THE LAST RIDGE: The Epic Story of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division and the Assault on Hitler's Europe

McKay Jenkins, Author . Random $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-375-50771-7

Researched thoroughly, written clearly and dramatized with aplomb, this presentation of the U.S. 10th Mountain Division's WWII exploits increases our knowledge of the war's Italian theater—and of the postwar American outdoor recreation industry. Jenkins, an English professor and historian of the conservation movement, is the author of The White Death, a similarly well-written book on avalanche rescue. He shows that the division spent most of the war in the United States, in Washington State, Colorado and Texas, recruiting an astonishing variety of people, from IBM executives and cowboys to European outdoorsmen exiled from several Nazi-occupied countries. Their early days of ski training resembled a gigantic Keystone Kops routine in the snow, but left them exceptionally fit and with high morale. In fact, the division was fully trained by 1943 and could have been invaluable at Cassino, but saw combat only at the end of 1944, clearing the Germans off a key position in the Apennine Mountains, and doing so without its mountain gear, all left in warehouses in New Jersey. Between then and the end of the war, the division suffered nearly 5,000 casualties (including Bob Dole, who became the Kansas senator) and did a full share and more of driving the Germans out of Italy. Afterward, its veterans founded the Aspen and Vail resorts, among other cornerstones of the new West, and worked extensively in conservation.(Oct.)

Reviewed on: 06/30/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
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