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Eugene Winters - Personal Communication

Phone conversation, 4 October 2001
by Lowell Skoog

The 41st Division ski patrol was made up of National Guardsmen stationed in Spokane. They were drawn from the 161st, 162nd, 163rd, and 186th Infantry Regiments and were supported by men from the 116th Quartermaster Regiment. Previous skiing experience was a requirement to get into the 41st Division ski patrol. Most men brought their own gear and they had to pass a ski test to get into the unit. There were three or four really good downhill skiers in the group. Most of the other men had cross-country skiing experience. In contrast, the 15th Infantry ski patrol included men with little skiing experience. Part of its mission was to teach non-skiers to ski, according to Eugene.

The 41st Division ski patrol was commanded by Lt. Ralph Phelps with Lt. Claude Trinder second in command. After World War II, Phelps became the commanding General of the 41st Division. Trinder was a full-blooded Indian (probably Sioux), according to Eugene. During their ski training at Mt Rainier, Trinder broke his leg. When the 15th Infantry ski patrol completed its training and left the park, Lt. John Woodward was attached temporarily to the 41st Division ski patrol to take Trinder's place. The 41st Division patrol moved into abandoned CCC housing outside Longmire.

Karl Hinderman and John Woodward were the best skiers in the group, and Hinderman acted as a ski instructor before Woodward arrived. Eugene recalled that Hinderman knew and could teach all the current ski techniques--Arlberg, French, Swiss, and so on. After the war, Hinderman ran a ski shop at the Big Mountain in Montana. Other good skiers included Lee Zerba, Donald Brown, and Raymond Osborn (who competed as a team in the Mountaineers open patrol race in 1941) and Harold Peebles. Eugene recalled that the 41st Division ski patrol did its long trips after John Woodward arrived. Paul Lafferty, leader of the 15th Infantry ski patrol, was from Eugene, Oregon and had been an active skier and mountaineer in the Obsidians club.

Much of the gear used by the unit was from Ome Daiber. They had different kinds of skis and many of the men initially supplied their own boots and ski pants. Eventually [I'm not sure when this happened] the army supplied skis, poles, rucksacks, and mountain tents. Eugene thought the primary mission of the 41st Division ski patrol was to check out equipment, but as a corporal he wasn't sure what the officers had been ordered to do. The soldiers practiced map reading and interpretation, but little in the way of tactics. They carried bearpaw snowshoes even on their ski trips and used them to paddle around camp.

Eugene recalled going to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground on skis. The 41st Division ski patrol did not do any major traverses around Mt Rainier. He heard that the 15th Infantry ski patrol did a circuit of the mountain. I asked about a reported trip from Ohanapecosh to the Tieton reservoir (tt-1941-apr-05) but he had no memory of it. He thought the 15th Infantry ski patrol might have done that trip.

The two trips by the 41st Division ski patrol through the Olympic mountains were strictly field operations. The only support was the truck driver and a few men from the 116th Quartermaster. Eugene remembered that the Tacoma Narrows Bridge blew down in autumn 1940, while they were at Camp Murray. When the patrol began their trip to Anderson Pass, carrying skis on their packs below the snow line, they struggled for at least a day to work through "a maze of downed trees." They made just a couple of miles that day. The other trip started at Deer Park. In Seven Lakes Basin they were pinned down by a storm for several days. Eugene recalled that three to four feet of snow fell. A lot of people dropped out on these trips. Eugene didn't remember anyone getting appendicitis, something that John Woodward had told me.

Letter, 5 October 2001
to Lowell Skoog

Eugene Winters sent me a letter with several clippings related to the mountain troops. I added them to my clippings file (lds-mtn-troops).

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