Thursday, March 26, 2015

T/5 Herbert Spaulding: WWII 10th Mt Division

In a photo probably taken within six months of his death, 30 year-old father of four Herbert Spaulding’s pose does not disclose the inner strength he exhibited in combat when he later purposely sacrificed his life to save his comrades. Note the Marksmanship badges on his tunic. (Photo: Family photo via Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum)
The following article is from the Burlington FreePress about the 10th Mt Division in WWII. 

After America’s ski troops successfully assaulted and captured Italy Riva Ridge in February of 1945, the 10th Mountain Division continued its march north up the spine of Italy’s mountains.

Day after day they attacked German forces who were entrenched high in the hills and mountains well above the Americans. The 10th was the only American division trained to fight in mountains and they quickly proved their worth. By March 3, 1945, the 10th had pushed north along the top of a mountain range and was attacking Mount della Torraccia. It was here the next of six Vermont ski troopers was killed in action.

One of those killed was Cavendish’s Wilbur Allen Spaulding.

The last Vermonter to lose his life serving in the ski troops during World War II was considered an "Old Man." At age 30, T/5 Herbert Wilbur Allen Spaulding of Cavendish was far older than his fellow soldiers and also married with four children. Given these circumstances one should wonder why was he in the front lines? Add in the fact his rank was "T/5." He was a baker and a cook.

The 10th was taking a brutal number of casualties as they continually attacked the Germans entrenched on the mountains. Somebody had to fill in the ranks and on the night of April 20, 1945, anyone who could fight was sent forward — about two weeks before the end of the war. It was well after dark when Spaulding arrived in the front lines and probably didn't know anyone around him. He wasn't a combat soldier; he had spent the war cooking far away from any combat. His posthumous citation for the Silver Star tells in detail how this Vermonter demonstrated incredible inner strength that cost him his life the next morning.

"When a rifle squad, acting as the point for a battalion advance, was pinned down by intense machine gun, grenade, and small arms fire from [an] enemy held building less than one hundred yards away, Technician Fifth Grade SPAULDING crawled forward alone to an exposed position, and opened fire on the hostile position, covering the withdrawal of his comrades, and the flanking movement of his company. For twenty minutes he engaged the enemy alone, giving the company time to work around the flank of the buildings, and storm the position, capturing sixty-seven prisoners….By his gallant deeds, he has added luster to the finest traditions of the United States Army."

"Allen" Spaulding's young family lost him in an instant when he died from a shrapnel fragment striking his head. He is buried in Proctorsville.

The stories of the six Vermonters who died as ski troops in the 10th Mountain Division are carefully documented in the files of the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum in Stowe, which maintains a permanent display in honor of the 10th. Most of these soldiers still have close family members living in Vermont — including their orphaned children.

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