On Mt. Mangart history and future were tied

Sept. 5th, 2013: On a beautiful summer afternoon with the majestic Mt. Mangart in the background, representatives from the US State Department, the 10th Mountain Division and Slovenian political and mountain military dignitairies met to unveil plaques at the exact spot where soldiers from the US 10th Mountain Division set up a giant slalom race course on June 3rd, 1945. The ski race and that part of history have been largely forgotten in Slovenia and the United States until a photo of Mt. Mangart has been recognized in a memorial to the 10th Mountain Division in Vail, Colorado ten years ago. Thanks to Slovenia initiative and the US Embassy's donation, the 10th Mountain Division under the auspices of the IFMS now has two impressive plaques to commemorate this race. This week the IFMS was holding their annual Congress in Gorizia organized by both the Italian and Slovenian delegations.

The IFMS was represented at the ceremony by the IFMS Secretary Boštjan Blaznik and Anna Marie Mattson, representing the 10th Mountain Divison. Several Americans from Colorado also attended. Camp Hale in Colorado is where the 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II. The history of the ski race unfolded with the war ending in Europe on May 8th, 1945 and the 10th Mountain Divison troops who were awaiting their next assignment to Japan. They were being stationed in then Yugoslavia. On June 3rd, Pfc Karl Stingl set up a steep giant slalom course below the peak of Mt. Mangart. 76 competitors without practice and with ski gear gathered from all corners participated. Sgt. Walter Prager (1:05.2) came in first place followed by Sgt. Steve Knowlton (1.11.2) in second and Pfc Sigi Engel in third (1.13.4). Only 25 crossed the finish line. There were around 500 spectators. Walter Prager would later serve as Coach on the US ski team during the winter Olympics in St. Moritz.

At the ceremony US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli made the following statement : We should not live in the past, but we ought to take inspiration from it. It is important, now and then, to look back and to celebrate our past—even as we speed into the future. I was here for the commemorative race in June of 2011 and I remarked then how important it is that we never forget our common history. It is thanks to all of you that we now have a permanent monument to this event and our friendship. This monument serves not only to preserve the memory of our common history, but also as a symbol of our shared future as partners. We at the US Embassy are dedicated to ensuring that we never forget this friendship.