10th Mountain Division exhibits opens at Veterans Museum Broomfield

 04/04/2024 | 09:38 AM 
Mannequins, photos, posters, and artifacts tell the story of the 10th Mountain Division at the Veterans Museum Broomfield.

Mannequins, photos, posters, and artifacts tell the story of the 10th Mountain Division at the Veterans Museum Broomfield.

The Veterans Museum Broomfield has opened “Skiing Off to War with the 10th Mountain Division”—a new exhibit that is a tribute to the famed 10th Mountain Division of World War II.

“The 10th Mountain Division is probably the military organization that is most associated with Colorado,” said Flint Whitlock, the museum’s director of displays and exhibits, the son of a 10th veteran, and the author of Soldiers on Skis.

The 14,000-man division was the only American unit specially trained for mountain and winter warfare and trained for two years at their purpose-built camp—Camp Hale—high up in the Colorado Rockies near Leadville. The 1,000-building camp—really a self-contained small city—was built by an army of workmen in just seven months at a cost of $31 million (in 1942 dollars)—the equivalent of $400 million today. Some of the world’s greatest skiers and mountaineers were in its ranks.

Once the 10th was deployed for combat in the Northern Apennine Mountains of Italy in early 1945, it never lost a battle or gave up a foot of ground, but it did lose 1,000 men killed and 4,000 wounded in less than five months in combat.

After the war many of the veterans returned home and turned skiing, once an elite activity mostly enjoyed by the rich and famous, into an all-American sport that the average family could take part in.

“10th Mountain veterans also started a number of Colorado ski areas and resorts such as Vail, Aspen, and A-Basin,” Whitlock said. “They also worked at winter Park and Steamboat Springs. In fact, over fifty ski areas across the country had at least one 10th Mountain Division veteran involved in some aspect of its operation.”

Camp Hale was torn down in the summer of 1944 as soon as the 10th left for regular infantry training in Texas because the U.S. Army felt that the 10th, while highly skilled in mountain warfare, was too specialized and was basically a failed experiment; the creation of additional mountain divisions was not contemplated.

The display at the museum has artifacts from the facility’s own collection as well as from the extensive private collection of Dave Little, the museum’s director of education. The artifacts, in addition to skis, snowshoes, and footwear, include the specialized clothing developed for use in cold weather at high altitudes. 

The 10th exhibit will remain on display until mid-May when a new exhibit commemorating the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France, will replace it.

The Veterans Museum Broomfield is located at 12 Garden Center, on Midway Boulevard about a quarter-mile east of Wadsworth, and is open Tuesday and Thursdays from 10 to 2 and Saturdays from 9 to 3. Admission is free. For more information, call the museum at (303) 460-6801.

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