Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne travelled to Whiteface Mountain Friday for the annual memorial ceremony honoring the men and women of the 10th Mountain Division.
"I have always felt it is important to go to Whiteface for the memorial ceremony to remember the links from its past to the current force," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
She noted this year - as in past years - a few veterans who were members of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II attended the event.
"I think it is important for me to support these veterans as well. I had a chance to speak with two of these veterans today, two men who have taken part in a number of 10th Mountain Division ceremonies in the past and again thank them for their service," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
The 10th Light Division was activated on July 15, 1943 at Camp Hale, Colo. Brigadier General Patrick J. Donahoe, deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, said the soldiers selected for that first unit had to have three references and were hand picked because of their backgrounds as skiers and outdoorsmen.
He said those soldiers underwent rigorous mountain and cold weather training before being re-designated as the 10th Mountain Division on Nov. 6, 1944.
Those soldiers, who were selected for their great intellect and physical endurance, were vetted by the U.S. Ski Patrol. The training was designed to prepare the soldiers for battle in a rugged terrain in brutal weather against a determined foe, Brig. Gen. Donahoe said.
The 10th Mountain Division arrived for combat in Italy in January 1945 and on the night of Feb. 18, 1945 the Division executed a successful night assault on Riva Ridge.
The assault continued the following night with the capture of Mount Belevedere, a key German observation point, which in conjunction with Riva Ridge, broke the German defensive line that had withstood previous assaults.
The division then led the Allied offensive out of the Apennine Mountains, across the Po River and into the foothills of the Alps, where the 10th Mountain Division ended the war in May 1945.
"In just 110 days of combat, the 10th Mountain Division lost more men than any other division in combat in World War II," Brig. Gen. Donahoe said.
The division was deactivated on Nov. 30, 1945 in Colorado and then was re-activated as the 10th Infantry in 1948. The 10th Mountain Division was deactivated again in 1958.
The modern 10th Mountain Division was reactivated as a Light Infantry Division at Fort Drum on Feb. 13, 1985.
Brig. Gen. Donahoe said a monument at Fort Drum recognizes the connection between those first soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division - men like veterans Bill Morrison and Charlie Smith, now in their mid 90s and in attendance at Friday's ceremony - and today's soldiers at Fort Drum.
"We stand on their soldiers. Today, much like 1944, '45, our nation is engaged globally. We are a blue collar division today," the deputy commander at Fort Drum noted.
"We talk about being mountain tough. It took our men, 75 years ago, to teach their officers what it meant to be mountain tough. It is our generation that uses this ceremony to honor the generation before us. Thank you for your sacrifice to climb to glory," he said.
Brig. Gen. Donahoe said today's 10th Mountain Division has deployed for relief efforts in less than 24 hours and gone to Afghanistan with less than two weeks notice.
The 10th Mountain Division currently has troops deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Africa, Central America and Europe.
Since 2001, the Division Headquarters and its subordinate brigades have combined for 39 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brig. Gen. Donahoe quipped when the country faces a problem they call on the U.S. Army and when the Army has a problem they turn to the 10th Mountain Division.
The 10th Mountain Division has deep ties to Whiteface Mountain.
Arthur Draper, a 10th Mountain Division veteran, was heavily involved in the development of ski centers in New York State when he returned home from World War II.
He worked with his friend, then New York State Governor Averell Harriman, to move forward with a proposal to open the Whiteface Mountain ski area on land that was protected under the Forever Wild clause.
The measure was approved by the state's voters and by two successive state legislatures, and Whiteface Mountain's development began in the early 1950s. The ski area opened on Jan. 25, 1958.
Whiteface Mountain was dedicated to the brotherhood of the 10th Mountain Division. A plaque containing the division's crest sits atop Little Whiteface and some trails on the mountain have names linked to the division.
Assemblywoman Jenne, during a discussion with Mr. Smith, who will turn 95 this weekend, noted in addition to living in an area just outside Fort Drum's gates she also realizes the growth of skiing opportunities in the North Country can also be tied directly to the 10th Mountain Division.
"I wouldn't have been exposed to skiing when I was younger without the service of the 10th Mountain Division. Little ski hills popped up all over the North because of places like this," she said, visiting with Mr. Smith at the base of Whiteface Mountain.
Mr. Smith, who has spent a lifetime in Keene Valley, just outside Lake Placid, said he never skied after his military service.
"I had a job," he said. "We didn't make a lot of money back then."
IN THE PHOTOS:
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne visits with Charlie Smith of Keene Valley, who served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, following a memorial service Friday at Whiteface Mountain. Mr. Smith, who was accompanied to the event by his daughter, turned 94 Sunday.
Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahoe shows Bill Morrison, who served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, a challenge coin now carried by today's soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division. Mr. Morrison's son, Dave (far left), and Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne also check out the coin.
Soldiers, veterans and elected officials on hand for a memorial ceremony for the 10th Mountain Division Friday at Whiteface Mountain stand at attention during the playing of the National Anthem by the division band.
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne talks with Theresa Donahoe prior to the 10th Mountain Division memorial ceremony Friday at Whiteface Mountain.
Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahoe shared the sacrifices made by the first 10th Mountain Division soldiers during their service in Europe during World War II.