“Who’s behind those Foster Grants?” An elite soldier with the United States Army’s 10th Mountain Division who helped push back German troops in the Italian Apennine Mountains during World War II—that’s who! The 10th Mountain Division entered WWII, fighting with M1 Garands, Thompsons and 1911s, served for 114 days and lost 992 soldiers. Inspired by the 1939 success of Finnish troops fighting off Russia while on skis, the 10th Mountain Division was officially designated at Camp Hale Colorado on July 13, 1943. The elite group of soldiers specialize in mountain, rough terrain and cold-weather warfare. The 10th Mountain Division is the only unit in the Army of its size trained in specialized tactics such as skiing, mountaineering, cold-weather survival, rock climbing, and snowshoeing and high altitude survival.
When first established, to recruit new soldiers the Army used the civilian organization, the National Ski Patrol to bring in top-notch skiers for the division. It is the only Army division to do so. These new soldiers ate, breathed and lived skiing and after serving in the military, many veterans of the 10th Mountain Division became an integral part in developing the popularity of recreational and vacation skiing after World War II.
To this day, the accomplishments of “The Ski Troopers” carry on. The division has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somali, aided in disaster relief after Hurricane Andrew, and played a significant role in the Battle of Mogadishu. The Division earned two campaign streamers during WWII and four during the war on terrorism.
Along with skis, a reversible white and OD green mountain tent, mountain stove and snow shoes, troops wore ski goggles made to prevent snow blindness and protect against UV rays.
Though you know heroes and freedom fighters of yesteryear used much of the military surplus items you acquire, it is rare to come across a piece with such a specific history. We truly know where these goggles have been. To know that a member of the “greatest generation” fought so hard in such harsh conditions fighting off the Germans, for that alone, the well-worn goggles I received are worth every penny.
The goggles come in a leather-like brown vinyl case. I cannot find any markings on the case or on the goggles to verify the manufacturer. Though the case is brittle and quite worn, the stitching is still tight and in tact. Under the flap, the vinyl is a little worse for wear with cracks, but not ripping out. The snap closure is still stiff and functioning properly.
The full metal-framed eyepieces have green-tinted glass lenses that reduce glare and tested in doors provide plenty of shade against the harsh fluorescents of my office. Now delicate with age, OD green canvas surrounds the eyepieces to protect the peripheral of your eyes. Even though they need a good cleaning with soap and water, the glass lenses are in fairly good condition with minor scratches. Inside the case, I found three green plastic Type III lenses in better shape than the glass lenses.
Around the inside of the glass lenses remnants of the faux fur lining indicate the goggles were once warm and comfortable to wear. The fur, now flattened is sparse in areas. These goggles definitely show their age.
An adjustable and removable brown leather nosepiece strap connects the two eyepieces. Around the back for a tight fit are OD green canvas straps connected by an adjustable elastic strap with plenty of stretch still in it.
A plethora of other websites are selling the exact same goggles for $100 or more and advertise they are not for wearing. However, for reenactments or a statement piece to match your vintage motorcycle, these historical military surplus goggles will fit the bill. As for my plans? I’m keeping them to display as a reminder and show pride and honor to my family members who served.
Get a pair here.
Do you collect WWII memorabilia and surplus? Tell us what your favorite piece is in the comment section.