|Paper||Ogden Valley News|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||SR Communications DBA, Eden, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Ogden Valley News|
Volume II , Issue V Page 13 The OGDEN VALLEY NEWS February 2000 World War II 10th Mountain Division Battle Compiled by Shanna Francis Ogden Valley News Staff Ogden residents John Paul Jones and close friend James Barker were two local Utahns who fought in the Italian Campaign of World War II in the 10th Mountain Division, a heroic group who specially trained for three years in the mountains of Colorado for their specific task of taking and holding Monte Belvedere in the Apennine Mountains—a key stronghold of Nazi Germany. The two friends were both killed on the second day of the battle to capture Mount Belvedere, adding their names to the list of 292,131 honored Americans who were killed in action during World War II. Both Monte Belvedere and nearby Monte Gorgolesco were key to the German defense. The Allied Forces needed control of this area to allow for their entry into the Po River Valley to force the German army out of Italy. Belvedere overlooked Riva Ridge and the mountain pass the Americans needed if they were to capture the strategic Po Valley. Control of Riva Ridge allowed for near perfect observation for well-emplaced artillery covering the mountain. The 86th Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division provided expert rock climbers to scale Riva Ridge— the Germans fatally presumed that this ridge could not be climbed. But the well-trained climbers did reach the top of the ridge, and with such numbers and such stealth that the surprised Germans gave up without a shot. This success was followed by several days of bloody battle in the snow covered mountains of the main German line of defense before the 10th was able to break through into the Po Valley and chase the Germans in a complete rout 120 miles across the valley into their final stronghold in the Alps. The training of the unique group of World War II soldiers—all of them skiers before their military service, and all of them fighting together on skis in the 10th Mountain Division— had paid off. The division was now in a place to accept the surrender of major enemy units, thus ending the war in Italy. The 10th Mountain Division’s story begins in 1936 when Minot (Minnie) Dole broke his ankle skiing in Vermont. Without organized help available, his wife had to help him off the mountain. Thus his inspiration for organizing a ski patrol. He later organized the National Ski Patrol and eventually convinced General George Marshall from the U.S. military that if the Germans, Italians and Finns were fighting on skis, the Americans should be too. Convinced, the Army built a training camp in Colorado, and Dole used names from the ski patrol to create a list for recruitment to the new mountain fighting force. The bulk of the newly created division was shipped to Italy beginning in December of 1944. They continued training in Italy during January until launching their mountain offense on the German front along the tops of the Apennines Mountains. Richard Nebeker, a retired Salt Lake attorney and former member of the division stated that, “We were the freshest troops on the line. The freshest division has the least sense and the most gungho.” Clips from an article in the Standard-Examiner written by Ralph Wakley gives further details into the attack: The 10th stormed the northern Italian massif in a little less than three days . . . Don Geary from Ogden related that the weather was lousy in the Apennine Mountains during the second week in April. It was so cloudy, foggy, rainy, windy and cold that General Mark Clark ordered a two-day delay in the final U.S. Army offensive aimed at crushing Nazi forces in northern Italy. Geary continues, “We were ready to make our last big push against the Germans on April 12,  the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died.” Roosevelt was the only president most young American infantrymen had known. “His death gave many of us a feeling of insecurity, a feeling of loss, of a big loss.” But the Americans put their grief aside on April 14, smashed out of the Apennines and into northern Italy’s Lombardy Plain, trapping the bulk of Germany’s Army Group C between them and the British 8th Army fighting its way up Italy’s Adriatic coast. Expert Help / Owner Control Expert Help/Owner Control With the Ubuildit system, and an experienced contractor as your consultant, you can save thousands managing the construction of your new home while having the satisfaction of doing it yourself. Independently owned and operated by Steve Haldeman, a custom home builder in Ogden Valley for 20 years. 479-7447 www.ubuildit.com Robert Beck of Ogden related, “I remember we arrived in Italy on Christmas Day 1944. They [the Germans] were looking right down our throats. We had to get them off the high ground. We went in when it was stalemated and pushed it on through. The first major job was clearing artillery spotters from the top of Riva Ridge, a 5-mile chain of steep peaks soaring 3,500 feet above the valley floor. Then the 10th would tear artillery units off nearby Mount Belvedere, a 5000-foot high block of stone and ice. Both were protected by mined trails, and pillboxes and machine-gun nests. Night after night, under cover of darkness, the 500-man assault team carried its equipment forward. They finally gathered at the base of the ridge on the night of February 18 and began climbing a steep face that would put them behind the Germans. The Germans didn’t think anybody could come up that way. Ogden resident Frank Mjaatvedt relates, “We got to the top about 5:00 a.m. Right about then a heavy fog came in, a heavy, heavy fog.” Mjaatvedt and several other men formed a patrol and had covered some distance along the ridge “When suddenly the fog lifted like a curtain on a stage.” A number of Germans then came out of their bunker a few hundred yards away and the Americans opened fire on the surprised enemy. “We killed some and captured some, but most of them ran away,” Mjaatvedt continued. Once the 10th Mountain Division opened the door to the Lombardy Plain, General Karl Wolff, German governor of northern Italy opened talks with Allen Dulles, the American OSS chief in Switzerland, in hopes of ending the fighting. On April 29, the Germans finally signed an unconditional surrender agreement for the Italian forces. The successful offense exacted its toll. From the 10th Mountain Division, 992 were killed and 4154 wounded. A total of ten soldiers from Utah were killed. James A. Barker of Ogden volunteered to lead a squad as it advanced to provide flank security for a newly won position during the attack on Mt. Belvedere when he was killed February 20. The action earned him a bronze star. John Paul Jones, also from Ogden, was a member of the Ogden Ski Club when he volunteered for the division in 1943. He was also killed February 20 in the Mt. Belvedere attack. Snow Basin Ski Resort named its ski run after him in 1947. Information used for this article was taken from Park City’s “Park Record,” dated March 9, 1995, author Jim Powell; Ogden’s “Standard-Examiner,” dated July 29, 1997, authors Pat Bean and Ralph Wakley; and Salt Lake’s “Deseret News,” dated May 29, 1995, author Steve Fidel. 3675 Ri ver dale Rd. Riv erdale 394-2647 WE’RE MOVING TO: Come S ee Us 1893 N. WASHINGT ON BL VD ASHINGTON BLVD VD.. 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