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Reflections of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II

Aired October 16, 2001 - 06:54   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: One of the most important weapons in a ground war in Afghanistan could be the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we've been talking about these guys off and on. These are the soldiers -- I should say guys and ladies as well, gals -- soldiers who train in some of the harshest conditions possible.

And CNN's Gina London takes a look at them and she reports that former members of that division know exactly what the soldiers of today are up against.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GINA LONDON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the midst of our new war, some reflections and lessons from the past. Pete Seibert is a World War II veteran from the Army's original 10th Mountain Division, trained in the middle of Colorado's Rockies, the first ever U.S. elite mountain troop.

PETE SEIBERT, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: There we are. There's good old Camp Hail. There were 15,000 men there, plus mules, plus dogs and sled dogs and so on. So, yes, it was a whole city -- small city. The skis were white and obviously the pants we pulled on over -- our ski pants were white and so were the parkas. We were outside almost every night. Coldest I think that we got was about 35 below.

LONDON: John Litchfield was 25 when he joined Camp Hail.

JOHN LITCHFIELD, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: He looks too young to be in the war.

LONDON: A company commander when the unit shipped overseas to Italy, he recalls the grim realities of combat.

LITCHFIELD: And you always had your rifle. You never go outdoors without your rifle. When we get into a war and people don't expect to see any casualties, this is not a sanitized situation. In the first place, it's life and death. You know the reason for the -- for rifle companies at all -- you're used to kill people.

LONDON: John Litchfield describes buddies dying two steps away from him. Pete Seibert escaped death by inches. SEIBERT: I had a mortar shell hit in a tree, sort of what they call a tree burst, and came down. It tore out the front of my helmet. I was wounded in the face, lost teeth and so on and then I was hit in the left arm, right knee and pretty well banged up.

LONDON: These two 10th Mountain Division men eventually came home safely and later went on to similar legacies. Captain Litchfield co-developed the Aspen ski area. Staff Sergeant Seibert credited with founding the resort known simply as Vail. As for Camp Hail, it's a memory.

(on camera): Here in this valley the foundations of barracks are all that remain of Camp Hail. The flag was lowered here for the last time in 1965, but the 10th Mountain Division lives on. The unit now trains in Fort Drum, New York. Soldiers have been deployed in Desert Storm, the Balkans and now at least 1,000 of them in Operation Enduring Freedom.

LITCHFIELD: The current 10th Mountain Division has been mountain trained but they've also been ranger trained, that is to say in desert, and they've been trained in amphibious warfare.

SEIBERT: Their situation matter (ph) is not unlike ours and certainly the terrain is similar.

LONDON (voice-over): Beyond terrain and situation, the men say there is a more profound link with their comrades in arms.

LITCHFIELD: They have a history behind them that involves us, therefore a common feeling in the military that there is a brotherhood. Their age doesn't make any difference, it's common service for a common cause in a common unit.

LONDON: So the thoughts and prayers of one generation go out to the next.

LITCHFIELD: I don't think that the world has seen the last of evil or we'll never see it.

LONDON: Gina London, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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