10th Mountain Division
The WISE Ministries International 12th Mountain Intercession Team is patterned after the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
Article by Liz Robinson
10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry):
The 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) is a light infantry division of the United States Army based at Fort Drum, New York. It is a subordinate unit of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the only division-sized element of the US Army to specialize in fighting under harsh terrain and weather conditions…In World War II, the 10th fought in the mountains of Italy in some of the roughest terrain in the country.
Reactivated in 1985, the division saw numerous deployments to contingencies throughout the 1990s. Division elements participated in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope, Operation Uphold Democracy, Task Force Eagle, and Hurricane Andrew disaster relief. Since 2001, the division and its four combat brigades have seen numerous deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), stationed at Fort Drum, New York, was a specially tailored infantry division that is rapidly deployable by strategic airlift to conduct a full spectrum of operations from humanitarian relief to combat. The 10th Mountain Division had been involved in more deployments than any other division in the Army. The structure of the Division was brought more into line with other units under the US Army’s modular force structure transformation, beginning in 2005, but the 10th Mountain remained a highly flexible unit and continued to be actively deployed to conflict zones.
Rapid deployment was the foundation for a ready 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). 96 hours after notification, the Division was expected to deploy by air, sea and land, worldwide…
In November 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland. Finnish soldiers on skis annihilated 2 tank divisions, humiliating the Russians. Charles Minot (Minnie) Dole, the president of the National Ski Patrol, saw this as a perfect example of why the US Army needed mountain troops. Dole spent months lobbying the War Department to train troops in mountain and winter warfare. In September 1940, Dole was able to present his case to General George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, who caused the Army take action on Dole’s proposals to create ski units.
On 8 December 1941, the Army activated its first mountain unit, the 87th Mountain Infantry Battalion (this unit was later reactivated as headquarters for the 87th Mountain Regiment) at Fort Lewis, Washington. The unit was dubbed “Minnie’s Ski Troops” in honor of Dole. The 87th Mountain trained on Mount Rainier’s 14,408 foot peak. The National Ski Patrol took on the unique role of recruiting for the 87th Infantry Regiment and later the Division. After returning from the Kiska Campaign in the Aleutian Islands near Alaska the 87th Mountain formed the core of the new Division.
This unique organization came into being on 13 July 1943, at Camp Hale, Colorado as the 10th Light Division (Alpine). The combat power of the Division was contained in the 85th, 86th, and 87th Infantry Regiments. The Division’s year training at the 9,200 foot high Camp Hale honed the skills of its soldiers to fight and survive under the most brutal mountain conditions…
On 6 November 1944, the 10th Division was redesignated the 10th Mountain Division… The Division entered combat on 28 January 1945 in the North Apennine Mountains of Italy. The division faced German positions arrayed along the 5 mile long Monte Belvedere-Monte della Torraccia ridge. Other divisions had attempted to assault Mount Belvedere 3 times, even holding it temporarily, but none had succeeded. To get to Mount Belvedere the Division first had to take a ridge line to the west known to the Americans as the Riva Ridge. The Germans on Riva Ridge protected the approaches to Mount Belvedere. The assault on Riva Ridge was the task of the 1st Battalion and F Company, 2nd Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry. After much scouting, it was decided the assault would be at night, a 1,500-vertical-assent. The Germans considered the ridge to be impossible to scale and manned it with only one battalion of mountain troops. The attack by the 86th on 18 February 1945, was a complete success and an unwelcome surprise to the Germans.
Mount Belvedere was assaulted next. Belvedere was heavily manned and protected with minefields. Shortly after the 86th assault on the Riva Ridge, the 85th and 87th Regiments made a bayonet attack without covering artillery fire on Belvedere beginning on 19 February 1945. Again the surprise of the assault was successful and after a hard fight, the peak was captured.
Realizing the importance of the peak, the Germans made 7 counterattacks over 2 days. After the first 3 days of intense combat, the division lost 850 casualties to include 195 dead. The 10th had captured over 1,000 prisoners. The 10th was now in a position to breach the German’s Apennine Mountain line, take Highway 65 and open the way to the Po Valley.
On 14 April 1945, the final phase of the war in Italy began. With the 85th and 87th Infantry leading, the 10th Mountain Division attacked toward the Po Valley spearheading the Fifth Army drive. The fighting was fierce with the loss of 553 mountain infantryman killed, wounded, or missing in the first day…
Early on 20 April 1945, the seventh day of the attack, the first units of the 85th Infantry broke out into Po Valley. Five days of attack had cost 1,283 casualties. With the German’s mountain line broken, the next objective was to cross the Po River.
On the morning of 23 April 1945, the 10th was the first division to reach the Po River. The first battalion of the 87th Mountain Infantry, the original mountain infantry unit, made the crossing under fire in 50 light canvas assault boats.
The final combat for the 10th Division took place in the vicinity of Lake Garda, a canyon lake at the foothills of the Alps. On 27 April 1945, the first troops reached the south end of the lake, cutting off the German Army’s main escape route to the Brenner Pass. The drive was delayed by destroyed tunnels and road blocks. Using amphibious DUKWs, these obstacles were bypassed and the towns of Riva and Tarbole at the head of the lake were captured. Organized resistance in Italy ended on 2 May 1945.
The 10th completely destroyed 5 elite German divisions. In 114 days of combat, the 10th Division suffered casualties of 992 killed in action and 4,154 wounded.
Since the 10th Mountain Division was one of the last to enter combat, it was to be used in the projected invasion of Japan. These plans ended with the surrender of Japan in August 1945. After a brief tour of duty in the Army of Occupation in Italy, the 10th was sent to Camp Carson, Colorado. There on 30 November 1945, the 10th Mountain Division was disbanded.
Veterans of the 10th Mountain Division were in a large part responsible for the development of skiing into a big name sport and popular vacation industry after World War II. Ex-soldiers from the 10th laid out ski hills, built ski lodges, designed ski lifts and improved ski equipment. They started ski magazines and opened ski schools. Vail, Aspen, Sugarbush, Crystal Mountain, and Whiteface Mountain were but a few of the ski resorts built by 10th Mountain veterans.
To meet the Army’s requirements to train large numbers of replacements the 10th was reactivated as a training division on 1 July 1948, at Fort Riley, Kansas. It did not retain its wartime designation as a Mountain Division and as result lost its “Mountain” tab. The Division had the mission of processing and training new soldiers for service with other Army units. The outbreak of the Korean Conflict in June 1950, enlarged this mission. A total of 123,000 men completed basic training with the 10th during the period 1948-1953.
In January 1954, the Department of Army announced that the 10th Division would become a combat infantry division, and be sent to Europe under a new rotation policy. The 10th Training Division was reduced to zero strength in May 1954. The personnel and equipment of the 37th Infantry Division were brought to Fort Riley, and on 15 June 1954, became the new 10th Infantry Division.
In what became known as Operation Gyroscope, the 10th replaced the 1st Infantry Division in Germany. The headquarters of the 10th Division was located in Wurzburg, with all units stationed within a 75 miles radius. Stretched in an arc, from Frankfurt to Nurenburg, the 10th occupied a strategic center position in the NATO defense forces. With 9 Infantry Battalions, 4 Artillery Battalions, and one Tank Battalion, the 10th Infantry Division was a powerful military force. The 10th Division was in turn replaced in Germany by the 3rd Infantry Division in 1958. The 10th was then sent to Fort Benning, Georgia and inactivated on 14 June 1958.
The Division was officially reactivated on 13 February 1985, at Fort Drum, New York as the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). The Division commander after reactivation was Brigadier General William S. Carpenter. The 10th was the first division of any kind formed by the Army since 1975 and the first based in the Northeast US since World War II. The 10th Mountain Division (LI) was designed to meet a wide range of worldwide infantry-intensive contingency missions. Equipment design was oriented toward reduced size and weight for reasons of both strategic and tactical mobility.
Although the 10th did not deploy to Southwest Asia as a unit, about 1,200 10th Mountain Division soldiers did go. The largest unit to deploy was the 548th Supply and Services Battalion with almost 1,000 soldiers, which supported the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division in Iraq. Following a cease-fire in March 1991, the first Division soldiers began redeploying to Fort Drum. The last soldiers were welcomed home in June 1991.
Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida on 24 August 1992, killing 13 people, rendering an estimated 250,000 people homeless and causing damages in excess of 20 billion dollars. On 27 September 1992, the 10th Mountain Division assumed responsibility for Hurricane Andrew disaster relief as Task Force Mountain. Division soldiers set up relief camps, distributed food, clothing, medical necessities and building supplies, as well as helping to rebuild homes and clear debris. The last of the 6,000 Division soldiers to deployed to Florida returned home in October 1992.
On 3 December 1993, the Division headquarters was designated as the headquarters for all Army Forces (ARFOR) of the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) for Operation Restore Hope. Major General Steven L. Arnold, the Division Commander, was named Army Forces commander. The Division’s mission was to secure major cities and roads to provide safe passage of relief supplies to the starving Somali population. Due to 10th Mountain Division efforts, humanitarian agencies declared an end to the food emergency and factional fighting decreased. A Company, 41st Engineer Battalion built a 160 foot Bailey bridge north of Kismayo. It was the largest Bailey bridge built outside the US since the Vietnam War. Beginning in mid February 1993, the Division began the gradual reduction of forces in Somalia.
On 4 May 1993, the UN assumed the task of securing the flow of relief supplies in Somalia. All remaining Division units in Somalia came under the control of a new headquarters, United Nations Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM II).
On 3 October 1993, Special Operations Task Force Ranger (TFR) conducted a daylight raid on an enemy stronghold, deep in militia-held Mogadishu. The Rangers had successfully captured some of warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid’s key aides, but went to the aid of an aircraft shot down by enemy fire. They were quickly surrounded by Somali gunmen. The 2-14th Infantry quick reaction force (QRF) was dispatched to secure the ground evacuation route.
As darkness fell, the 2-14th Infantry was reinforced with coalition armor and for 3 hours they fought a moving gun battle from the gates of the Port of Mogadishu where they had established a base facility, to the Olympic Hotel and the Ranger perimeter. The 2-14th Infantry was successful in linking up with the Rangers and began withdrawal under fire along a route secured by Pakistani forces. As dawn broke over the city the exhausted soldiers marched, rode, and stumbled into the protective Pakistani enclave at city stadium.
For 2-14th Infantry soldiers, the ordeal had lasted over 12 hours. The 2-14th had a total of 29 soldiers wounded and one killed. Task Force Ranger suffered 19 killed, 57 wounded, and one missing (captured, later returned alive). Estimates of Somali militia losses were 300 killed and over 700 wounded. With 6 and a half hours of continuous fighting, this was the longest sustained firefight by regular US forces since the Vietnam
The last divisional combat unit stationed in Somalia, 2nd Battalion, 22d Infantry returned home 12 March 1994. In all, some 7,300 soldiers from the 10th served in Somalia.
The Division formed the nucleus of the Multinational Force Haiti (MNF Haiti) and Joint Task Force 190 (JTF 190) in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. The MNF-Haiti was the US led coalition force in Haiti, which included soldiers from 20 nations. More than 8,600 of the almost 21,000 troops in Haiti wore the 10th Mountain Division patch.
At 0930 hours, on 19 September 1994, the Division’s 1st Brigade conducted the Army’s first air assault from an aircraft carrier. This force consisted of 54 helicopters and almost 2,000 soldiers. They occupied the Port-au-Prince International Airport. This was the largest Army air operation conducted from a carrier since the Doolittle Raid in World War II, where Army Air Force bombers were launched off of a carrier to attack Tokyo.
The Division’s mission was to create a secure and stable environment under which the legitimate government of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide could be reestablished and democratic elections held. The final step in preparing for Aristide’s return from exile occurred early on 13 October 1994, when General Cedras, his family and members his de-facto government left the country for Panama. When President Aristide returned to the Port-au-Prince International Airport on 15 October 1994, his security was provide courtesy of the 10th Mountain Division.
The 10th Mountain Division handed over control of the MNF-Haiti to the 25th Infantry Division on 15 January 1995. The Division redeployed the last of more than 8,600 Division soldiers who served in Haiti by 31 January 1995.
The 642nd Engineer Company deployed for Bosnia on 18 March 1997 for a 6 month tour constructing and maintaining roads and base camps. Two companies of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry deployed for Bosnia a day later. B Company’s mission was to defend a critical bridge site, and C Company’s mission was to act as the theater reserve.
In the fall of 1998, the Division received notice that it would be serving as senior headquarters of Task Force Eagle, providing a peacekeeping force to support the ongoing operation within the Multi-National Division-North area of responsibility in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Preparations began immediately for Stabilization Force 6 (SFOR-6). While Division staff began planning, soldiers began training. The Division split into 2 operations: Task Force Drum for those remaining in the North Country and Task Force Eagle, set to deploy to Bosnia. Warfighting skills remained the focus of the Division’s training.
In preparation for the Bosnia assignment, 4 major events were staged in 1999, including an SFOR-6 conference in Tuzla, Bosnia, a deployment exercise at Fort Drum as a rehearsal, a conference at Fort Drum and Fort Hood, and an inter-theater rehearsal by some staff members, with other units in Bosnia.
Selected Division units began deploying in late summer, to link up with their commander, Maj. Gen. James L. Campbell, who had preceded his soldiers to Bosnia. Approximately 3,000 division soldiers deployed. Meanwhile at Fort Drum, every effort was made to ensure the safety and care of soldiers and families remaining at home.
After successfully performing their mission in Bosnia, the Division units conducted a Transfer of Authority, relinquishing their assignments to soldiers of the 49th Armored Division, Texas National Guard. By early summer 2000, all 10th Mountain Division soldiers had returned safely to Fort Drum.
After adding humanitarian, training and operational deployments together, the 10th Mountain Division (LI) had earned the distinction of being the most deployed Army division during the 1990s, a period which had seen the greatest number of missions for United States military forces-reserve and active-since the end of World War II.
During 2001, soldiers from the Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom secured key forward operating bases in Afghanistan, screened over 3,500 detainees at Sherberghan Prison in Northern Afghanistan, and engaged in combat during Operations Anaconda and Mountain Lion. During Operation Anaconda, Coalition Joint Task Force Mountain, commanded by Maj. General F.L. Hagenbeck, killed several hundred Al-Qaeda terrorists and destroyed an important enemy base of operations in the Shah-I-Khat Valley 100 miles southeast of Kabul. Subsequent operations destroyed 4.5 million pounds of ammunition and killed or captured several hundred more terrorists.
Elements from across the 10th Mountain Division (LI) were scheduled to return duties to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2003. The rotation of soldiers began in June and was to continue throughout the summer months.
Elements of division headquarters replaced selected staff members and assume command-and-control duties with coalition forces of Coalition Joint Task Force 180.
The 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division joined other coalition forces conducting combat operations to eliminate remaining terrorists elements in the region. The soldiers also provided security and assist with humanitarian relief effort to the people of Afghanistan. The 2nd Brigade provided forces to train the Afghan National Army. Other units from the division provided administrative and logistical support to deployed forces.
During 2003, 10th Mountain Division Soldiers continued to add to the Division’s history by selflessly going where the nation called on them to serve. As the year closed, more than 6,000 division Soldiers had deployed around the world to fight the war on terrorism.
Members of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry had several combat engagements in Northern Iraq during formal combat operations while providing convoy security operations. Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery, members of the 20th Air Support Operations Squadron and the 10th Target Acquisition Detachment also served in Iraq during formal combat operations.
In March 2003, the 642nd Engineer Company and 725th Ordnance Company deployed to the US Central Command region. Elements of 4-31st Infantry, 2-15th Field Artillery, 548th Corps Support Battalion and 110th Military Intelligence Battalion, as well as 57th Transportation Company, 514th Maintenance Company and 725th Explosive Ordnance Company also received orders to deploy to the CENTCOM region.
Already deployed were elements of 2-14 Infantry, 511th Military Police Company, 59th Chemical Company, the Long Range Surveillance Detachment of the 110th Military Intelligence Battalion, and 95th and 520th Engineer Detachments (Firefighting). Soldiers of 4-31 Infantry also began deploying elements to Djibouti in April to continue fighting the global war on terrorism.
The 10th Mountain Division (LI) officially transformed into the modular format the Army is evolving into during a ceremony at Sexton Field on 13 September 2004. As part of the ceremony, 7 units were inactivated and 13 units were activated.
The 7 units inactivated were as follows: Division Support Command; 3rd Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment; 110th Military Intelligence Battalion; 10th Signal Battalion; 41st Engineer Battalion; 10th Forward Support Battalion and 710th Main Support Battalion.
The 13 units activated were as follows: 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Unit of Action); 10th Mountain Division Support Brigade; Unit of Employment, Special Troops Battalion; 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment; 10th Brigade Support Battalion; 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion; 2nd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment; 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion; 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment; 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery; 710th Brigade Support Battalion; 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion and the Support Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
As the division transformed at Sexton Field, Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Unit of Action) and 3rd Squadron, 17th Calvary Regiment were involved in combat operations in Iraq. Other elements of the Division followed after the transformation, deploying to Afghanistan during 2006, departing in 2007. Elements of the 10th Mountain Division continued to support Operation Iraqi Freedom through 2008. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/10mtn.htm
Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division site: http://www.drum.army.mil/10md/Pages/10thMtnDiv.aspx