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Climb to Conquer: The Untold Story of WWII's 10th Mountain Division Ski Troops Hardcover – October 7, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shelton, who writes for Men's Journal and Ski magazine, traces the story of America's 10th Mountain Division Ski Troops from 1940, when the idea for a military mountaineering/skiing division was first proposed, through 1945, when the division was briefly deployed (for 114 days) in northern Italy. Inspired by Finnish resistance to invading Soviet armies in 1939, a small group of New England ski enthusiasts figured America might also need cold-weather-capable resistance, should the Nazis decide to invade the U.S. via Canada. Although the War Department was unclear where such specialized troops might actually be used, authorization to form and train a ski division was granted after Pearl Harbor and the Italian invasion of Greece. The skiers were initially deployed to capture Kiska, a Japanese-held island in the Aleutians, but by the time the skiers arrived, the Japanese had evacuated. Indeed, the 10th spent most of WWII training and waiting for assignment. In the end, it was only their grit, not their special skills, that counted. Sent to capture Monte Belvedere, to secure Allied access to Bologna, they had no skis or climbing equipment, just the usual guns and grenades. After the war, many survivors made careers in the newly developing recreational skiing industry or in various outdoors-related businesses. Relying mostly on unpublished or obscure records of participants' experiences, Shelton's account is earnestly enthusiastic but curiously underwhelming, perhaps because the 10th Division never actually used its extensive ski training in the war.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Like McKay Jenkins' The Last Ridge [BKL O 1 03], Shelton's history of the 10th Mountain Division tells the story of a military unit initially composed of downhill skiers and outdoorsmen, many of them refugees from the Nazis, that was organized to meet a possible German invasion through Canada. One regiment of the division served in the miserably cold and snowy Kiska operation in Alaska, and when it returned, learned that the division had been filled out with draftees from just about everywhere and was training in Alabama, of all places. Eventually the 10th got overseas, used its training and fitness--if not much of its mountain gear--in Northern Italy, took a key ridge, then fought its way down to the Po Valley and on to the foothills of the Alps. Shelton and Jenkins cover the division's combat career in about equal detail, though each man emphasizes different aspects of it. Shelton covers the division's postwar role in the American outdoors and environmental movements rather more extensively. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743226062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743226066
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Grant Waara VINE VOICE on November 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
First off, let's dismiss the "Untold Story" bit which is part of the book's title. The fact is that the 10th Mountain has received its share of books and "Climb to Conquer" in that respect, is no different.
That said, along with McKay Jenkins "The Last Ridge" and Bob Bishop's and Flint Whitlock's "Soldiers on Skis" you have what I think is a wonderful tryptych on America's Mountain Soldiers.
"Climb to Conquer" compares favorably with "Last Ridge." Shelton's book is I think, a touch more readable. Shelton moves the action along quickly. The photo section isn't as good as "Last Ridge" (though neither can compare to "Soldiers on Skis" for that matter). The book also suffers for lack of maps. Shelton does a wonderful job describing the 10th's objectives and obstacles and how they overcome them, but some maps would help keep readers abreast of what is going on.
"The Last Ridge" is, I think more conforming of a straight narrative historical account and "Climb to Conquer" is written much like a catchy magazine article (but in this case, it's a good thing).
Each book has it's strengths. Jenkins' book is highly informative, but Shelton's will probably read faster. Both are warmly recommended. I can't pick out which is better. That is best left to the readers. However, it's nice to see America's Mountain troops get the recognition they long deserve.
Grant Waara
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mannie Liscum on February 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Climb To Conquer: The Untold Story of World War II's 10th Mountain Division Ski Troops is an engaging story of one the US Army's most specialized organizations of WWII. Outdoor and skiing enthusiast Peter Shelton has done the men of the 10th Mountain Division justice with Climb To Conquer. Unlike the more recent, Boys of Winter by Charles J. Sanders, Shelton's book is a solid piece of historical literature.

Climb to Conquer is divided into four basic topical sections:

1) The Prologue and first seven chapters (with the exception of chapter 5) are dedicated to telling the story of how the "US Ski Troops" were conceived, formed and trained. Shelton thankfully opts not to present Climb To Conquer with the who's-who of skiing approach that Sander's took with his book. Instead Shelton gives background information about the genesis of the ski troops (initial Army outfit being the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment) and its most vocal and active proponents (C. Minot "Minnie" Dole and no less than Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall) within a context of the pre- and post-Pearl Harbor US military without cluttering it with unnecessary name dropping and ski-laden references.

2) The second section, which can be seen as being comprised of Chapters 5 and 8-13, is the "battle meat" of the book. While Chapter 5 sits physically in the middle of the first topical section of the book it in fact tells the story of the first armed actions of the 87th Mountain Regiment on Kiska - one of the Aleutian Islands. This is a fascinating story told well by Shelton. Charged with driving Japanese defenders from the Island, the 87th spilled its first blood on Kiska.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this superb book on loan from my daughter's boyfriend who fought with the 10th Mtn Div in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the recent past. I was mesmerized by learning the early beginnings of this distinguished Army Division. I am thankful we had so many terrific skiers in America, and our WWII allies countries, that formed the backbone of this dynamic unit that was the Tip of the Spear for the Allied Forces breaching the Axis
" Winter Line " in Italy during the 1943-1944 Winter campaign. They were the first unit to reach and cross the Po River thus cutting off the German retreat. A Must Read for those who like to read about American ingenuity at it's finest. If you like a true picture off WWII history in the Southern Europe Theater of Operations, this is it. Look no further.
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By pronker on November 6, 2015
Format: Paperback
For a great deal of my life, my dad's career Army man first cousin detailed bits and pieces of his WWII experiences in the 10th. He joined the service the year before Pearl Harbor to be in the cavalry, and when he was in the 10th his climbing Wyoming background came into play. This book brought back many stories told of Camp Hale, Washington's Mount Rainier, and the cramped ship's passage to the Aleutians. Shelton's style blends unique personal histories of the young men and it was particularly interesting to read of the Norwegian, Austrian, and German input to the 10th in the form of immigrants who loved the mountains of their homelands and shared their expertise with Americans. Highly recommend this book. Rest well, soldier. See you in thirty.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book some time ago. I will acknowledge that I even know some of the characters portrayed in this book due to my life-long involvement in the ski industry. But that takes away nothing from the intensity of the undertaking these young Americans encountered during World War II. The intensely personal accounts from several of the players--not just amongst themselves, but in later years' contact with some of the "enemy" makes for very emotional reading. A well-written and told story that certainly brings home the absurdity of fighting wars.
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