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The War in the Alps

The War in the Alps. This has proceeded according to our prediction (A.A.J. v, 441), and for the first time Allied forces cut the perimeter of the main chain. The way for this was paved by the 10th Division’s action on Mt. Belvedere in January, followed by the rapid April advance to the Po Valley, after which French troops began a drive through the Little St. Bernard Pass, the Mont Cenis, the Mont Genévre and other crossings in the pattern of classical antiquity of invasion into Piedmont. The Brenner and other escape routes being blocked through air activity, it seemed likely that German troops would be unable to leave Italy with sufficient facility to make the Eastern Alps, even in the Berchtesgaden area, an efficient stronghold. The taking of Verona on April 26th further emphasized this since it cut the last and most northerly rail connection between Lombardy (Milan) and the Brenner Pass. German troops attempting to reach the Inn Valley were then compelled to use roads from Como, the Aprica and Tonale Passes through the Val Tellina and the Val di Sole to Bolzano; or the more difficult Umbrail-Stelvio route to the Vintschgau and Merano, from whence the Jaufen Pass leads to Innsbruck. The Reschen-Scheideck (Malser Heide) Pass also connects the upper Vintschgau with the upper Inn Valley, but all western Italy was cut off by the American drive to the Swiss border N. of Como on April 18th. The surrender of the Ligurian army on May 1st virtually completed the campaign, German forces in Italy sur rendering on May 2nd, when it became evident that those escaping by the Brenner and its lateral feeders would be trapped by the American Seventh Army forging to the Inn Valley from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich. On May 4th the American Fifth and Seventh Armies joined at Vipiteno (Sterzing) just S. of the Brenner Pass summit, Innsbruck and Salzburg having fallen to the Seventh Army on the preceding day.

J. M. T.

Headquarters 10th Mountain Division APO 345, U. S. Army

25 February 1945

Subject: Commendation for Action Against the Enemy.

To: Officers and Men of the 10th Mountain Division.

In your first assigned mission you had the following difficult tasks:

a. Concentrate in a valley overlooked on three sides by the enemy, over an inadequate road net without being discovered by the enemy.

b. Seize by night assault the precipitous mountain range on your left consisting of mountains Mancello, Serrassiccia, Cappel Busos and Pizzo Campiano.

c. Assault by night the enemy strong defensive line including the successive objectives N.E. of Mt. Gorcelesco to include the final objective—Mt. Tornaccia. A total advance from left to right of some 18,000 meters.

You accomplished all of your assigned missions with magnificent dash and determination. You caught the enemy completely by surprise by your movement at night up precipitous slopes through his heavily mined areas and by your destruction of his dugouts and bunkers. You over-ran and defeated elements of eight different enemy battalions (parts of two divisions, plus two separate battalions), from which you captured approximately 400 prisoners of war. You accomplished these results with remarkably low casualties, in comparison with results achieved.

By your action you have won the confidence and admiration of all troops within the theatre and the highest praise of your Corps, Army, Army Group and Deputy Theatre Commanders.

As your division commander I am very proud of you and salute your courage, determination, fighting spirit, and the professional workmanship you have displayed in all your actions.

George P. Hays, Major General, U. S. Army, Commanding

Distribution:

All Officers & Troops 10th Mt. Div.

10 March 1945

Subject: Letter of Commendation.

To: Officers and Men of the 10th Mountain Division.

1. The following messages of commendations have been received:

(a) From Field Marshal Alexander, Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, to Lieutenant General Truscott:

8 March 1945

My heartiest congratulations to you personally and your division for a very well planned and well executed operation. Well done. I am delighted at your success.

Field Marshal Alexander

(b) From Lieutenant General MeNarney, Commanding MTOUSA:

7 March 1945

May I offer my sincere congratulations to the officers and men of the 10th Mountain Division. You have shown by the success of your first battle test offensive capability which will be a constant source of real concern to our enemies. Good luck and good hunting.

McNarney

(c) From Lieut. General Mark IV. Clark, Commanding 15th Army Group:

My congratulations to the officers and men of the 10th Moun tain Division on the success of their first major operation, the cap ture of Mt. Belvedere.

Your Division, in its initial battles, has acquitted itself with the courage and daring of a veteran combat unit. This speaks more eloquently than words of the efficiency of your pre-battle training and the spirit of officers and men.

The 10th Mountain Division has proved itself to have the fighting qualities required for successful infantry combat. I am very happy to have this Division fighting shoulder to shoulder with the other fine troops in the 15th Army Group.

Mark W. Clark

(d) From Lieut. General L. K. Truscott, Jr., Commanding General 5th Army:

Upon the conclusion of the first full scale offensive operation against the enemy carried out by the 10th Mountain Division, I desire to extend to every officer and man in the 10th Mountain Division my sincere congratulation of the magnificent manner in which you have accomplished a very difficult assignment. Over difficult terrain against strong opposition, you have seized every objective in record time. You have inflicted severe losses upon at least two German divisions and have compelled the enemy to employ reserve divisions in your area.

I am delighted with the splendid performance of the 10th Mountain Division. Your success clearly indicates careful and meticulous attention to every detail in planning and execution. I especially commend the commanders and staff officers who are responsible.

The 10th Mountain Division in its first operation has been an inspiration to the entire Fifth Army. You have set a high standard and have demonstrated the highest qualifications in leadership and combat. Your outstanding success in your first operation augurs well for a brilliant future. I am proud indeed to have this division fighting shoulder to shoulder with the veteran divisions of the Fifth Army.

L. K. Truscott, Jr.

(e) From Major General Willis D. Crittenberger, Commanding General. IV Corps:

8 March 1945

In the operation of 3 March to 7 March 1945, inclusive, the 10th Mountain Division has again demonstrated on the battlefield its right to be classified as a splendid combat unit, not only capable of undertaking a sustained advance against a well intrenched and wily enemy deployed on rugged terrain, but eager to do so. The enemy estimate of “Elite Mountain Troops” applied by them to your Division after short and bitter experience, is a deserved com pliment.

The spirited attack of your elements, and the smart alert fighting which all ranks displayed were dominant factors in your successful penetration of the enemy’s main line of defense. He was overwhelmed by the relentless pressure of your advance. The adroit scheme of the maneuver by your battalions resulted in a large bag of prisoners of war and material that cannot but hasten his final defeat. The fine physical condition of your troops also contributed in large measure to the favorable outcome of the attack.

As your various units now are disposed in firm and confident control of all objectives, it is a great pleasure for me hereby to com mend you and your officers and men, not only for a precise and masterly execution of your mission, but as well for the dash and vigor that never for a moment left the issue in doubt.

Willis D. Crittenberger

2. As your Division Commander I take pride in publishing to you the official commendations from the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, Commanding General, MTOUSA, the Commander of the Fifteenth Army Group, the Commander of the Fifth Army, and the Commander of the IV Corps. The Generals who commend you are veterans who have personally engaged in some of the heaviest fighting and most difficult operations of this war. The success of our division during our recent operations was dependent upon every officer and man in the entire division, accomplishing the task assigned him in an efficient and aggressive manner. I hope that each individual in the entire division will feel a personal pride and lasting satisfaction in the recognition thus accorded his part in the accomplishment of a difficult offensive operation. We may all look forward with renewed confidence in our ability to undertake whatever tasks may lie ahead.

George P. Hays, Major General, U. S. Army, Commanding