FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Dec. 7, 2022) -- In the final installment of the Around and About Fort Drum series for 2022, the focus is on some of the more familiar street signs seen throughout post.
When the 10th Mountain Division was reactivated in 1985 and the post underwent a massive expansion, prominent streets were named in recognition of the division’s historic contributions in Italy during World War II.
Some bear the names of the places where hard-fought battles were won such as Po Valley, Riva Ridge and Mount Belvedere. While these are well-known and documented in 10th Mountain Division history, others are perhaps less familiar, such as the body of water for which Lake Garda Lane, located near Magrath Sports Complex, is named.
In peacetime, Lake Garda was an idyllic Italian vacation destination with beautiful villas and hotels lining the western shoreline. But during WWII, it was the site of one of the 10th Mountain Division’s final battles against the enemy.
After fighting its way across the Po Valley, the 10th Mountain Division had a new objective on April 26, 1945, to cover Lake Garda’s 60-mile shoreline. This would cut off the last German escape route to the Brenner Pass in the Alps.
Control of Lake Garda would be no easy feat. Soldiers from the 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment bypassed demolished roads in a daring amphibious crossing under artillery fire. Personnel and equipment crammed on board seven military boats called DUKWs, which traveled at a snail’s pace of six miles per hour.
As the boats reached shore, Soldiers scrambled for cover inside nearby tunnels to avoid incoming fire. The Germans launched a round of 88 shells across the lake from Riva that hit the tunnel, killing five and wounding 50. Shortly after, a boat carrying 25 members of the 605th Field Artillery Battalion flipped over, and all but one man drowned.
On May 1, the north end of Lake Garda was under Allied control, but the good news was soon superseded by word that the Germans planned to surrender Italy the following day.
Camp Hale and Camp Swift
Other streets, like Camp Swift Road and Camp Hale Road, recognize the places where the original mountaineers trained before deploying.
Camp Hale, nestled among the towering peaks of the Colorado Rockies, was the original training grounds for the new Mountain Infantry units. Soldiers conducted rigorous maneuvers at altitudes of more than two miles. During these training events, troops slept on mountain peaks with snows as deep as 15 feet and temperatures as low as 35 to 50 below zero. Soldiers acclimated to the harsh weather conditions and environment, while testing out new cold weather clothing and equipment for combat.
Camp Swift Road is named after the division’s second training locale, located in Texas. A far cry from the Colorado cold, Soldiers traded frostbite for heat exhaustion as they continued their combat training. This was also where Soldiers received the “Mountain” designation – a morale boost for troops who started believing the rumors that they would never deploy. And with the new tab on their shoulders, they also welcomed a new division commander, Maj. Gen. George P. Hays. In late November 1944, troops began leaving Camp Swift and boarded ships for Europe.
4th Armored Division and 5th Armored Division
Two other standouts are 4th Armored Division Drive and 5th Armored Division Drive, which recognize the earliest active-duty Army units to call Fort Drum their home.
The 4th Armored Division Drive is named after the first armored division assigned to Pine Camp (now Fort Drum), where it was activated April 15, 1941. The troops, especially those in engineering units, were kept busy building up inadequate accommodations in their new camp. The 24th Armored Engineer Battalion was responsible for constructing ranges and other training facilities.
Their first winter at Pine Camp was severe, and the heavy snows presented training and operational challenges that would later prove useful.
The 4th Armored Division led the 3rd Army’s invasion of Europe, spearheading the relief of Bastogne and contributing to the repulsion of the final German counter offensive during the Battle of the Bulge. The battle was fought in intense cold and snow, something Soldiers experienced in their North Country training.
Soldiers of the 5th Armored Division also trained at Pine Camp in preparation for the battles they would fight overseas. The division was activated at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 1941 and trained in desert maneuvers in California’s vast Mojave Desert. In July 1943, the division headed from Camp Forrest, Tennessee, to Pine Camp, where Soldiers underwent tank training in the snow.
The unit landed July 24, 1944, on Utah Beach and played a key role in surrounding the Germans in Normandy.
45th Infantry Division
Additionally, 45th Infantry Division Drive is named after the first infantry division to be stationed at Pine Camp since World War I. The division was a National Guard unit formed from state militias of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
During World War II, the 45th Infantry Division served for 511 days of combat and participated in four amphibious assaults. Their final mission at the end of the war was to help liberate the concentration camp at Dachau, Germany.
An exhibit at the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum highlights one of the unit’s most famous members. Renowned cartoonist Bill Mauldin served with the 45th Infantry Division, and his work regularly appeared in daily newspapers and in YANK magazine, a weekly Army publication during World War II. He also wrote a column called “Quoth the Dogface…” in the 45th Division News.
Street signs renamed
Along with honoring the past, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum officials also paid tribute to modern-day warfighters. In 2008, seven road names on post were changed to recognize the contributions of service members deployed in support of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Second Street West was renamed Euphrates River Valley Road, and Fourth Street East converted to Tigris River Valley Road. Both rivers make up a vital waterway in the Fertile Crescent for travel and irrigation, originating in Turkey and shared with Syria and Iraq. The Tigris is a fresh water source used by residents for agriculture and hydropower. In Iraq, the Euphrates joins the Tigris in the Shatt al-Arab and empties into the Persian Gulf. The total length of the Euphrates is roughly 1,740 miles.
North Country Lane changed to Korengal Valley Boulevard, and Pearl Street changed to Pech River Road. Some of the fiercest battles during Operating Enduring Freedom were fought in the mountains above the Pech River, located in eastern Afghanistan, and its right tributary, the Korengal Valley.
St. Lawrence Avenue changed to Restore Hope Avenue, named after the military operation in Somalia. Forces assigned to Operation Restore Hope in 1992 were tasked with providing a safe environment for humanitarian efforts while operating under a United Nations mandate. This was the largest military footprint in Africa since World War II.
On Dec. 3, 1992, the 10th Mountain Division was designated the headquarters for all Army Forces (ARFOR) during Operation Restore Hope. Elements of 2nd Brigade deployed to Baledogle, Somalia, followed by the ARFOR assault command post to begin operations in Mogadishu, initially under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Lawson Magruder, 10th Mountain Division assistant commander.
On Dec. 28, a combined U.S.-Canadian force under 2nd Brigade command conducted an air assault operation to seize the airfield in Belet Uen, each initially deploying one battalion. The Commando Brigade moved more than 1,000 Soldiers over 150 miles from Baledogle to Belet Uen in less than two days. The brigade also secured the port in Marka and provided security there, with support from the 10th Aviation Brigade during the air assault operation.
In March 1993, 1st Brigade rotated into Somalia to provide a quick reaction force (QRF) consisting of an infantry battalion, an aviation battalion, a forward support battalion and several detachments and teams.
The 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, supported Task Force Ranger during the infamous Battle of Mogadishu, Oct. 3-4, the U.S. Army’s largest single firefight since Vietnam. As part of a quick reaction force, the infantry battalion lost two Soldiers, and another 18 were wounded, during the rescue mission.
Many of the same 2-14th Soldiers were part of a quick reaction force a week earlier when a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Mogadishu on Sept. 25. Their mission to defend the crash site against local militia was similar to – if not as widely known as – the Battle of Mogadishu.
Two other street signs – North Memorial and South Memorial – were renamed as Iraqi Freedom Drive and Enduring Freedom Drive, respectively. In 2003, more than 6,000 division Soldiers deployed in support of the war on terrorism. In July 2004, only six months after returning from Afghanistan, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In August 2005, the 1st Brigade Combat Team arrived in western Baghdad to support Iraq’s constitutional referendum and national election.
In August 2006, 2nd BCT Soldiers returned to Iraq for a 15-month deployment as part of the surge. That winter, the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade made its second deployment to Afghanistan as the only aviation brigade in theater. Units across the 10th Mountain Division continued to support operations in Iraq until the U.S. mission ended in 2011. The U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, 2021.
But as the saying goes, “The sun never sets on the 10th Mountain Division,” and units continue the mission to provide trained and combat ready forces for rapid global deployment.
With all of that in mind, the next time you find yourself driving, walking, running or ruck marching past a street sign around Fort Drum, take a moment and think about the history behind that name.