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[Photo] Historic color image of barracks at Camp Hale, Colorado, where the 10th Mountain Division trained, c.1943-1944
Photograph courtesy of Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

Camp Hale was constructed in 1942 as a temporary training camp for the 10th Mountain Division. During World War II, the camp was home to the only American division ever trained to fight in mountainous, winter conditions, and the only site in United States military history developed specifically for winter warfare training. Rock climbing, skiing and cold weather survival were skills the 10th Mountain Division learned at Camp Hale. These skills led to successful missions and decisive victories in the mountains of Italy in 1944, contributing to the end of the war there. The location, setting and topography of Camp Hale were specifically chosen by the Army to carry out this type of training.

[Photo] Historic image, c.1943-1944, of 10th Mountain Division soldiers parading down a street at Camp Hale. They are wearing their "whites"-- the winter camouflage uniforms and carry white skis on their right shoulder as rifles are normally carried while on parade
Photograph courtesy of Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

It became apparent, during the early years of World War II, that fighting under harsh winter conditions would be required of the US military. Charles Minot "Minnie" Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol System (NSPS), approached the War Department with his idea of a mountain ski force. The US Army decide to pursue such a program, and a small infantry regiment was formed in the state of Washington in 1941. Quickly in need of a larger training site, an army committee selected the Eagle River valley in Colorado. Construction began in April of 1942 and was completed by November. The camp was located in a long, flat bottomed stretch of the valley. More than 1000 temporary structures were built including barracks, administrative buildings, stables, a veterinary center, hospital, and field house. The surrounding mountain slopes were utilized as training areas for skiing and rock climbing, and various areas of the valley floor were used as rifle, gunnery and combat ranges, and recreations areas.

[Photo] Group portrait of eight 10th Mountain Division soldiers at the base of a rock formation near Camp Hale, c.1943-1944
Photograph courtesy of Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library
The NSPS was asked to recruit 2500 men who joined with the earlier established army regiment to form the 10th Mountain Division. The soldiers learned how to build and live in igloos and snow caves, cross deep canyons on suspended cables, scale cliffs on the northeast side of camp, and travel through all kinds of terrain on skis and snowshoes. The ethnic and economic backgrounds of the personnel varied greatly--olympic skiers, Europeans of many nationalities (including Germans), forest rangers, Ivy Leaguers, and cowboys formed what may have been the most diverse collection of troops in the Army.

[Photo] Mountain Training Group Members somewhere en route during a trek from Leadville to Aspen, Colorado, in February 1944. All are wearing woolen ski uniforms, and very large knapsacks, which weighed 50 to 60 pounds.
Photograph courtesy of Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

In November of 1944, the 10th Mountain Division joined the war effort in Italy, and played a role in bringing the war there to an end. The Division was called upon to spearhead an assault to take Mount Belvedere, where the Germans were thoroughly entrenched on the summits and ridges and controlled the road north from Florence and cut off any further Allied advance. The 10th Division successfully overtook an observation post from where the artillery fire was directed on February 19, 1945, after climbing the ice and snow covered ridge during the preceding night. The 10th Division continued to assist the Army in its advance in northern Italy by capturing the German's mountain strongholds along the way.

After World War II, the 10th Mountain Division was deactivated. The Camp was used on a limited basis by the Army but was eventually dismantled in 1965. What remains today is the rural historic landscape that was an integral part of the division's unique and rigorous training, as well as clear evidence of the location of many of the temporary structures.

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