28 April, 2009
Tenth Mountain Memorial
A more unusual outfit than my father's U.S. Army division would be hard to find. Just think about the veterans of the Tenth Mountain Division who pulled off the assault of Riva Ridge in Italy in the winter of 1945. The physical and technical requirements of mountain warfare are more than a little beyond the norm. A special man is required.
There never was an army unit like the famous Tenth Mountain Division of the Second World War. They were experienced outdoorsmen, mountain climbers and world-class skiers who trained themselves from scratch to be mountain troopers. As a consequence, they trained longer and harder than any other division in the war.
My father, Pfc. Kenneth K. Klahn, told me that the army ordered the 10th soldiers to remove their unit insignia when they got to Italy. The shoulder patch insignia was a red, white and blue powder keg with crossed bayonets organized to represent the Roman numeral ten. Added above that was a rocker with the word "MOUNTAIN" over the patch. Ironically, the Germans greeted the Hollywood and press-famous ski troops with flyers welcoming them to the Italian Theater of war. "See Naples and Die!" So much for secrecy - the Nazis were waiting, deeply entrenched behind the Gothic Line, in the North Apennines mountain range. Would the Tenth live up to their press?
Tomorrow: "Knock It Off!"