Army Strong on Frozen Battlefields

Chow Line by Ogden Pleissner, depicts Soldiers eating in cold, muddy Aleutian Islands, 1943

As winter sets in and temperatures begin to drop, the Foundation is taking a look at some of the Museum exhibits remembering the service of Soldiers in unforgiving cold temperatures. The most prominent cold weather exhibit is the Knox Trail display centered in the Founding the Nation Gallery. The exhibit pays tribute to Henry Knox’s transport of nearly 60 pieces of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston during the winter of 1775-76. An enlarged portion of Tom Lovell’s “The Noble Train of Artillery” painting frames the display, depicting the harsh, icy terrain that Knox’s expedition traversed for 300 miles. On an adjacent panel is the sentence from a letter Henry Knox wrote to George Washington on December 17, 1775 that gave the painting its name. It reads, “I hope in 16 or 17 days to be able to present to your Excellency a Noble train of artillery.” At the front of the exhibit is a large, glass-encased diorama depicting the Soldiers and oxen who pulled and carried the cannons, mortars, and howitzers using wooden sleds. A recreation of one sled sits on a snow-dusted platform in the middle of the display, carrying an actual cannon of the Revolutionary era.

Museum visitors can explore how the Army increasingly readied its Soldiers to serve in colder temperatures since the time of Henry Knox. In the Global War Gallery, a cast figure of a Soldier in the 10th Mountain Division represents the experienced skiers recruited to serve in the famed division, which was established in 1943 and played a critical role in the mountains of Italy near the close of World War II.

Life-threatening temperatures were such a factor during the Korean War that an exhibit in the Cold War Gallery displays the outerwear developed for those frozen battlefields, including the bulbous, insulated footwear that Soldiers referred to as “Mickey Mouse boots.”