10th Mountain Division – Climb to Glory
The 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) is a light infantry division in the United States Army based at Fort Drum, New York. The division is a subordinate unit of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Originally constituted as a unique mountain warfare unit, the division was the only unit of its size in the U.S. Army to specialize in fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions, thus earning the division the “MOUNTAIN” tab. Today, the division retains its “mountain” designation for historical purposes and is organized as a light infantry division.
Originally activated as the 10th Light Division (Alpine) in 1943, the division was redesignated the 10th Mountain Division in 1944 and fought in the mountains of Italy in some of the roughest terrain in the country. Following the war the division was deactivated, only to be reactivated and redesignated as the 10th Infantry Division in 1948. The division first acted as a training division and in 1954 was converted to a full combat division and sent to Germany before being deactivated again in 1958.
Reactivated again in 1985, the division was designated the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), to historically tie it to the World War II division and to also better describe its modern disposition. Since its reactivation the division and/or elements of the division have deployed numerous times since. The division has participated in Operation Desert Storm (Saudi Arabia), Hurricane Andrew disaster relief (Homestead, Florida), Operation Restore Hope and Operation Continue Hope (Somalia), Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti), Operation Joint Forge (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Operation Joint Guardian (Kosovo), and several deployments as part of the Multinational Force and Observers (Sinai Peninsula).
Since 2001, the division and its four combat brigades have seen over 20 deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, respectively.
Medal of Honor – Private First Class John D. Magrath – April 14, 1945
On April 14th, Private First Class John D. Magrath, from East Norwalk, Connecticut, assigned to Company G, 2d Battalion 85th Infantry, became the division’s only Medal of Honor recipient. His company was pinned down by heavy artillery, mortar and small-arms fire near Castel d’ Aiano, Italy. Shortly after the company had crossed the line of departure, it came under intense enemy fire and the company commander, Captain Halvorson was killed.
Volunteering to accompany the acting commander with a small reconnaissance party moving on Hill 909, radioman Magrath set out with the group. After going only a few yards, the party was pinned down. But instead of flopping to the ground as the others had done, Magrath, armed only with his M-1 Garand, charged ahead and disappeared around the corner of a house. Coming face to face with two Germans manning a machine gun, Magrath killed one and forced the other to surrender. Five more of the enemy emerged from their foxholes, firing at Magrath and retreating toward their own lines. Discarding his rifle in favor of the deadlier German MG-34 machine gun, Magrath mowed down the fleeing enemy, killing one and wounding three.
He then saw another German position, moved forward, and exchanged fire until he had killed two and wounded three and captured their weapon. The rest of Company G followed his lead with amazed admiration. Later that day, Magrath volunteered to run through heavy shelling to gather a casualty report. As he was crossing an open field, two mortar rounds landed at his feet, killing him instantly. John Magrath, age nineteen, was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously. In June 1995, Fort Drum, New York renamed its Soldiers Sports Complex as the John D. Magrath Gymnasium. A plaque and portrait at Magrath Gym honor his memory.