The winter time in Arkansas is usually mild with a few extreme cold snaps hitting us every once in a while. Weather is so unreliable that locals usually say, “If you don’t like the weather today, wait till tomorrow” which is more or less true. However, right now, Arkansas is receiving a long awaited winter- complete with snow, ice, and sleet. The temperatures have dropped to roughly 16 degrees leaving everyone wishing for an early spring (except the groundhog saw his shadow. Oops!). But despite the ice and snow, winter can be a fun time of year especially with all of the winter sports available such as ice skating, sledding, and yes, skiing!
Skiing is usually found in the harsh climates of the northeast United States, but occasionally one will see the bold skier attempting the shorter inclines of Arkansas. What does this have to do with the museum? Well, before Laci or I start using skis to navigate the drifts between the buildings, I thought I would give you a quick fun fact on this snowy Thursday regarding skiing in the US military.
Did you know that prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), the United States Army decided to create a division specifically for battle in cold, snowy regions? Yes, they did! In fact, nearly 22 days before America entered World War Two, the idea of the Tenth Mountain Division was born. Charles Dole (head of the National Ski Patrol) was tasked with researching the possibility of an Army “Alpine” unit. As America moved closer to a war in Europe, she observed the successes of European mountain or ski divisions. Thus, the Department of the Army decided that America also needed its own mountain unit to wage war in the mountains of Europe. The Tenth Light Division (Alpine) was officially activated at Camp Hale, Colorado being composed of men that were from the colder, mountainous areas of America. This division was equipped with winter wear such as military grade, reversible parkas, snow pants, boots, and goggles for battle in the mountains. They were also given gloves, wool socks, snowshoes, and (here it comes) skis! Boys that had skied for pleasure growing up were now doing so in defense of their country. The men of this division trained in the mountains of Colorado, before being sent off to Italy in 1945. Despite the Tenth Mountain Division (officially named in 1944) having to deal with grueling terrain, freezing temperatures, and restrictive gear as well as the harsh realities of war, still managed to defeat the Nazis at Riva Ridge, Po River Valley, Mount Belvedere, and Lake Garda. Their participation in the Second World War was critical for America’s victory in the “Forgotten” Italian Campaign. In the decades to follow, the Tenth Mountain Division served in Germany during the Cold War as a part of NATO. They also served in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Restore Hope, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. To this day, they continue to defend America’s freedom against all enemies both foreign and domestic continuing the “climb to glory” legacy and training of the first US Army skiing mountaineers. So, today while you are enjoying the beauty and sport of an Arkansas winter, think about our brave military mountaineers standing on the frontlines for our liberty.
Photo from Army.mil