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Battle of the Hrtgen Forest (Hurtgenwald)

Battle of Hrtgen Forest is name given to series of battles fought in the Hurtgen Forest, afterwards known to both Americans and Germans simply as the Hurtgenwald.

The snow hit us as we hit Hurtgen.

The Battle of Hrtgen Forest was overshadowed by the American victory in the Battle of the Bulge, and as a result, few books and articles have been written about it.

Looks pretty but it ain't.

The American High Command was flush with success after the breakout at Normandy and the race to Germany, and therefore overconfident.

Gen. Oliver, Gen Bradley, Lt. Col. MacFarland, Gen. Eisenhower, Col. Cole, Lt. Col. Entrekin, Lt. Col.Foss confer near Zweifall, Germany.

The Battle of Hrtgen Forest was fought in an area of heavy forestation between September 13, 1944, through February 10, 1945.

November 2, 1944. G.I.'s of CO E, 110th IR/28th ID moving through the forest near the Raffelsbrand road junction.

The Hrtgen Forest, was described by those who were there, as a "weird and wild" place. It was not a ancient forest but it was hand planted in modern times at the order of the Army to take the most advantage of every hill and valley using the spruce and balsams thick squat limbs like football linemen challenging advance. Here "the near one hundred foot tall dark pine trees and dense tree-tops gave the place, even in daytime, a somber appearance.

It was like a green cave, always dripping water, the firs interlocked their lower limbs so that everyone had to stoop, all the time. The forest floor, always in darkness, had no underbrush. Add to this gloom, a mixture of sleet, snow, rain, cold, fog and almost knee deep mud. This was to be setting for the most tragic battle of World War II.

This mine exploder on a tank didn't last long enough.

And it was fought in a corridor barely 50 square miles in an area that begins about 5 miles south and east of Aachen, Germany and falls into a triangle outlined by Aachen, Duren and Monchau on the border of Germany.

Although the battle did not officially end until February of 1945, the major part of the Battle of Hrtgen Forest was fought during the 3 wet, cold, miserable months of mid-September through midDecember 1944. The battle claimed 24,000 Americans; killed, missing, captured and wounded, plus another 9,000 who succumbed to trench foot, respiratory diseases and combat fatigue

But we couldn't keep them dry..

The Germans were delighted that the Americans wanted to throw their weight into an attack against dug-in troops in a forest where the American preponderance of artillery and command of the air would be of little value. Also, delighting the Germans was that the Hrtgen Forest was of little military value and, if lost to the Americans, could be flooded since the Germans held flood control dams above the level of the forest. It was a battle that the Germans really couldn't lose.

The battles were characterized by the American High Command not recognizing the true objectives of the forest, the dams that controlled the height of the Roer River, until December.

Brandenburg and Bergstein are representative of the edge of the Hurtgen Forest near the Roer River. The high ground on the north side of the Roer permitted observation for the enemy artillery and mortar fires even after the Germans had been forced across the stream. The area of the Roer River dams can be seen in the distance.

Had the Germans blown the dams, they could have flooded a region far to the south, delaying American advances. Multiple divisions were sent in, only to be wrecked and replaced by still more divisions.

British General Horrocks (one of the few generals, if not the only general to do so) made a surprise front line visit to the 84th division and he was disturbed by the failure of American commanders and their staffs to ever visit the front lines. He was greatly concerned to find that the men were not even getting hot meals brought up from the rear, in contrast to the forward divisions in the British line. He reported that not even battalion commanders were going to the front. Senior officers and staff didn't know what they were ordering their rifle companies to do. They did their work from maps and over radios and telephones. And unlike the company and platoon leaders, who had to be replaced every few weeks at best, or every few days at worst, the staff officers took few casualties, so the same men stayed at the same job, doing it badly.

Air, artillery, and armor, all advantages of the Americans at this time were nullified because of the terrain, and the Germans were happy to delay the much stronger force using smaller numbers and good defensive positions.

This one came into Gergstein and was captured.

A German self-propelled 75 mm

When American troops who had fought in Sicily, Italy, Normandy and Holland, finally took the forest, they said they had never seen anything that could compare to this for the amount of shattered military equipment scattered throughout and the countless American bodies..

Recovery of American bodies for American Graves Registration

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