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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."

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