Biden Names Camp Hale a National Monument

By Jeff Blumenfeld

President Joseph R. Biden created his first national monument, and the country’s 130th, on Oct. 12, 2022, protecting for future generations a rugged landscape in the heart of the Rocky Mountains where the legendary 10th Mountain Division trained for alpine warfare during World War II.

Photo above: At Camp Hale, President Joe Biden hands a signing pen to 10th Mountain Division veterans Bud Lovett (center) and Robert Scheuer (right). Photo by Jeff Blumenfeld.

            Biden traveled to Red Cliff, Colorado, for the designation of the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, standing with state officials not far from the ruins of the winter warfare training camp along Tennessee Pass and the headwaters of the Eagle River.

            POTUS arrived at Eagle County Regional Airport on Air Force One, then was transported by motorcade to a crowd of about 200 VIPs and media waiting at Camp Hale in a temporary pop-up village with an ambulance, fire truck, Secret Service vehicles, broadcast sat trucks, Port-o-Johns, electric generators, bomb squad, a fleet of Beaver Creek shuttle buses, klieg lights on a scissor lift, patriotic music, even Secret Service snipers in the hills behind the podium.

            10th Mountain Division Foundation historian David Little believes this is the first visit to Camp Hale by a sitting president.

            According to a White House statement, “This action will honor our nation’s veterans, Indigenous people, and their legacy by protecting this Colorado landscape, while supporting jobs and America’s outdoor recreation economy.”

            The area lies within the ancestral homelands of the Ute Tribes and is treasured for its historical and spiritual significance, stunning geological features, abundant recreation opportunities, and rare wildlife and plants.

            "This is the story of America the beautiful," Biden said before signing the declaration next to two of the few surviving veterans of the division, Robert Scheuer, and Francis “Bud” Lovett, who donated his papers to the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center at the Denver Public Library.  

            "You can just feel the power of this place," Biden said recalling the days when his family would travel to Colorado to ski. “It takes your breath away.”

            Said Sen. Michael Bennet, one of the Colorado Democrats who pushed for the designation, “With every passing year, there are fewer World War II veterans who trained at Camp Hale left to tell their story, which is why it is so important that we protect this site now.

            “We offer their service the dignity of public remembrance.”

            The winter conditions were so tough, some of the soldiers nicknamed the harsh Colorado valley “Camp Hell.”

            The 10th Mountain Division played a pivotal role in the European theatre of the war by weakening Axis forces from their position in the Italian Alps, thanks to their specialized training acquired at and around Camp Hale. Scaling a 1,500-foot cliff during a night attack, they were able to push back elite units of the Axis forces. Their skills, grit and endurance were instrumental in protecting democracy and fighting the spread of fascism.

            After the war, many of these soldiers would return to the area, lending their training and expertise to a burgeoning ski industry. More than 60 ski areas in the United States, including many of Colorado's world-famous ski areas, owe their origin and development to these veterans. Today, the outdoor industry, inspired and built by these heroes, generates $374 billion in economic activity and supports tens of thousands of jobs across the country, according to the White House.

            “This is a great day for the 10th who trained there, outdoor recreation and the Ute tribe,” said Denise Taylor, president of the 10th Mountain Division Descendants.

            All that remains of a military base that covered 1,500 acres with 245 barracks housing up to 15,000 soldiers and support staff are concrete foundations of an ammunition depot, field house, and firing range.

            Adds Ellen McWade, Rocky Mt. chapter director of the 10th Mt. Descendants,   “Becoming a national monument is a huge deal for us. It will help keep the history of Camp Hale alive and prevent their memories from disappearing.”

            President Theodore Roosevelt first used the Antiquities Act in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.  Since then, 18 presidents of both parties, including recent Presidents Trump, Obama, G.W. Bush and Clinton have used this authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, including the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients.

            In 1987, the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division, consisting of veterans of the World War II division, designated the Denver Public Library Western History Department and the Colorado Historical Society as joint repositories of
their historical materials. The World War II 10th Mountain Division Database contains 32,213 records of men who served with the “Mountain Troops” from 1941-1945.

            The Colorado Snowsports Museum based in Vail, which hosts the largest 10th Mountain public exhibition in the U.S., plans to provide access to the database in 2023. 


ISHA Vice President Jeff Blumenfeld, a resident of Boulder, Colorado, is son-in-law of the late U.S. Army veteran Arnold R. Kirbach, Company K 86th Infantry, who taught skiing and rock climbing at Camp Hale.