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.
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!