president of the National Ski Association; and Alexander Bright, one of the leading American downhill skiers of his day.

Bernard Bola of Saranac Lake was also a member of the same famous 10th Mountain Division, as were the late Dan Ward, Larry McKillip and Bing Tormey of Onchiota.

More than skiing

Gallagher said that every member of his unit soon became an expert downhill skier. However, he remembers snowshoeing much of the time because it was much easier carrying a .30-caliber machine gun on snowshoes. They went to "mule school" to learn how to handle the temperamental beasts, which were used to transport their equipment through the snow and rough terrain where conventional vehicles could not go. The unit trained for 18 months at Fort Hale in the Colorado Rockies. . . . (See Bill Gallagher for remainder of article.)


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