But even when each day meant simply fighting for survival, Dusenbery read Shakespeare's complete plays, a biography of Walt Whitman, and other engaging material. He visited Florence, Rome, Venice, and points in between on passes.
His only skiing in Italy was done recreationally one afternoon. Most of the rigorous winter training had no direct application. "It was far from wasted, though," Dusenbery says. "The training helped in many ways. We were in good condition. We were used to working together. We depended on each other. We knew what to do. We were surely the best-trained division committein World War II, and we had excellent morale.
"One thing I've learned is that morale goes a lot farther towards winning a war than weapons. The Germans had better machine guns and burp guns, and we had nothing to equal their 88 mm precision guns. But in 1945 we had great morale, and they didn't."
In Ski the High Trail Dusenbery makes another self-defining observation: "We in America have overemphasized the quantity of our civilization and underemphasized its quality. We tend to distrust individual merit and intelligence and to place too much trust in mass opinion. We accentuate conformity when we should stress originality, for it is the latter that leads to true measure of a civilization."
Ted Mahar is a freelance writer. This is his first article for Reed.