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Grade Level 11th

Book Review

Background: A number of books have been written about the 10th Mountain Division both by veterans of the 10th or by military historians. Each book has a story to tell; either of the soldier or of the Division and one cannot help but come away with a greater appreciation of the 10th and of the sacrifices made by all those who served in WWII.

Objective: 1) by reading a selected book, the student will gain a better understanding of the history, training and daily experience of the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division during WWII.

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Echoes from the Mountain by Gunnery Sergeant J.F. Cuoco– Echoes from the Mountain is the story of one man’s service in WWII told through the over one hundred letters he wrote home from 1940 to 1945. It is also the story of a famed military organization that won great honor on the field of battle and continues to defend our nation in the current war on terror. But mostly it is a story about an immigrant family who, like many others, came to this country to find a better life. What they found was grueling manual labor, the privations of the Great Depression and the maelstrom of the Second World War. In the end, America would keep its promise of a better life and would exact its terrible price for freedom.

Packs On! (Memoirs of the 10th Mountain Division in WWII) by A.B. Feuer– This history of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II focuses on the personal experiences of the mountain troops who served in Alaska and Italy. Feuer conveys the opinions expressed by the veterans about the conduct of the campaigns―both the good and the bad, with no holds barred. Senator Bob Dole, who was seriously wounded during the campaign, provides a foreword. This fascinating account also reveals the differences in training and strategy from those employed by German ski troops of the same era.

A selection of personal photographs, useful maps, and a timeline allow the reader to follow the progress of the 10th in Italy. In addition to combat accounts, readers will find reference to the harsh realities of war, including friendly fire, dead American soldiers used for target practice, and the vengeful shooting of German prisoners.

The Boys of Winter by Charles J. Sanders – Tells the true story of three young American ski champions and their brutal, heroic, and fateful transformation from athletes to infantrymen with the 10th Mountain Division. Charles J. Sanders’s fast-paced narrative draws on dozens of interviews and extensive research to trace these boys’ lives from childhood to championships and from training at Mount Rainier and in the Colorado Rockies to battles against the Nazis.

Mountain Troops and Medics by Albert H Meinke Jr., M.D.- Mountain Troops And Medics is a complete World War II Combat History of the U.S. Tenth Mountain Division written by Albert H. Meinke, Jr., M.D., who served as one of its front line infantry battalion surgeons during all of the division’s combat in 1944-45. It unfolds as a series of interesting, true personal stories, presented in chronological order, which makes the history easy to read and to digest. 

Climb to Conquer by Peter Shelton– the story of the birth of American mountain adventure as we know it, brought together with riveting, little-known World War II history. Shelton puts us right alongside these endearing young mountain men as they learn to ski, climb, and survive in a bitterly cold and hostile environment. Their story will have you grinning one moment and gripping your chair the next, as they engage in mischief-making adventures, or ultimately climb a sheer cliff into enemy territory in the dead of night. It’s a fantastic story and superbly told!

See Naples and Die by Robert B Ellis – In 1943, 18-year-old Robert Ellis joined the elite U.S. Army Ski Troops of the 10th Mountain Division. This division has been called the most elite and publicized American military unit in World War II. While a member of the unit Ellis maintained a detailed battle diary and conducted extensive wartime correspondence. Upon their arrival in Italy, the U.S. Army Ski Troops played a major role in the defeat of the Germans in Italy. They also faced some of the bloodiest combat of the war; the 10th Mountain Division suffered the heaviest casualties relative to time-in-combat of any U.S. division in the Italian campaign. While the author details the exceptional service of the unit, he also explores the brutal reality of infantry service and reveals how the battles were falsely represented by the media.

The Winter Army by Maurice Isserman – At the start of World War II, the US Army had two cavalry divisions—and no mountain troops. The German Wehrmacht, in contrast, had many well-trained and battle-hardened mountain divisions, some of whom, by 1943, had blocked the Allied advance in the Italian campaign. Starting from scratch, the US Army developed a unique military fighting force, the 10th Mountain Division, drawn from the ranks of civilian skiers, mountaineers, and others with outdoor experience. The resulting mix of Ivy League students, park rangers, Olympic skiers, and European refugees formed the first specialized alpine fighting force in US history. By the time they deployed to Italy at the beginning of 1945, this ragtag group had coalesced into a tight-knit unit. In the months that followed, at a terrible cost, they spearheaded the Allied drive in Italy to final victory.

Ranging from the ski slopes of Colorado to the towering cliffs of the Italian Alps, The Winter Army is a saga of an unlikely band of soldiers forged in the heat of combat into a brotherhood whose legacy lives on in American mountain fighters to this day.

The Last Ridge by McKay Jenkins- When World War II broke out in Europe, the American army had no specialized division of mountain soldiers. But in the winter of 1939-40, after a tiny band of Finnish mountain troops brought the invading Soviet army to its knees, an amateur skier named Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole convinced the United States Army to let him recruit an extraordinary assortment of European expatriates, wealthy ski bums, mountaineers, and thrill-seekers and form them into a unique band of Alpine soldiers. These men endured nearly three years of grueling training in the Colorado Rockies and in the process set new standards for both soldiering and mountaineering. The newly forged 10th Mountain Division finally faced combat in the winter of 1945, in Italy’s Apennine Mountains, against the seemingly unbreakable German fortifications north of the Gothic Line. There, they planned and executed what is still regarded as the most daring series of nighttime mountain attacks in U.S. military history, taking Mount Belvedere and the sheer, treacherous face of Riva Ridge to smash the linchpin of the German army’s lines.

Drawing on unique cooperation from veterans of the 10th Mountain Division and a vast archive of unpublished letters and documents, The Last Ridge is written with enormous warmth, energy, and honesty. This is one of the most captivating stories of World War II, a blend of Band of Brothers and Into Thin Air. It is a story of young men asked to do the impossible, and succeeding. 

Book Questions

  1. What is the name of the book you read and why did you select this book?
  2. What was your favorite part of the book?
  3. Which scene has stuck with you the most?
  4. Did you reread any passages? If so, which ones?
  5. What surprised you most about the book?
  6. Are there questions either from the author or about the 10th Mountain Division you would like to ask?
  7. What are some passages that you underlined, or that particularly affected you?
  8. How did the book portray the life of the 10th soldier or of the Italians during the war?
  9. How has reading this book given you a better appreciation of the 10th Mountain Division and/or your 10th Mtn. Div. ancestor?

We hope that you enjoyed reading your book and encourage you to read additional books about the 10th. We also hope that you will complete the 12th grade activity next year!


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