Jul 18, 2016

The 10th Mountain Division Fort Drum Museum

The 10th Mountain Division & Fort Drum Museum is well-worth visiting.  To get into Fort Drum people need to have a Department of Defense ID or fill out a request form and submit it to a sponsor a couple days before the planned visit. If you do not have a sponsor - we did not - interested people may contact the curator at the museum for permission to send it to him.  That is what we did. Entering Fort Drum was easy, we just drove up to the gate, showed our driver’s license and the passes were waiting for us. It was like a college campus or a gated community; which, I guess it is.

Above the entry arch to the museum are the words “Climb to Glory.”  Seems appropriate for a mountain division.  I often wondered how the word “mountain” fit it. During WW II they were trained in the snowy mountains for a possible winter attack on the enemy. They had early successes in Finland against the Soviet Union prior to the onset of WW II. During the war they were sent to Italy where their climbing skills were needed to take Mount Belvedere, a key German observation point.

The post’s history dates back to 1907, when the NY National
Guard established Camp Hughes. Later it was expanded and became Pine Camp. With the outbreak of World War II, additional land was purchased displacing 525 Families plus five entire villages were eliminated.  It was named Camp Drum in 1951 in honor of Lieutenant General Hugh A. Drum, commander of the First U.S. Army in the early days of World War II.  In 1974 it became Fort Drum. The curator did not know the exact number of people living on base because it keeps changing but an internet search said there are about 45,000 including those on active duty, family members, and civilians which mean it is about twice the size of the city of Watertown. The population grows significantly during special maneuvers.

The displays are interesting and diverse. One has artifacts from the Native Americans who once lived on the land. Another has a POW jacket.  German and Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated there but for the Italian POWs there was an interesting turn of events. They started out as POWs but when Italy joined the Allies in 1943 there were no longer POWs and were issued military jackets with an Italy patch on it and joined the war effort. 

Some common places and things had their origin during the war.  One display is a snow-going vehicle that later was adapted to become a snowmobile. The 10th Mountain Division trained in the mountains of the Western US and after the WW II several returned to start ski resorts.

Since 1990, the 10th Mountain Division has deployed units to combat and peacekeeping operations in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Fort Drum soldiers and reserves have been mobilized and deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.  One interesting display shows a rock that was thrown through the windshield of Specialist Hank Othmar near Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. A very personal war souvenir. On the homeland they have supplied disaster relief after major hurricanes. The history of the 10th Mountain Division is fascinating. Nearby there are statues and plaques honoring the 10th Mountain Division.