The Last Ridge
Although reams of paper have been devoted to books about the 10th Mountain Division, the following books are perhaps the most definitive and, in many ways, the most personally felt and narrated of any that have gone before.
The authors have sought out knowledgeable veterans of the 10th, and used their cogent memories to describe their difficult training and brief but bloody combat experience. It will be left to their readers to decide which best captures the essence of the 10th Mountain Division.
Jenkins accurately recounts the recruiting of skiers, mountain climbers and other outdoorsmen to the 10th, but in this writer’s view he devotes too much space to their training at Mount Rainier and Camp Hale, as well as the fulsome publicity generated by their colorful ski and climbing activities, in both Hollywood movies and articles in the printed press.
The combat story begins with the dramatic capture by the l0th of Riva Ridge and the Belvedere massif, the origin of the book’s title “The Last Ridge.” Told graphically in veterans’ own words, the narrative brings home the harsh realities of mountain warfare.
Climb to Conquer
From its initial prologue to its final chapter, this retelling of the 10th Mountain Division by Peter Shelton is engaging, amusing and informative. Told almost entirely through the eyes of the men who, 60 years before, had taken part in the formation, training and combat experience of the division, it nonetheless reads like a brisk and believable novel.
Shelton’s descriptions of the training of the division on Mount Rainier in Washington and at Camp Hale in Colorado are interesting and accurate. He recounts the unlikely involvement of Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck in the filming of the division’s first training film, and future ski film impresario John Jay’s creation of the most definitive film and photographic images of the 10th on skis.
For a chapter called “The Homestake Fiasco,” however, the author apparently listened to a somewhat biased set of participants. The February 1943 Homestake maneuver by early units of the 10th, held on the slopes of 13,200-foot Homestake Peak, was the first high-altitude winter exercise ever mounted by the U.S. Army. To describe it as a “fiasco” is to discount completely the maneuver’s real effectiveness.