President Joe Biden recently designated Camp Hale, the World War II winter weather training site located in Colorado, as his first national monument. The location, now titled the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, covers more than 50,000 acres in an effort to protect nature and wildlife. Camp Hale was the main training site for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, veterans of which played a major role in the creation of Colorado’s ski industry.
While it’s nice to read about history, it’s often much better to actually hear about history from those who actually experienced it. This little snippet from CBS Colorado isn’t much, but it does give us a good quick look into those who experienced Camp Hale when it actually was Camp Hale.
The U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division was initially made up of almost entirely skiers. President Charles Minot Dole of the National Ski Patrol watched a small group of Finnish ski patrollers beat back the Soviet invading force in 1939 and immediately took the idea of forming a mountain division to the U.S. Army. After Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall witnessed a group of Greek troops defeat a larger Italian force in the Albanian mountains, Dole was tasked with searching ski clubs and universities for experienced skiers willing to train and fight.
The 10th Mountain Division’s first mission on Alaska’s Kiska Island was, unfortunately, a rather massive failure. Several members of the division were killed by friendly fire as allied groups mistook each other for the enemy. In Italy’s Apennine Mountains, however, the 10th Mountain Division found much more success, breaking through the German “Gothic Line” a high vantage point line of defense that made it significantly more difficult for the Allied forces to advance through the rest of Europe. The 10th Mountain Division, relying on stealth and strength, was able to break the line and open the doors for the Allied advance.
If you’re interested in learning more about Camp Hale, I highly recommend watching this short documentary produced by Rocky Mountain PBS.
Image Credit: CBS Colorado via YouTube