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OLYMPIC HISTORY: Ski soldiers

November 19, 2015
By ALISON HAAS , Lake Placid News

Having just honored those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces on Veterans Day, staff recently located several photographs in our collection documenting the 26th U.S. Infantry Ski Troop when they trained in Lake Placid in 1941.

Veterans Day has passed, but there's no reason why we can't highlight veterans throughout the year and share how Lake Placid had a small part in the training of U.S. ski troops.

In November 1939, as war was underway in Europe, the world had heard of the temporary success of the Finns when they defended themselves against Russian efforts, using their skis and mountain warfare techniques. The Americans took note, and Charles Minot Dole, the founder of the National Ski Patrol, began to lobby the War Department to train troops in the United States Army that would be specially trained to fight in wintry landscapes.

Article Photos

Ski rookies at training headquarters in Lake Placid
(Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

When the U.S. was thrust into the war in 1941, training was already underway for troops to practice winter war maneuvers under snow conditions for pending action in snowy, mountainous Europe.

In 1940, Rolf Monsen, was hired by the U.S. War Department to help train ski troops. He competed in the 1928 and 1932 Winter Olympics as a member and captain of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team. Monsen had also qualified for the 1936 Olympic Winter Games but injured his leg prior to the Games and was given the honor of carrying the American flag at the Opening Ceremony in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Due to his strong leadership background and expert ski skills, it was only natural that Monsen was selected to train ski troops in Lake Placid out of barracks set up at the town hall.

Early in January 1941, the 26th U.S. Infantry ski troops trained on the slopes and trails of the Lake Placid area. The regiment was under the command of Col. James I. Muir and a series of experiments were carried out to study a variety of types of transportation and training that could be effectively utilized by the army in defending themselves in parts of the world where snow would be a serious factor.

To learn more about the history of skiing at Lake Placid, please visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum on Main Street in the Olympic Center. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information about the museum, visit online at www.lpom.org.

 
 

 

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