Following The Path of the WWII 10th Mtn Division in Northern Italy – June 17 – 24, 2015

70th Anniversary Descendant’s Tour 

  

June 17 – 18

I joined the tour at the Florence American Cemetery on the morning of June 17.   A beautiful ceremony was held at the cemetery in conjunction with the American Battle Monument Commission and the Descendant’s Association.  

ABMC superentendant,  John  Luncheon,  addresses the audience.  In the background, the Wall of the Missing. 

 

In the front row are the 10th Mtn Veterans who joined the tour.  From Right to Left: Louis Vincent, Bill Hills, Vern Cartner, and Gene Giannobile ( absent from this photo: Euel Akins) 

Officers of today’s 10th Mtn Division were with us for most of the tour.  They are stationed at Ft. Drum, New York, home of the 10th.

 

There was a group of Italian WWII, American  GI re-ractors lead by local 10th Mtn historian, Giovanni Sulld (wheelchair).  Giovanni and his team were most helpful and stayed with us every step of the tour.  Giovanni’s knowledge, kindness, and big heart contributed greatly to the total experience.  

 

That afternoon the buses took us up into the Apennine Mountains northwest of Florence.  Our group of 125 stayed at hotels in the mountain villages of Lazzano and Vidiciatico. These hotels became our base for the next six nights.  To follow the 10th in their northward advance through the Apennines we took day trips. 

The initial objectives of the 10th were to secure Mt. Belvedere and Riva Ridge.  The main highway to northern Italy lay between Mt Belvedere (north) and Riva Ridge (south) and the German army (artillery) held both positions and thus controlled the roadway. 

Mt. Belvedere – looking north from Lizzano. 

  

Riva Ridge – looking south from Mt. Belvedere  

Mt. Belvedere and Riva Ridge are at the core of the 10th Mtn legend.  I have wondered what each of them looked like for most of my life, so to see them with my own eyes was breathtaking.  

Map – Riva Ridge, lower left and Mt. Belvedere to the right of center.

 

Riva Ridge had to be taken first as it was higher in elevation than Mt. Belvedere and protected Mt. Belvedere from an attack. 

On the wintery night of Feburary 18, 1945 the 86th Infantry Regiment scaled the 2,000 vertical ft. cliff face with five assault routes and surprised the Germans early on the morning of the 19th.  After bitter fighting they took and held the entire ridge line.  

Now with momentum, elements of the 85th, 86th, and 87th Infantry Regiments attacked Mt. Belvedere on the night of Feburary 19 and surprised the Germans at breakfast the next morning.  Horrific fighting ensued, but the 10th had seized and held these two critical objectives.  

The legend of the 10th had been born.  No other U.S. Army division could have accomplished these super-human tasks. The courageous and skilled soldiers of the 10th were also trained mountaineers and they had done the impossible.  

Because of the division’s historic feats at Riva Ridge and Mt. Belvedere the motto of today’s 10th Mtn is: “Climb to Glory”

But, this was just the beginning!

To be continued!

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About Jeff Lowdermilk

I have traveled to Europe several times over the last few years to follow my grandfather's path as detailed in his World War I diary. My grandfather was an American Infantryman who survived the war. This has been an adventurous journey of self-exploration. The friends I have made along the way and experiences gained have greatly enriched my life

One thought on “Following The Path of the WWII 10th Mtn Division in Northern Italy – June 17 – 24, 2015

  1. MICHEL QUILES

    Hi Jeff, it is with great pleasure that I follow you in Northern Italy. For do is not far from my home, and we know some Americans explois on that side. I ia 7 uncles who landed with the 1st French Weapon De Lattre de Tassigny. There were mainly fought in Monte Cassino, and they landed here in PROVENCE, 16 Aoùt 1944 in CAVALAIRE, St TROPEZ, MARSEILLE and TOULON to release, and then boarded the eastern FRANCE until Alsace.
    Here in MANOSQUE (04)(ALPES DE HAUTE PROVENCE, formerly during WWII, the LOW ALPES) (BASSES ALPES) is the 45th release in the id that PROVENCE and the TASK FORCE BUTLER id the 36th to free up towards Alpese to GRENOBLE the junction with the 3rd id Montelimar bypassing the Vercors. Here in the southern French Alps, there has been much resistance and very early. You should come to me for me to make you visit the sites all around my house that served as bases to these camps returned early French resistance, as in the Vercors and the GLIERES. The Vercors is a special site that is a board with two High Road ascent. The Allemant could not go. After June 6, there were more than 4,000 high resistant there. The Vercors has been occupied by the 6th Battalion of Alpine Hunters Grenoble of 11 November 1942, three days after the American landing in North Africa, when the Germans invaded the French free zone. there was in the Vercors a small team of specialist American soldiers to form the resistant was Maj Rupper who was the ranking officer. But on August 16 the Allemandss invested by the Vercors Gliders, on tracks that the French built to accommodate the aircraft or gliders Americans VASSIEUX-EN-VERCORS. There were 600 deaths among the population and the resisters, killed by Falshirmjaëger. There is a now a beautiful and very large museum as a memorial to CAEN, and a private museum, smaller, created by Mr THE pecorella, a former resistance (dcd). There is also a small village “Martyr” as “Oradour sur Glane” called “” Valchevrière “”.
    I await you here in Provence when you want. I can find you accommodation close friend. You’ll see, the Vercors is “SPECTACULAR” you never seen anything so beautiful in your life get (hi). Besides America left a beautiful memory for his help for his release at this location.
    Bye.
    Michel. (My wife kind nurse his proffession speaks English).
    Ps: There is also very very very good Mountainists restaurants.

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