"The war is a dominant memory in my life. There's no way it couldn't be," Dusenbery said. "But it's no longer a particularly emotional memory, even though emotions were very high at the time."
"The rumor was that the 10th Mountain Division was going to quit taking volunteers, and that decided me," Dusenbery said. The army had organized the 10th Division in 1943, using the national ski patrol system to recruit skiers and mountaineers against the possibility that the United States might face battles in Norway, Alaska, or other cold regions. The ferocious showing of little Finland against superior Soviet forces had demonstrated what a well-trained, fiercely motivated force could do against overwhelming odds.
The 10th Division lost 992 men in action, with 3,000 more wounded in its four months in northern Italy. In those four months Dusenbery got a compact course in war's fury, futility, absurdity, and nobility. He survived regular artillery barrages and at one time went more than a month without getting out of his clothes. The troops slept in caves, borrowed Italian houses, ruins of houses, pup tents, or sometimes just blankets; their food came mostly from cans.