Before World War II, the United States had no capability for mountain warfare. The 10th Mountain Division is thus known as “the only division-sized element of the U.S. Army to specialize in fighting under harsh terrain and conditions.”
Officially activated in 1943, and drawing into its ranks skiers and mountaineers, the division was deployed to defend the Aleutian Islands of Alaska against invasion from Japan. Later, the 10th Mountain Division battled in the forbidding conditions of northern Italy’s Apennines, and is perhaps best known for taking Riva Ridge and Mount Belvedere to secure a clear route to Berlin. After Germany relinquished control of Italy, the division mounted a security detail in the country and was deactivated after the war.
The modern 10th, activated in 1985, has been crucial in military campaigns in Haiti and Somalia, and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 10th Mountain Division was the focus of the 1996 film Fire on the Mountain, and it features in the book and movie Black Hawk Down, based on the raid on Mogadishu, in Somalia.