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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

Climb to Glory: an exclusive interview with CPT Wu of the 10th Mountain Division

Updated: Jun 17


The Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup kick off parade was on Friday, February 23rd, 2024, led by members of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. What impact has the Tenth had on the ski industry, and why is there a stretch of Highway 89 between Tahoe City and Truckee, CA bearing the name of their World War II Army unit?

 

Join me as we sit down and speak with CPT Wu, in charge of the soldiers who participated in the opening ceremonies as we discuss these and other questions and learn the fascinating story behind the elite Alpine warriors of the 10th Mountain Division.


Who is CPT Wu?

CPT Wu enlisted in the Army in 2013. He later attended West Point Military Academy, commissioned out, and in 2019 he became an officer. His last appointment was at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. After completing his job at Fort Carson, CPT Wu had the opportunity to pick his next assignment and he chose Fort Drum in New York, home to the 10th Mountain Division.


Members of the Tenth working their way through the Palisades Tahoe crowd.


CPT Wu was inspired by mentors and subordinates who served with the Tenth. “There’s rich history, culture and pride with the 10th Mountain Division,” says CPT Wu. “Without exception, everyone had nothing but good things to say about this Division.”


 

Epic History of the Tenth

During WWII, the 10th Mountain Division was developed as a specialized unit capable of fighting at high altitudes under the harshest weather conditions. Many of these soldiers came from ski teams and mountaineering clubs from around the country. They were given high altitude combat training on mountain tops, along with survival techniques and other mountaineering skills needed to become an effective fighting force.

 

The Tenth put their unique skills to the test in the winter of 1944 – 45. Their mission was to break through the German defensive line, known as the Gothic Line, along the ridge of the Apennine Mountains in Italy. The Germans were high up on the ridge, known as the Riva Ridge, preventing Allied forces from advancing into Europe.


Breaking the Gothic Line seemed impossible at the time, but it was the perfect mission for the Tenth. Due to their intense training, fitness, and esprit de corps, the 10th Mountain Division defeated five elite German divisions in 114 days of combat, essentially ending the war quickly and efficiently. Their motto: Climb to Glory.


 

The War on Terror

Following September 11th, the Tenth was among the first conventional units to deploy to Afghanistan and earned the distinction of being the most-deployed division in the U.S. Army overall on the War on Terror.


“Alpine skills were the focus during WWII,” says CPT Wu, “but demands shifted after the war. During the past few decades, we’ve been concentrating on the War on Terror."


The Fight Could Be Anytime, Anywhere

"We need to be ready," says CPT Wu. "Developing high altitude Alpine skills is critical for our success. We’re getting back to our roots, with extreme cold weather training on the Adirondack Mountains of New York and the mountaineering course in Vermont. This intense training is preparing us for large scale combat operations like what you’re seeing today in the Ukraine.”



Why Participate in the Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup Opening Ceremonies?

“We were invited here by Patrick Lacey, (Public Relations Manager, Marketing with Palisades Tahoe),” says CPT Wu. “We gladly accepted Patrick’s invitation. During WWII, there were 15 members of the 10th Mountain Division from the North Lake Tahoe area. The two signs on Highway 89 between Tahoe City and Truckee are dedicated to these local war heroes.”

 

Joining CPT Wu from the 10th Mountain Division in Palisade Tahoe was 1LT Bennett, 1LT Orozco, SSG Newton, SGT Grove, SGT Vasquez, SGT Khan, SGT Villanueva and SPC Candelario.

 

The Tenth’s Impact on the Ski Culture

The modern ski industry’s development in America owes much to the men of the 10th Mountain Division. Veterans of the Tenth have influenced every fiber of the American ski culture we enjoy today.


The SNOW Sports Museum at the Boatworks in Tahoe City, CA is currently honoring the 10th Mountain Division with an exhibit on loan from the collection of extreme athlete, pioneering ski and sport filmmaker and Lake Tahoe legend Craig Beck (see three photos below).



Skier servicemen from the Lake Tahoe region include Wendall Broomhall, ski jumper Roy Mikkelsen and the great ski instructor Luggi Foeger.  Craig’s display contains numerous posters, original back packs, boots, snowshoes and skis - a great tribute to the Tenth.




Upon returning home after WWII, veterans of the Tenth helped popularize the ski industry in several ways including the development of more than 60 ski resorts across the country, introducing ski schools and ski patrols, providing affordable gear, and developing the fields of avalanche science & control.

 

Call to Action

CPT Wu expressed emphatically that anyone wishing to serve our country can do so by simply talking with a local recruiter or visiting the military branch website of their choice.


“You don’t have to have any particular skill or knowledge,” says CPT Wu, “just the ability to learn and a passion for serving our country. You’ll gain the skills and knowledge you need through the training provided by the military.”

 

We're fortunate to have people like CPT Wu in charge and for the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division for which he serves. I believe I speak for everyone in Palisades Tahoe, we’re grateful for your service.

 

To learn more about the Tenth visit this podcast and the following four websites:


   



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I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident, married to Nicola Kennedy. I’m a writer, photographer and property caretaker. What an honor it was to spend time in the company of these soldiers (in photo above) of the Tenth Mountain Division.


I just want to say thanks for your attention - I appreciate it in such a noisy world. If you enjoyed it, please share with others. It means a lot to me and it helps others see the story.


If you're interested in owning any photos in my gallery: click here, call or text me with any inquiries at 530.608.9150. My email: michael.kennedy999@gmail.com. 


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