Author Maurice Isserman Discusses his new Book The Winter Army

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At the start of World War II, the US Army had two cavalry divisions—and no mountain troops. The German Wehrmacht, in contrast, had many well-trained and battle-hardened mountain divisions, some of whom by 1943 blocked the Allied advance in the Italian campaign. Starting from scratch, the US Army developed a unique military fighting force, the 10th Mountain Division, drawn from the ranks of civilian skiers, mountaineers, and others with outdoor experience. The resulting mix of Ivy League students, park rangers, Olympic skiers, and European refugees formed the first specialized alpine fighting force in US history. By the time it deployed to Italy at the beginning of 1945, this ragtag group had coalesced into a tight-knit unit. In the months that followed, at a terrible cost, the men of the 10th took the high ground from the Germans and laid the groundwork for the Allied victory in Italy.

And upon returning to their training ground in Colorado after the war, these veterans made yet another significant contribution, playing a central role in the transformation of skiing from an elite activity to a mass participation sport and founding the ski resorts at Aspen and Vail.  The 10th Mountain Division stands as the only unit in the history of the U.S. military to use wartime skills to transform a civilian pastime.

Ranging from the ski slopes of the Rockies to the towering cliffs of the Italian Alps, The Winter Army is a saga of an unlikely band of soldiers forged in the heat of combat into a brotherhood whose legacy lives on in U.S. mountain fighters to this day. In the 21st century, the 10th has been the most deployed unit in the U.S. Army, repeatedly sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

MAURICE ISSERMAN, PhD, is the Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History at Hamilton College. His prize-winning books include Fallen Giants, which won the prestigious Banff Mountain Book Festival prize for best mountaineering history. He lives in Clinton, New York.

What: Discussion/slide show
When (day and time): Tues, 11/12, 7:30 pm
Where: Boulder Bookstore, 1107 Pearl St, Boulder CO 80302
Cost: Vouchers to attend are $5 and are good for $5 off the author’s featured book or a purchase the day of the event.

What: Discussion/slide show
When (day and time): Wed, 11/13, 6:30 pm
Where: American Mountaineering Museum, 710 10th St, Golden CO 80401
Cost: none

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