‘Mission Mt. Mangart’ connects veterans, skiers, generations
The 10th Mountain Division trained just south of what is now Vail Mountain at Camp Hale. Many books and documentaries have been created about the famed winter warfare unit for the U.S. Army, including “Mission Mt. Mangart,” a documentary by Avon resident Chris Anthony.
Written, directed, edited, narrated and produced by Anthony, “Mission Mt. Mangart” brings to light the events from 1939 leading up to June 3, 1945, when a ski race was held near the border of former Yugoslavia, hosted and organized by the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division on Mount Mangart.
Anthony will be the first to tell you that this film found him and he would hardly call himself a filmmaker before “Mission Mt. Mangart.” He’s used to being in front of the camera, skiing in over two dozen Warren Miller films all over the world. But the story of what the 10th Mountain Division soldiers did after the battles in Italy during World War II kept following him around and he would make connections that would lead him to different parts of this story and he eventually decided to make the documentary.
“I actually tried to give it away many times and have other people do this project, but ever since I started, it has been literally the ‘Forrest Gump’ journey. I think that is the best analogy I can think of to describe how this film has taken my life in so many directions. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone, the way things just unfold, how I stumbled into different experiences. You can’t write this stuff, you can’t make this stuff up,” Anthony said.
“Mission Mt. Mangart” premiered on Veterans Day one year ago at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver and was screened in front of World War II vets, vets from other wars and conflicts, and active military.
“That was sort of the opening of the door to the connection with the veterans and the military branches as well as the United States Embassy to Slovenia,” Anthony said.
Slovenia is the former Yugoslavia and once it was discovered how the story connected the two countries, they embraced it.
“All of a sudden I’m having meetings with our U.S. Embassy in Slovenia and the Ministry of Defense there and we’re combining our two countries to the highest level with this common, feel-good story,” Anthony said.
A film tour was created around Slovenia with four stops with audiences that ranged from people in the upper ranks of the Slovenian government, to students at universities, a museum, and a film festival.
In addition to going on a film tour throughout Slovenia to show the film, Anthony has had some other high-profile film screenings. He has been to Fort Drum, New York, the home of the modern-day 10th Mountain Division, twice.
“When I arrived the first time, they threw me into a classroom with at least 100 active 10th Mountain Division members in uniform and asked me to teach them a little bit about the heritage of the 10th Mountain Division, which was not expected, I found out five minutes before I got there,” Anthony said.
That evening, when Anthony was supposed to show the film, they delayed the start because the ambassador to the United States from Slovenia wanted to fly up from Washington, D.C. and a four-star general from the Pentagon and the Commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division at that time wanted to attend the screening as well.
“As I’m standing there introducing the film, I just thought, here I am, a civilian who has never seen any side of combat, or even put a uniform on, sharing with them their history of the 10th Mountain Division and their story, and I was worried if I had taken too many liberties with the film,” Anthony said.
As “Mission Mt. Mangart” ended, Anthony looked around the room and saw the tears come out of a general’s eye and had active military stand in a line to shake his hand, give him a hug or just say thank you. Anthony has also received different tokens of appreciation such as the Alpine Alliance Award and amazing letters and endorsements of the movie after his visits.
In the past year, Anthony has made 44 stops on his film tour, with the 45th stop appropriately scheduled on Veterans Day this year in Walsenburg, Colorado. He’s shown it to over 8,000 people and the funds raised go toward his Youth Initiative Project nonprofit and other nonprofits.
“I think there are about 10 living World War II 10th Mountain Division veterans from all over the nation that have seen the movie now. The most recent vet to see it was in San Francisco in October,” Anthony said. “He was actually on Riva Ridge during World War II, so to have a person who was actually there, with the 10th, and have him like the film was amazing. He literally hugged me and said he was grateful that the story has been told.”
Future screen dates in the region include:
- The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon – Dec. 21
- Warren Station in Keystone – Dec. 10
- Wheeler Opera House in Aspen – Dec. 14
- Steamboat Winter Sports Club – Jan. 9
“What this journey has given me is much more respect for our past, present, and future of those who have served and are currently serving our country,” Anthony said. “It’s just an honor that somehow I have been able to connect with so many branches of the military because of my history with skiing and then this film. It really has been