By Edith Maxwell
North of Boston
We’re so happy to welcome fellow New England cozy mystery author Connie Archer today, to tell us a fascinating story about the Tenth Mountain Division.
New England’s Heroes
The soup lover’s mystery series is set in the village of Snowflake, Vermont. And like a few other places in the state of Vermont, this mythical town boasts its very own ski resort beckoning tourists to its slopes.
But turn the clock back several decades – six or seven perhaps, to the late 1930’s. It’s hard to imagine now, but skiing was far from a popular recreational sport in the United States. In 1931, a Boston ski club organized the first Ski Train to New Hampshire. The very first ski lift was installed at the White Cupboard Inn just across from the village green in Woodstock, Vermont in 1934. Soon a number of Northeastern railroads were running special trains to the few rudimentary ski slopes then in existence.
A few years later, World War II was raging in Europe and stories of the bravery of Finnish soldiers on skis were filtering across the Atlantic. Many believed that if and when America entered the war in Europe, there would be a need for soldiers who could handle extreme cold and mountainous conditions.
Enter C. Minot (“Minnie”) Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol in 1938. Dole, inspired by these stories of soldiers on skis, and realizing future battles would be fought in winter conditions, campaigned then President Franklin Roosevelt and Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall to form a mountain division. From this hard fought campaign, the 10th Mountain Division was formed — the only military group to be founded by a civilian.
Dole’s organization, the National Ski Patrol System, was given the task of recruitment. The unit needed mountain climbers, outdoor guides, lumberjacks, cowboys, mule skinners and veterinarians — men accustomed to living and surviving in the wilderness. Many of these men came from Northern New England and more than 260 who served in this elite division were Vermonters. They fought, with horrific losses, in Italy and Austria against the German gebirgsjaeger and the Italian bersiglieri. At its inception, America’s first ski troops were comprised of only 1,000 men under the aegis of the 5th Army. By the end of the war, the 10th had grown to three divisions, over 33,000 soldiers.
A towering, white-camoflaged infantryman marches with skis and poles on his shoulder, a tribute to the 10th Mountain Division.
Photo from http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/27393
Stowe’s statue was deemed “too military” by some of the town’s citizenry to be installed in a public park. It stood on private land along Mountain Road from 2005 until it was moved to the Stowe Mountain Resort at 5781 Mountain Road in Stowe, Vermont.
In the decades following World War II, these veterans were the men who created the ski industry in America. They founded ski lodges, ski schools and ski patrols. They coached and formed ski organizations such as the Vermont Alpine Racing Association. They developed technological innovations and were instrumental in the formation of the Mountain Warfare School and Battalion in Jericho, Vermont.
On November 9, 2003, the Vermont Ski Museum (http://www.vtssm.com/) inducted into the Vermont Ski Hall of Fame the more than 260 Vermonters who served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.
Towns and villages just like Snowflake, Vermont survive and thrive to this day thanks to the industry created by these veterans on skis. What about you, reader? Have you skied in Vermont? Ever served on ski patrol? Or are you more likely to be watching that lovely snow from the comfort of the lodge, a hot drink in hand?
Connie Archer is the national bestselling author of A Spoonful of Murder and A Broth of Betrayal, the soup lover’s mystery series set in Vermont, from Berkley Prime Crime. Connie was born and raised in New England. She now lives on the other coast.
Visit her website and blog at http://www.conniearchermysteries.com. You can also find her at www.Facebook.com/conniearchermysteries and @snowflakeVT.
Connie, thanks for sharing this fascinating story with us. I grew up in Iowa so there wasn’t a lot of skiing. When I lived in Colorado I enjoyed ski towns and watching skiers while sipping a hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps!
That lodge sounds great ~ I admit I’m definitely more of an apres-ski person!
Such an interesting story, Connie! I’m a cross-country skiier, myself (and the idea of hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps is very appealing!).
Thanks, Edith ~ I grew up in New England, but only learned about the 10th Mountain Division recently. So glad you enjoyed it!
What a great story–and a wonderful launch for other stories. I am intrigued by the ripple effect of this–of the change it created in the ski industry. Thank you for sharing!
So glad you enjoyed it ~ just imagine what the ski industry has accomplished over the years for local economies!
Thanks, Connie for visiting with us today! And thanks for sharing such an interesting piece of New England history. You’ve made me wonder if it is too late to learn to ski!
I operate on the premise that it’s never too late! So far I haven’t broken any bones ~
Well, I learned something new today, Connie! Thank you for the very interesting info. on how the ski industry came to be. I never thought about it before. Not a skier and not a watcher–I don’t like to be cold!
I love the snow! (As long as I’m in that lodge with a hot toddy!) Thanks, Marilyn!
Great blog. Always love to learn knew things. You never know when the information will come in handy.;).
You never know when a bit of research can help you out ~ could be a good setting for a story ~ thanks, Cheryl!
My daughter recently moved to Boston from Denver (originally she is from Chicago) and she loves the New England area as well as skiing! I’m sharing this story with her as she also loves history. Thanks!
Thanks for stopping by, Naomi! New England is a total treasure trove of American history. I’m sure your daughter will love living in Boston!
Hi Naomi ~ You’re the lucky winner of a copy of A Broth of Betrayal. If the Wicked Cozy Authors have not contacted you already, please send your address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for joining in!
Hooray! Thank you so much!
Very interesting story. I have never skied.
It is a lot of fun, a sense of flying ~ but I imagine wartime on skis was pretty grueling and deadly for those veterans.
Wow — I had no idea that “skiing” as a major recreational activity was so new to the American scene. I’m a total Californian, have never seen snow actually falling from the sky although I have seen it on the side of the road a couple of times. Lodge, fireplace, hot cocoa and peppermint schnaps definitely sounds like what I’d be doing at a ski resort. Great research, thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome, Linda! Thanks for stopping by. What I most remember about snow (apart from skiing) is shoveling sidewalks, driveways and cars out of snowbanks!
A very nice piece, Connie. Almost 70 years on from WWII, so many of the stories of so many of the great units are sadly disappearing from living memory, disappearing into the pages of history books that too few of us read. These guys MADE history and deserve to be remembered for it. Your article is a very good short account of a remarkable division — and tells of the 10th’s important post-war role in the founding of American skiing as well.
Readers of this blog might also be interested to know that the 10th lives on today. Based at Fort Drum, New York, it fought in the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1994 — the first time US forces encountered Al Quaida — and has been more or less continually deployed to Afghanistan since the mid 2000’s, fighting alongside the 82nd and 101st Airborne.
Thanks for stopping by, Donal ~ that’s fascinating. I was aware of that division’s involvement in Iraq, but not their other battles.
I enjoyed reading your blog, Connie. Thank you for the information. I have never skied, but love to watch from within as I sip on my hot chocolate. I’m a warm weather girl, but do enjoy the beautiful scenery of a white snowfall – again – from within.
Hi Miriam ~ Thanks for stopping by. I have skied, but it was quite a few years ago. I think I might be shaky on the slopes now!
Hi. Barbara Ross stopping by late in the day to say hello. Connie it was so great to meet you at the Malice Domestic conference. I can’t wait to read your books.
Once I read this, it made so much sense. Everyone knows that the Von Trapp family founded a lodge in Vermont after the war. And the general in White Christmas has also started a lodge. But now it all has context for me. I really enjoyed learning this.
Hi Barbara – So glad you like the history blog! And I’m really happy I got to meet you at Malice and all your cozy group, even flat Liz! On my website, if you click through I have a little bit of the film White Christmas (singing “Snow”) and Jo Stafford singing Moonlight in Vermont too!
To this life-long southern New Englander, snow is a danger and a nuisance! I enjoyed reading your historical account of the Mountain Division, and can appreciate the hardships they endured and the sacrifices they made. Thank you for opening my eyes to a bit of history I never learned in school!
Thanks for stopping by, Deb. I know what you mean about snow – lovely to watch it come down, but dealing with months of it is . . . arrgghhh! I grew up in New England too, but strangely only learned about these veterans recently.
That is so interesting, Connie…thanks for sharing! I’ve always loved history, and learning about the origins of the Ski Patrol, the 10th Mountain Division, and their influence on the ski industry was fascinating. While I don’t ski, I love being in the mountains when it’s snowing – and I now have this picture in my mind of being in a lodge, with a nice hot drink, glancing up occasionally at the skiers coming down the slopes — all while deeply engrossed in your next book!
Ah! You’ll have to visit Snowflake again now! Thanks for stopping by, Barbara!
Connie, this is great. Love reading about skiers – but haven’t dared get on a pair since a mishap when I was a teenager!
Eeks – some terrible injuries can happen skiing. How ’bout ice skating? That’s actually what I used to love when I was a kid.
Connie, wonderful history to read about! although i never liked history in school-as a grown-up I’m amazed at how interesting history really is! i found myself reading your blog out loud to my husband as he watches the basketball game. Even he was taken in with your info.
Thanks for the best history lesson I’ve ever had!
Wow! Thanks, Paula ~ I’m so glad to hear Mitch was interested! I was fascinated to learn about them too. They’re still in existence, but now fighting in Afghanistan for the most part — no skis.
Your books sound very interesting-I am looking forward to reading them and hopefully some good soup recipes too!
Hi Carol ~ Thanks for visiting! I hope you fall in love with Snowflake, Vermont. And yes, there are lots of great recipes in each of the books. Enjoy!
Today the 10th Mountain Division is housed at Fort Drum, New York, just a few miles from the Canadian border. I don’t know if the soldiers there are still skiing, but they definitely do super-cold weather training and are often deployed to mountainous places like Afghanistan. Thanks for the story of the origin of this very brave group of men (and now women)!
Hi Susannah ~ It was strange to be reminded that there were NO women in the armed services at that time. So glad to hear there are some serving in the 10th now. Thanks for stopping by!
This is an addendum to my June 13th blog as a guest of the Wicked Cozy Authors. Patti Brooks contacted me to tell me that her oldest brother was a member of the first ski troops of the 10th Mountain Division. She and her brother grew up in the Adirondacks. When he entered the service he was sent to the Carolinas for training but suffered a great deal in the heat and humidity. He saw a notice about the formation of the ski troops and was one of the first to sign up. He was sent to Colorado where, among other things, he took part in building the 10th’s base. Since many of the men, including his superior officer didn’t know how to ski, he became their first instructor!
Thanks for contacting me, Patti. You can find Patti Brooks at: http://www.PattiBrooksBooks.com.
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