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Tom Feliu, KRMA-TV - Soldiers of the Summit
The film describes the role of Minot Dole and others in lobbying the War Department to create mountain troops. It shows footage of Ft. Lewis and provides background on creation of the 87th Mountain Regiment. In February 1942, following Pearl Harbor and America's entry into the war, the 87th began training on Mt Rainier. The film includes footage of ski training there.
The Mountain and Winter Warfare Board, assisted by members of the Sierra Club, developed specialized equipment, including boots, a rucksack that could be strapped to skis to create a toboggan, mummy-style sleeping bags, mountain stoves and rations, and the first snowmobile ("Eliason motor toboggan"). In May 1942, Capt. Albert Jackman commanded a climb of Mt Rainier to test the new equipment.
The film portrays training at Camp Hale, including the D-Series maneuvers, five weeks of overnight bivouacs and war games carried out in horrible weather, with -30 degree temperatures and six feet of new snow. Soldiers are shown learning rock climbing techniques and riding a T-bar lift to practice downhill skiing. The Weasel (snow-cat) is shown in operation.
In August 1943 the 10th Mountain Division was activated. During that month the 87th Regiment was sent to the island of Kiska in the Aleutians to dislodge the Japanese, only to find that they had already fled. 300 soldiers were killed in the early, confused stage of this operation. The film then describes the Italian campaign in which all three regiments of the 10th were active. The 5th Army had three times pushed against Mt Belvedere and had been driven back each time, with heavy losses. The film describes the attack by the 10th on Riva Ridge and the subsequent capture of Belvedere and push northward to the Po Valley and Lake Garda.
The film closes by describing the contributions of 10th veterans in building the U.S. ski industry after the war, particularly in Colorado. It lists veterans involved in ski area management throughout the country. Several veterans, including Karl Stingl (UW ski team coach), Nelson Bennett (White Pass manager), John Woodward (A&T Ski Company) and Bob Parker (vice-president of Vail) are shown reunited on Mt Rainier for the dedication of a plaque commemorating the Division. They are shown skiing the summer snowfields above Paradise to the tune of one of the 10th Mountain Division songs. A sample verse:The 87th had a heavy weapons company.
They spent six weeks at Paradise and never learned to ski.
The reason for this tragedy as you can plainly see
Is everywhere they went they wore their snowshoes.
Oh give me skis and some poles and klister,
And let me ski way up on Alta Vista.
You can take your snowshoes and burn 'em sister,
And everywhere I go I'll give my war whoop.
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