by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, NY — The capture of the Bomporto Bridge was critical during the final stages of the Italian campaign in World War II. Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division succeeded in that mission.
In April 1945, after days of intense fighting against an entrenched German and Italian forces, Mountain Soldiers broke through enemy defenses. Seizing Ponte Samoggia, they continued north to secure the Bomporto Bridge across the Panaro River. This spearhead enabled a 30-mile advance to the Po River and established a foothold for the remainder of Allied forces to begin the advance across the Po.
This history was honored Oct. 16 during a plaque unveiling and dedication ceremony for Fort Drum’s new Bomporto Bridge, which connects the main cantonment to Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.
Brig. Gen. Gregory K. Anderson, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commanding general for support, was joined by Col. Darrell Doremus, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, on the bridge for the plaque unveiling.
“It is our honor to take part in the dedication of this critical action in 10th Mountain Division history, and part of our lineage,” Anderson said. “This bridge will inspire generations of 10th Mountain Division Soldiers to come. It’s going to be a reminder to 10th Mountain Soldiers who walk this route and drive this route safely across Route 26 of the history and the lineage that they come from.”
Also participating in the ceremony were 10th CAB Soldiers who deployed to Europe in 2017 and were among the last 10th Mountain Division Soldiers to walk on the original Bomporto Bridge during a staff ride, before it was replaced with a new one.
Having walked the terrain and toured the sites of battle, to include climbing to the peak of Mount Belvedere, the Soldiers said the staff ride was awe-inspiring.
“We left feeling a need to bring this history back to Fort Drum and ensure it is properly represented in their honor,” said 1st Sgt. Daniel N. Ray, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th CAB, in a news article about the staff ride.
That, in part, was accomplished with the naming of the bridge. Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, commended 1st Lt. Anthony Imperial for being instrumental in the process.
“He took a liking to our history, and he convinced everyone in this division that it was the right thing to do,” Piatt said.
Before relinquishing command of 10th CAB, Col. Clair Gill charged Imperial, newly arrived to the unit, with making the argument to senior leaders for the naming of Bomporto Bridge. Imperial said that he had to delve into what was unfamiliar history for him, and he enjoyed the work.
“I thought it was an inspiring part of our history, and it just happened I was given the opportunity to make it a reality,” Imperial said. “Col. Gill was really the history buff, and it was kind of a coincidence that we had this bridge being built.”
Imperial said that he can see Bomporto Bridge being included as a future NCO board question for promotions, now that more people are becoming familiar with the name. He said the experience also provided an example of what other Soldiers should strive for when they can.
“If you have the opportunity to be challenged and do something beyond your normal duty, take it and see what happens,” he said.
A map of Fort Drum reveals other significant names drawn from 10th Mountain Division history in World War II – Po River Valley Road, Magrath Sports Complex, Mount Belvedere Boulevard and Hays Hall, to name a few.
Piatt said that adding Bomporto Bridge to that list reinforces the strength that the division draws from its history.
“To name it this is so important to us because it honors the great past of the 10th Mountain Division,” he said. “So, every time that we see the name, we’re going to remember those Mountain Soldiers who were the first ever to create the alpine division, and go to Italy and break the German defenses.”