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The Last Ridge: The Uphill Battles of the 10th Mountain Division cover photo

The Last Ridge: The Uphill Battles of the 10th Mountain Division 2007

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Janson Media, 88 Semmons Road, Harrington Park, NJ 07640; 201-784-8488
Produced by Abbie Kealey; WXXI-TV; WPBS-TV
Directed by Abbie Kealey
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
American Studies, History, Military Studies, World War II

Date Entered: 07/31/2008

Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

This exceptional production uses archival film footage (much of it color), talking heads, stills, and re-enactments to tell the history of the well-known 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army. Beginning as an idea which was not initially well-received by the Army, the head of the National Ski Patrol, Charles Minot Dole, persevered and the 10th was brought into being two weeks before Pearl Harbor. Dole, who was inspired by the heroism of the Finns against the Russians in 1939-40 brought on board skiers and adventurers and implemented a brutally tough training regimen (for example, hauling around ninety pound packs at thirteen thousand feet). Not all of the volunteers were used to the Alpine life; one of this reviewer’s cousins, who was from Philadelphia, talked his way into the 10th and survived the brutal fighting to come.

The 10th first saw action in the Aleutian Campaign of 1943. This largely unknown campaign was a logistical nightmare and, like many units in their baptism of fire, the 10th had many screw-ups and a number of “friendly-fire” casualties. The unit returned to Colorado to re-group and train. During the winter of 1944-45 the division is sent to the front lines in Northern Italy where they face experienced and confident German mountain troops. Displaying intrepidity, the 10th executes a daring night assault up a practically sheer mountain cliff, capturing a height that the Germans believed could not be captured. The other campaigns of the 10th are described and the production notes with a stark graphic the casualties for the unit month by month.

Since the end of World War II, and especially since the early 1990s, the 10th has been one of the most deployed units in the Army. It has seen action in Somalia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Haiti, among other places. These actions are briefly described. The special features compliment the main feature very well including footage of the 10th’s current campaigns in the mountains of Afghanistan. This is especially fascinating as it brings home the sobering fact that our soldiers are still in harm’s way.

Technically, the production is flawless, being one of the cleanest and crispest productions this reviewer has seen in years. Visuals are all clear and the sound was at the right volume. The narrator was superb and added to the overall outstanding quality of the production. While this may have a place in middle or senior high schools, The Last Ridge is better suited for a general audience and library collections on military history.