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Grade Level 6th


Background: The WWII 10th Mountain Division was only one of a number of US Army Divisions to fight in WWII. The following activity is designed to give the student a better understanding of ranks and patches used in the military, specialized equipment unique to the 10th Mountain Division, and specialized vehicles used by the WWII 10th soldiers.

Objectives: 1) to give students an understanding of ranks and shoulder patches used by the 10th and other branches of the service 2) to familiarize students with specialized equipment and vehicles unique to the WWII 10th Mountain Division.

Directions: Read through the lesson below and answer all of the questions. Due to the activities involved with this lesson, you must Print out the lesson in .pdf and submit your answers to

Shoulder Patches

During WWII The 10th Mountain Division was one Division in the United States Army but there were many more Divisions that were part of the US Army. One way that you could tell which Division the soldier belonged to was by the patch that the soldier wore on the sleeve of his uniform. This patch was called a shoulder sleeve insignia.

You probably are very familiar with the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 10th Mountain Division. It looks like this:

The 10th Mountain Division soldiers today wear the same shoulder sleeve insignia, but the color is a little different. When you watch the news on television or when you watch movies and you see soldiers, look to see if they belong to the 10th Mountain Division!

There were many more Divisions that served in the Army during WWII but here are a few examples of their shoulder sleeve insignias.    

The soldiers from Brazil who fought alongside of the 10th Mountain Division in Italy. They were known as the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

Who’s the Boss?

In your school who is the boss? Who gives all the orders? Well, it depends, doesn’t it? In your classroom the teacher is the boss of all the students. But who is the boss of the teachers? Yes, it’s the Principal. And who is in charge of the Principal? It’s the Superintendent. The Army works the same way. In the Army every soldier takes orders from someone who is “the boss” and there are names for each of the bosses but instead of the word “boss” the Army calls them “ranks.” Look up the word rank in a dictionary.

So, the “rank” of a soldier tells you who is the boss or who is in charge. Every rank, except for one, has a shoulder sleeve patch that is worn on the soldier’s uniform. Look below at some of the ranks and the shoulder sleeve insignias that go along with the rank. There are more ranks than the ones listed below but we wanted you to know just a few. In these examples the lowest rank is a “Private” and the highest rank is “General.”

In WWII the 10th Mountain Division was commanded by Major General George Hays. (Notice the number of stars he is wearing!)


Today, the commander of the 10th Mountain Division LI is Brigadier General Milford Beagle Jr. (Notice the number of stars he is wearing!)

Weather and Clothing

When you put on your clothes in the morning how do you decide what to wear? Do you pick out the clothes you are going to wear? Do you pick out clothes depending on what you are going to do that day or what the weather is like?

Most of us wear different things in the summer than in the winter. Think for a moment of what clothes you wear in the winter and what clothes you would wear in the summer. Then, below, write down three things that you would wear only in the winter and three things that you would wear only in the summer.

During WWII the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division also wore different clothing depending on the weather and what they were doing. Look at the picture below. There are three soldiers of different ranks. Remember, you can tell the rank of the soldier by the patch that is worn on their shoulder. There is also a blank circle beneath the feet of each soldier.

  1. Put the number 1 beneath the Private. He is wearing cold-weather clothing.
  2. Put the number 2 in the circle beneath Private First Class. He is wearing mountain clothing.
  3. Put the number 3 in the circle beneath the Corporal. He is wearing the service uniform.

(Hint, if you need help, look at the chart that showed soldier ranks and shoulder sleeve patches)

Ski Training

The 10th Mountain was the only Division of the Army in WWII that learned to ski. The AXIS forces (Germany, Italy and Japan) had overpowered many countries in Europe and in the Far East and it was possible that one day they would attack the United States coming through the northeastern part of Canada. Or, we might have to send soldiers to countries of Europe where there were many mountains and a quite a bit of snow during the winter. If this were to happen then it would be important that the United States have troops trained for cold weather combat. The soldiers would have to know how to ski, be trained in mountain warfare and be able to survive in winter conditions.

In 1942 the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment began their winter warfare training at Ft. Lewis in the state of Washington. Many of the soldiers who joined the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment already knew how to ski but there were also some soldiers and officers who had never been on skis. In fact, there were even some soldiers who had not ever seen or played in snow. So, it was very important that all the soldiers learn how to ski, know how to take care of their equipment and know how to fire a rifle.

In November of 1942 Camp Hale in Colorado was completed and soon soldiers from all three Regiments, the 87th, 86th and 85th began their mountain warfare training. In July of 1943 the 10th Light Division is created at Camp Hale and the 87th, 86th and 85th Regiments are assigned to this new Division of the Army. In November of 1944 the 10th Light Division is renamed to the 10th Mountain Division.

Below is a picture of a soldier preparing for ski training.

Some main items of equipment used in ski training are:

  1. Crampons

A metal plate with 10 spikes used for walking or climbing on ice. They attach to the ski-mountain boots by rings and straps.

  • Mountain knife

This had both long and short blades, a can opener, and a Philips-head screwdriver for tightening ski binding mountings.

  • Skis

They were anywhere from 82-89 inches long by 3 inches wide. The tops were painted white for camouflage in the snow.

  • Ski-mountain boots

These boots were well designed and were made for rugged use. They could be used for both skiing and mountain climbing.

  • Ski-mountain goggles

These protected the soldier from sun rays and the glare from the sun that reflected off the snow preventing snow blindness.

  • Ski bindings

A mechanical device that connects the Ski-mountain boot to the skis. It holds the boot firmly to allow the soldier to maneuver the ski.

In the above illustration of the soldier getting ready for ski training:

Put the number 1 in the orange circle showing crampons.

Put the number 2 in the orange circle showing a mountain knife.

Put the number 3 in the orange circle showing skis.

Put the number 4 in the orange circle showing ski-mountain boots.

Put the number 5 in the orange circle showing ski-mountain googles.

Put the number 6 in the orange circle showing ski bindings.

Weasels and Duck’s

It might sound kind of funny but the WWII soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division were very familiar with weasels and ducks. In fact, weasels were part of their training and the ducks were used in Italy to transport soldiers across Lake Garda. But these were special weasels and ducks so let me explain!

You know that the 10th Mountain Division was a very specialized unit that was trained for winter mountain warfare which included ski training. It wasn’t easy carrying equipment and supplies on mountains especially when there was a lot of snow. Mules were often used but the mules were not very effective in the snow. Since the 10th Mountain Division was a specialized unit equipment and vehicles had to be designed and tested that would be helpful in winter warfare.

One such vehicle was the M29 Weasel. This small, 2 or 4 man vehicle did not have tires but instead had tracks, like a tank, which made it very effective in muddy or snow covered terrain. The weasels were used at Camp Hale to help pull toboggans loaded with supplies or skiers gripping tow ropes. In the winter of 1944/45 Weasels were used in Europe and Italy to deliver ammunition, rations and supplies on difficult terrain when mules and trucks could not get through.

In the picture below you will see an M29 Weasel Cargo Carrier.

Now look up “M29 Weasel” in Wikipedia and answer the following questions:

  1. What was the name of the company that built the M29 Weasel? _____________________
  • The Army was one branch of the United States Armed Forces that used Weasels. What was the name of the other U.S branch that used Weasels? (hint, this branch of the service used them on Iwo Jima and Okinawa). ________________________________
  • Besides the United States what other three Armies used Weasels?

______________________   ____________________   _____________________

Okay, now that we have covered weasels, let’s talk about ducks. You are probably thinking, “it can’t be the feathered kind of duck” and you are absolutely correct! It is not the feathered flying duck but, instead, another kind of special vehicle. In fact, even though the vehicle is commonly called a duck, the official spelling is DUKW. So, before we begin I would like you to look up DUKW in Wikipedia and answer the following questions.

  1. What is a DUKW?
  2. What two companies designed the DUKW?
  3. What information is given about the use of DUKWS by the 10th Mountain Division during WWII?
  4. What is the Payload capacity of the DUKW?
  5. The Wikipedia article mentions that DUKWs were amphibious. What does amphibious mean?

On April 23rd, 1945, the 10th Mountain Division crossed the PO River on their way to Lake Garda. The 87th Regiment was the first to cross using several DUKWs and assault boats (rubber row boats). Above is a picture of one of the DUKWs crossing the PO. At the time they were under fire from the Germans using 20 mm AA flak guns which would burst overhead. One 10th soldier said that he was very afraid of the PO river crossing because there was no place to hide!

Above is a picture of two DUKWs (left and right of the dock) in front of Hotel Sole on the waters of Lake Garda, Italy. On the dock is an M36 Tank Destroyer.  The photo was taken in early May, 1945 when the 10th Mountain Division was in Riva del Garda.

As noted in the Wikipedia article, one of the DUKWs sank drowning 24 of the 25 soldiers on board. In addition to the 25 soldiers, the DUCK was also carrying munitions. Below is a photo at the bottom of Lake Garda believed to be the DUKW that sunk with the soldiers.

In 2018, a mini-sub was able to place an American and Italian flag on the DUKW.

In 2016 a monument was dedicated to the soldiers who drowned from the DUKW accident. The monument is located in Torbole and lists the name of the 24 soldiers who drowned. Torbole is located in the northeast part of Lake Garda. Every year a ceremony is held at the monument by the local community to commemorate the soldiers who drowned. The 10th Mountain Division soldiers, past and present, and their descendants are very grateful to the local Italians for this commemorative service!

Some final questions.

  1. Have you gone skiing, snowshoeing or snowboarding? If so, where have you gone (name of place or location)?
  2. You probably had a relative who served in the 10th Mountain Division.

What is his/her name?

How is she/he related to you?

What was his/her rank?

3. Do you think one day you might consider joining one of the Military Services (Army, Navy Marines or Air Force? Why or why not?

4. What are some ways you can show your appreciation to those who have served or who are currently serving in the military?