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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The 10th Mountain Division at Riva Ridge and Mt. Belevdere, February 1945

Into battle: The 10th Mountain Division:
Italy: February 18-19, 1945

On the evening of the 18th, 700 men of the 1st Battalion 86th plus F-86 made a daring night climb and successful assault on Riva Ridge, a steep mountain ridge rising 1,700-2,000 feet above the Dardagna River. The attack utilizes five carefully prepared climbing routes, including two that require fixed ropes.

Surprise is complete, and by daybreak the mountaineers have taken Riva Ridge at the cost of only one casualty. But ferocious counterattacks immediately put the achievement in jeopardy. Not until February 25 is the entire Riva Ridge secured by the 10th.

The Riva Ridge operation cost the division 76 casualties: 21 KIA, 52 WIA, and 3 POW.

Next: the attack on Mt. Belvedere commences.

The battle as experienced by Henry Townsend, protagonist in : (The formatting below is blog formatting, not book)
Twilight of Memory

"Henry and his fellow soldiers were rushing ahead, rushing into battle. He felt it. He heard it. The earth shaking, the grenades popping, the artillery screaming, and the men shouting. Anguished shouts by anguished men. Was he shouting?
Yes, he was rushing ahead, shouting, not in anguish but in determination and anger. 
Suddenly he was not rushing. He was in the air as the ground exploded beneath him. Sometime later someone, more than one someone, grabbed his arms and legs and lifted him. This was the final pain needed to again render him unconscious, at least momentarily.
“No, not in the corner,” someone said. Henry tried to think. Did he recognize that voice? “They might not spot him. Let’s leave him in plain sight. We want the medics to find him quickly.”
No one else spoke but his limbs were again lifted and his consciousness again disappeared. Sometime later the stomping of heavy boots brought him back to awareness long enough to realize that he was lying on a stone floor unable to move. He could open his eyes just enough to see the boots stomping toward him.
“Schau, ein Amerikaner.” “ Look, an American.”
“Kill him.”
“No, no. We take him.”
“But, the Americans are still out there, still firing.”
“Sounds like they are getting closer. Let’s go.”
“What about him?”
“Ok, we leave him.”
“He is a prisoner. We can’t leave him alive.”
“Don’t be stupid. We kill him and leave him. It is the way.”
The two German soldiers proceeded to take his boots, jacket, and gloves. They stripped away any insignia that could be ripped from his remaining clothing.
As one soldier pointed his rifle at Henry’s head the other demanded, “Warte, warte,” “Wait, wait.”
 Then bending down he grabbed Henry’s dog tags and forcefully jerked them off his neck.
“Jetzt schie├čen.”  “Now Shoot.”
The second German again pointed his rifle at Henry’s head and fired.
Thus Henry was rendered unconscious once again. This state kept him from knowing that again his limbs were seized by mighty hands that took his unconscious form into a nearby wooded area. This time the hands swung his body back and forth gaining momentum. When satisfied with the amount of force they had, they slung Henry’s lifeless form down a ravine.

So, he felt nothing of the winter briars and brambles that grabbed at him. He did not feel the numerous tree stumps, made short and sharp by yesterday’s bombing, that punctured his body. And he did not feel or hear the soft thud his head made as he hit a tree that stopped his descent just feet from the frozen stream below."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

There is nothing bitter about BITTER GREENS by Australian author Kate Forsyth

From the compelling cover to the last page, this book is a delight. As the author herself said, it is a novel of love, black magic, history, and fairy tales. It takes a quick mind and a talented writer to blend all those elements together seemingly effortlessly. Kate has done it.

This is the story of French writer Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force who lived from 1650 until 1724. Many of those years were spent at the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, of France. She thought she was secure there, but alas, her sharp tongue and wicked wit, along with several indiscretions true or alleged, finally displeased the king and he sent her to a nunnery, the abbey of Gercy-en-Brie.

In telling Charlotte-Rose de la Force's story, the author indroduces us to other strong, intriguing women. Most noteworthy were the courtesan sorceress, 'La Strega Bella' (The Beautiful Witch) Selena Leonelli, and Rapunzel, she of the long hair, fairy tale tower fame.

What, one might ask, does Rapunzel have in common with a member of the Sun King's court. You will have to read Bitter Greens for yourself to find the answer and it is a real, tangible connection.

The book is beautifully written, full of in-depth descriptions. It is not a quick, nor particularly easy read, but it is well worth the time and any effort it may take. Get to know Charlotte-Rose, Selena, Margherita, and even Rapunzel.

As with most fairy tales, there is a message within the writing. The message is that when oppressed through forces they cannot control, women, and men, too, I would think, must look within to find their survival. Charlotte-Rose found her escape; a doorway that would allow her entrance to many worlds. In times of trouble, when she needed to escape, she would walk through that door to fairyland and remain there as long as possible.  She explained her means of survival to her abused friend, the Dauphin, telling him that it did not matter how hard she was beaten, or how cold and dark her place of punish, she was always able to escape through her doorway and be somewhere else. I have always wondered if I could withstand severe punishment or banishment by using such a means of escape. I'm not sure I could, but Charlotte-Rose could and did.

For a totally different, enthralling read, pick up a copy of Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

One man, two women, one World War. A few notes on soon to be released Twilight of Memory.

My work in progress, a historical fiction from WWII will soon be released.
It is a war time love story between one man and two women living through wartime western Colorado and Italy.

The protagonist is Henry Townsend. Suffering from a devastating loss, Henry joins the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army. As an avid skier and intrepid outdoor enthusiast, he begins to heal. His healing, however, isn't complete until a German bullet finds him atop a mountain in Italy.

My research of the 10th Mountain Division lead me to fall in love with these men. There is a wonderful youtube salute to them at:  

As statistics show, the 10th Mountain suffered greatly in their four months in Italy.
    On January 6, 1945, the 10th Mountain Division suffered its first casualties in Italy when seven men were killed by mines in Quercianella, near Livorno.
    By the time the war in Italy ended, on May 2, 1945 the division had suffered a total of 4866 casualties – 975 killed, 3871 wounded, and 20 taken prisoner.

    Casualty percentages. Of the 19,780 men (including 6,416 replacements) who served in the 10th Mountain Division in Italy, 25% became casualties. Of these, 20% were wounded and 5% killed. More than 30% of the men in the three infantry regiments who landed in Naples became casualties. The average casualty rate for the 10th was 1216 per month, for four months.

Comparison with  two other infantry units who fought in Italy during WWII. 
Of these, the highest number of casualties were suffered by
the 34th Infantry Division. Many other units were present and suffered greatly.
       34th Inf  16,401 3,408  20 months   820/month
       88th Inf  13,111 2,606  14 months   937/month
       10th Mtn  4,866 975       4 months  1216/month

Let us join with Italy in remembering and honoring all of them. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Calling upper elementary, lower middle graders: Join Christopher and his friends on a sea-faring adventure. First step, read The Jewel of Peru by Sharon Skretting...

From the book's blurb: "The Jewel of Peru is a magical adventure through time, taking young Captain Christopher and his loyal crew of orphaned stowaways on a perilous quest in search of Christopher's missing parents. 
After his father's ship is found abandoned at sea, Christopher makes an unexpected discovery on board—The Ultimate Treasure Chest! Inside is a message that beckons him to set sail after the treasure and his parents. When a savage pirate and a corrupt businessman join forces to steal the treasure for themselves, the gang gets caught up in pirate chases, time travel, and an underground network of spies. Will Christopher find the Jewel and his parents, or will all be lost for ever?"

The Jewel of Peru is exciting fiction written for the mid-to-upper elementary student. Most of the characters are of the same age as the elementary age students for whom the book is written. As I read I could picture fourth graders reading and responding to the story, the characters, and the author's use of words. So many of them were say aloud, repeat often words, usually noise or action words, that would grab a youngster's imagination and allow him or her to be a part of the story. 
While the story is fiction, it is so very educational without weighing the reader down with fact after fact. The reader will learn about Peru, certainly, but also about life of different cultures, life at sea, geography, and working together as a team. 
Throughout the story there is the mystery to solve and the young cast of characters, as diverse as any classroom, must solve riddles in order to solve the mystery. I know readers will try to figure out the meaning of the riddle before one of the characters does so.
Throughout the story, a kindly old sea captain, a friend of Christopher's family, is the adult guiding force.   
This is the first in a series. I look forward to the other books as I am sure students will. For teachers and parents, this is a great series to introduce to your students, especially your reluctant readers. I believe it will engage their imagination and leave them wanting to read more. The book was a gift to me. I will now pass it own to my fourth grade grandson and his classmates.   

For teachers, parents, and homeschoolers with young readers who are always saying, "I couldn't find anything I wanted to read," check out this site from Sharon Skretting and her quest for getting the right books into readers' hands. This is a hands on site that allows readers to answer questions about likes and dislikes and that will hopefully guide them to a variety of new authors and more books. Go to

Unfortunately, the giveaway contest is over, but just finding new books is a gift in itself.