Tales from the Tread: End of an era

Tread of Pioneers Museum staff
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
A soldier in the 10th Mountain Division.
Photo courtesy Tread of Pioneers Museum

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Eight decades after the start of World War II, most people old enough to remember that time as an adult have passed, and the world that war created is rapidly disappearing before our eyes.

And yet, World War II involved virtually every part of the world during the years 1939 to 1945. Although the U.S. entered WW II last, most historians agree that WW II was won as surely on the American home front as it was on the battlefield. Everything and everyone became part of the war effort; it was the American way.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum, VFW and the American Legion invite the public to the collaborative new exhibit, “End of an Era,” that pays tribute to the courageous citizens from Routt County who served in World War II. The exhibit will be on display at the museum from Tuesday, Nov. 12 through October 2020.

“We want to recognize and thank the men and women who so selflessly served their country and their community,” said the museum Executive Director Candice Bannister. “So often the contributions of these unsung heroes are forgotten by society after the passage of so many decades. We need to keep them in the forefront of our collective memories.”

Of the 10,000 citizens in Routt County at the time, roughly 1,000 men and women left the valley to serve in WW II, too many never to return.

“Months passed between the delivery of letters to loved ones as the weekly Steamboat Pilot continued to print lists of soldiers’ whereabouts, deaths and imprisonments. Newsreels at the Chief Theater did not spare reality, and families gathered in front of radios to hear the six o’clock news. The passage of three quarters of a century cannot erase what veterans and their families remember,” wrote local war historian and author Harriet Freiberger.

Armed with their superior skiing skills, many Routt County men served in the elite 10th Mountain Division. Designated as a mountain warfare unit, the division was the only one of its size in the U.S. military to receive intense specialized training for fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions. Many WW II service men and women returned home after the war and contributed to local business, government and community. In Steamboat Springs, some WWII veterans led efforts to develop the quiet rural town into a tourist destination.

Special exhibit features include:

  • Nazi Germany combat helmet recovered from Normandy Beach
  • Ration tickets, GI memorabilia, quotes, letters, dog tags
  • 10th Mountain Division skis and gear
  • Local servicemen uniforms
  • Stories and images from local men and women who fought on the frontlines
  • WW II Routt County vet information and select biographies

Local veterans will attend a special exhibit opening reception and commemoration on Monday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, and the exhibit opens to the public Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Special thanks to Jim Stanko, the VFW and the American Legion Steamboat Springs Chapter for their assistance with this exhibit.

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