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Battle of Hürtgen Forest
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest (German: Schlacht im Hürtgenwald) is the name given to the series of fierce battles fought between U.S. and German forces during World War II in the Hürtgen Forest, which became the longest battle on German ground during World War II, and the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought. The battles took place from 19 September 1944 to 10 February 1945, over barely 50 sq mi ( km2), east of the Belgian–German border. The U.S. commanders' initial goal was to pin down German forces in the area to keep them from reinforcing the front lines further north in the Battle of Aachen, where the Allies were fighting a trench war between a network of fortified towns and villages connected with field fortifications, tank traps and minefields. A secondary objective may have been to outflank the front line. The Americans' initial objectives were to take Schmidt and clear Monschau. In a second phase the Allies wanted to advance to the Rur River as part of Operation Queen. Generalfeldmarshall Walter Model intended to bring the Allied thrust to a standstill. While he interfered less in the day-to-day movements of units than at Arnhem, he still kept himself fully informed on the situation, slowing the Allies' progress, inflicting heavy casualties and taking full advantage of the fortifications the Germans called the Westwall, better known to the Allies as the Siegfried Line. The Hürtgen Forest cost the U.S. 1st Army at least 33,000 killed and incapacitated, including both combat and noncombat losses; German casualties were 28,000. Aachen eventually fell on 22 October, again at high cost to the U.S. 9th Army. The 9th Army's push to the Rur fared no better, and did not manage to cross the river or wrest control of its dams from the Germans. Later (14. until 26. January 1945), the Roer triangle was cleared during Operation Blackcock. Hürtgen was so costly that it has been called an Allied "defeat of the first magnitude", with specific credit being assigned to Model.:391 The Germans fiercely defended the area for two reasons: it served as a staging area for the Ardennes Offensive (what became the Battle of the Bulge) that was already in preparation, and the mountains commanded access to the Schwammenauel Dam at the head of the Rur Lake (Rurstausee) which, if opened, would flood low-lying areas downstream and deny any crossing of the river. The Allies only recognized this after several heavy setbacks, and the Germans were able to hold the region until they launched their last-ditch offensive on the Western Front into the Ardennes.
By mid-September 1944, the Allied pursuit of the German army after the landings at Normandy was slowing down because of extended supply lines and German Army rebuilding. The next strategic objective was to move up to the Rhine River along its entire length and prepare to cross it. Courtney Hodges′ 1st Army experienced hard resistance pushing through the Aachen Gap and perceived a potential threat from enemy forces using the Hürtgen Forest as a base. The U.S. 1st Infantry Division arrived in early October, joining elements of the XIX Corps and VII Corps, which had encircled Aachen. Although the 1st Infantry Division called for the surrender of the German garrison in the city, German commander Oberst Gerhard Wilck refused to capitulate until 22 October. It was also thought necessary to remove the threat posed by the Rur dam. The stored water could be released by the Germans, swamping any forces operating downstream. In the view of the American commanders, Bradley, Hodges and Collins, the direct route to the dam was through the forest.:239 Military historians are no longer convinced by these arguments. Charles B. MacDonald—a U.S. Army historian and former company commander who served in the Hürtgen battle—has described it as "a misconceived and basically fruitless battle that should have been avoided.":239
and air support was greatly reduced by weather and terrain. Apart from the bad and very cold weather. But the German defenders had the advantage in that their commanders and many of their soldiers had been fighting for a few years and had learned the necessary tactics for fighting efficiently in winter and forested areas. tracks and firebreaks. of course. men unfit for service. The dense forest allowed infiltration and flanking attacks and it was sometimes difficult to establish a front line or to be confident that an area had been cleared of the enemy. The American advantage in numbers (as high as 5:1). which were also centers of resistance.:454. their divisions had taken heavy losses on the retreat through France and were hastily filled up with untrained boys. . Improvised rocket launchers were made using rocket tubes from aircraft and spare jeep trailers. minefields. As the American divisions took casualties. mortar and artillery teams to pre-range their weapons and fire accurately. it proved difficult to reinforce or supply front-line units or to evacuate their wounded. armor. Transport was similarly limited by the lack of routes: at critical times.Battle of Hürtgen Forest 2 Geography The Hürtgen Forest occupies a rugged area between the Rur river and Aachen. Also there were numerous bunkers in the area. inexperienced recruits were brought up to the front as replacements. it proved necessary to blast tank routes through the forest. The dense conifer forest is broken by few roads. Later in the battle. Ground conditions varied from wet to snow cover. vehicular movement is restricted. barbed wire. The small numbers of routes and clearings had also allowed German machine-gun. and old men. rough terrain also prevented proper use of the Allied air superiority which had great difficulties in spotting any targets. the dense forest and View to the west over the Kall Valley. the weather was cold and wet and often prevented air support. Most supplies had to be manhandled to the front line. relatively small numbers of determined and prepared defenders could be highly effective. In the autumn and early winter of 1944. mobility. In the forest. The German defenders had prepared the area with blockhouses. and booby-traps. The Germans were hampered by much the same difficulties. Transport was also a problem because of the difficult roads and the lack of trucks and fuel. 468–69 The impenetrable forest also limited the use of tanks and hid anti-tank teams equipped with panzerfausts. hidden Map showing the area of the battle by the snow. mostly belonging to the deep defenses of the Westwall. whereas the Americans were often well-trained but inexperienced.
 Conversely. While defenders were protected from shell fragments (and wooden splinters from the trees) by their dug-in defensive positions. German reinforcements were added. Artillery fire was fused to detonate as tree bursts. U.S.S.000 in reserve)—and commanded by Generalleutnant Hans Schmidt. mortar platoons needed clearings in which to work. 1st Army. these were few and dangerous. being pre-ranged by German troops. they had little artillery and no tanks. the forest was defended by the German 275th and 353rd Infantry Divisions. attackers in the open were much more vulnerable. so mortar support was often unavailable to rifle platoons. understrength but well prepared—5. U. At the start.S. divisions • 1st Infantry Division • 4th Infantry Division • • • • • • • • • • • • • 8th Infantry Division 9th Infantry Division 17th Airborne Division 28th Infantry Division 78th Infantry Division 82nd Airborne Division 83rd Infantry Division 104th Infantry Division 3rd Armored Division 5th Armored Division 7th Armored Division 366th Fighter Group 2nd Ranger Battalion German divisions • • • • • • • • • • • • 85th Infantry Division 89th Infantry Division 275th Infantry Division 344th Infantry Division 347th Infantry Division 353rd Infantry Division 3rd Parachute Division 3rd Panzergrenadier Division 116th Panzer Division 12th Volksgrenadier Division 47th Volksgrenadier Division 246th Volksgrenadier Division • 272nd Volksgrenadier Division • 326th Volksgrenadier Division . As the battle progressed. 3 Opposing armies The Hürtgen Forest lay within the area of Courtney Hodges′ U.000 men (1. Responsibility fluctuated between the V Corps and VII Corps.Battle of Hürtgen Forest The tall forest canopy also favored the defenders. American expectations that these troops were weak and ready to withdraw were not matched by events.
capture Simonskall. as the Kall Trail was blocked. great parts of the Kall Valley were already cut off by the Germans. after which the 109th dug in and endured casualties. The terrain was not suited for tanks. the main objective.000 yd ( m) had been gained at the cost of 4. and the third to capture Schmidt. A German regimental doctor—Hauptmann Guenther . 4th Division and sent to reinforce the 28th Division. 60th Infantry Regiment that entered the Hürtgen Forest but was beaten back by the terrain and opposition. and they were unable to counterattack. cutting the German supply route to Monschau. The area had terrible terrain with the Kall Trail running along a deep river ravine. there were problems with narrow paths. One mile was gained after two days. the U. 112th Infantry Regiment attacked Vossenack and the neighboring ridge. tracked M29 Weasel transports and air support. the so-called Allerseelenschlacht (All Souls' Day Battle) resulted in a disaster for the Americans. The Monschau-Düren road was quickly cut. again. 109th Infantry Regiment was impeded after 300 yd ( m) by an unexpected minefield. prepared defenses.S. astride an important German supply route. 28th Infantry Division—a Pennsylvania National Guard unit—arrived on 16 October to relieve the battered 9th. After a few days.S. 12th Infantry Regiment was detached from the U. On 5 October. but both regiments were slowed by defenses and suffered significant casualties: the 60th′s 2nd battalion was reduced to a third after the first day. The U. The track section German counterattack by tanks of the 116th Panzer Division and has melted into the road. The 112th captured Schmidt on 3 November.S.S. determined defenders. the defenders were expecting it and were ready. The U. The U. 3. and fire breaks which were blocked or enfiladed. the 112th remained hard pressed to hold its positions outside Schmidt. another to attack Germeter.S. The attack by 28th Division started on 2 November. Across the Kall Bridge the troops of the 28th U. infantry from the 89th Infantry Division rapidly expelled the Americans from Schmidt. The 112th was then halted on the Kall by strong defenses and difficult terrain. armored vehicle that was hit evacuation was possible. The engagement began on 19 September 1944.S. Evacuation and supply was difficult or impossible. the U. one was deployed to protect the northern flank.Battle of Hürtgen Forest 4 Battle First phase This phase concentrated on the town of Schmidt. The 39th was halted at the Weisser Weh Creek. pinned down by mortar and artillery fire and harassed by local counterattacks. reinforcement or A track from a U. and maintain a supply route for the advance on Schmidt. 9th Infantry Division attacked the town of Schmidt using the 60th and 39th Infantry Regiments while the 47th held a defensive position.S. these were very difficult tasks due to weather. For two days. The 28th Division was reinforced with armor. despite the need for armor to support the infantry. but no American supply. Infantry Division pushed forward at the beginning of November 1944 to capture the village of Schmidt. within the southern part of the forest.500 casualties.S. As American troops tried to retreat across this bridge to Vossenack. The weather prevented tactical air support until 5 November. By 16 October.S. with a probe by the U. 110th Infantry Regiment had to clear the woods next to the River Kall. air bursts in trees. The slogging match continued. Of its three regiments. On 6 November.S. The U. and terrain. A strong and burned in the Kall Valley. which were captured on 2 November.
U. They were well dug-in and prepared. continuing toward Hürtgen. leaving just two fully effective regiments to achieve the divisional objectives. German reinforcements arrived from 344th and 353rd Infantry Divisions and resistance stiffened further. A heavy German infantry gun firing in defense of a U. and CCR 5th AD. Attacks by the 8th Infantry Regiment on Rother Weh Creek hit heavy resistance and were repulsed with heavy losses. The open flanks invited infiltration. there were 300 losses. In this phase. The 22nd failed to take Raven′s Hedge (Rabenheck). the Americans held on and the fighting for Schmidt continued until 10 November. The 121st Infantry Regiment hit heavy defenses immediately.S.S. and two companies of 146th Engineers operating as infantry. so engineers blasted tank routes through the forest. 5 Second phase The second phase was part of Operation Queen. Communications and logistics remained a problem. the U. After heavy fighting. this would be VII Corps′ responsibility and it was part of the main VII Corps effort to reach the Rur.S. By 18 November. At Vossenack. tanks were deemed essential.Battle of Hürtgen Forest Stuettgen—managed to negotiate an unofficial ceasefire with the Americans at the Kall Bridge from 7–12 November. the positions at Schmidt and the Kall Trail were abandoned. the Allied thrust to the Rur River. Following the providential arrival of two U. After three days. beaten back by heavy machine-gun and artillery fire along the firebreaks. Responsibility was returned to V Corps and. 104th Inf Div. 8th Division attacked the Weisser Weh valley. and CCR 5th AD to clear Huertgen Forest and the path of 1st Army to the Rur River. From 10 November. After that. consisting of three understrength divisions. 1 mi ( km) north. including officers and NCOs. 4th Inf Div. The 4th Division was now fully committed to the Hürtgen. attack on 22 November 1944 in the Hürtgen forest. the 112th′s 2nd Battalion disintegrated after constant shelling and fled a German attack. .S. In the Hürtgen. in order to attend to the wounded of both sides. Attacking with 8th Inf Div.) Corps. The abstract of a U. The two infantry regiments attacked in parallel columns: the 8th along the northern edge of the forest towards Düren. Similar tactics elsewhere in Hürtgen had "invited disaster".S. 1st Army attacked 16 November 1944 with 1st Inf Div. 4th Division was to clear the northern half of the forest between Schevenhütte and Hürtgen.500 men with 150 artillery pieces. there was the 275th Infantry Division — 6. the V Corps managed to capture Huertgen after stiff fighting on 28 November 1944. Despite armored support from the 10th Tank Battalion. although its 12th Infantry Regiment was already mauled from its action at Schmidt. so the next day the attack paused to allow re-supply and evacuation of the wounded. supported by those 2nd Battalion men who had held tight. mainly from the LXXXI Corps. Hürtgen was taken on 29 November and the battle continued to Kleinhau. VII Corps was opposed by German forces. The lives of many American soldiers were saved by German paramedics. report describes what happened: The VII (U. armored platoons of tanks and M10 Wolverine tank destroyers. primarily by the 4th Infantry Division. capture Hürtgen and advance to the Rur south of Düren.S. VII Corps' attack ground to a halt. It wasn't until February 1945 that the 82nd Airborne Division permanently captured the Kall trail and Schmidt. V Corps was committed on 21 November 1944. The attack started on 16 November. daily advances were less than 600 yd ( m). on 21 November. the 22nd further south in parallel.
S.e. 9th. trench foot. American forces attacked through the Hürtgen Forest for the final time. held up by the 1st. On 6 December. wounded. Military actions at the Westwall up to 15 December alone brought death. and 99th Infantry Divisions who refused to yield ground in the battle for Elsenborn Ridge. Shortly thereafter. injury.S. 2nd. and the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The key to the German advance were Rollbahns in the north that would take them directly to Antwerp. accidents.:616 6 Aftermath On 16 December 1944. overrunning two of its regiments who surrendered virtually intact. The Ardennes Offensive came to a complete halt in early January when German forces in the northern shoulder of the bulge were blocked by a strong American defence. The 1st SS Panzer Division—spearhead of the 6th Panzer Army—never got more than halfway to the Meuse River. American engineers destroyed bridges and by a German lack of fuel. On 10 February. the 2nd Ranger Battalion arrived to relieve elements of the 112th Infantry Regiment. Division in the Hürtgen Forest. advance to the Rhine for two further weeks. and trauma. the Germans never came close to their objective. and the 12th SS Panzer Divisions. including the 1st SS. or captivity to over more than 250. German forces began the Ardennes Offensive. their advance was stopped by the 8th and 104th Infantry Divisions. on the northeastern edge of the forest. missing in action). and an unknown number of wounded. the towns of Gey and Strass were taken by American Forces. German Armed Forces presumably 12. The 28th Division—just like the 9th before it (and the 4th Infantry Division. on 12 December. more commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge. SS-Oberstgruppenführer Sepp Dietrich's 6th Panzer Army been selected to make the main effort. which would relieve the 28th)—also took heavy casualties during its stay in the Hürtgen Forest. the Schwammenauel dam was taken by American forces. In early February. Elements of the 8th and the 28th Infantry Divisions then advanced on Brandenberg. flooding the Rur Valley and delaying the U.000 dead. capturing Antwerp.039 battle casualties (dead. However. 15 February 1945 To the south.654 non-battle casualties. They never captured the key town of Bastogne and were forced to bypass it. i. It was entrusted with the offensive's primary objective. although the Germans had jammed open the dam's floodgates a day earlier. the Germans had somewhat more success. halftrack of the 16th Infantry Regiment/1st U. Army — 57.S. But they didn't get far beyond the village. captured.000 soldiers from both sides. Vith. A U. frostbite. and finally capturing the key road and railroad network in St. The Germans attacked with nearly 30 divisions.000 captured (documented). The surprise German offensive caught Allied forces off guard. Two American companies took the village but they were later destroyed in a German counterattack.Battle of Hürtgen Forest The final action in the Hürtgen Forest was at Merode. They swept over the vastly unprepared 106th Infantry Division.S. They forced a gigantic bulge in the American lines. These routes were never opened. The 1st and 9th U. as the 7th Armored Division and the remaining regiment of the 106th Infantry Divisions—with elements of the 28th Infantry Divisions and the 9th Armored Division—held firm outside that town. the Rangers moved on Bergstein and subsequently took the strategic position of Hill 400 from defending troops from 980th Grenadier Regiment of the 272nd Volksgrenadier Division. 95. . On 14 November. but never attained their key goals in the northern sector of their attack. 71. 2nd SS. and although they got within a few miles of the Meuse River. diseases such as pneumonia.
Erstwhile enemy remembered There is a stone monument with a bronze plaque at the Hürtgen military cemetery dedicated by veterans of the U.000 casualties during the course of the battle. who commented. Lengfeld died on 12 November 1944. dignifying the actual place of The sculpture on the Kall Bridge the incident. no pathos. and the Germans suffered 28. when the flood waters had receded.000 casualties. a German lieutenant. became more and more irrational and totally out of control until a return to sanity—or was it still emotion?—made a humanitarian encounter come true. It is the only such memorial for a German soldier placed by his erstwhile opponents in a German military cemetery. "I didn't want to create a monument to heroes. 2004. It was created by Michael Pohlmann. 7 Casualties The Americans suffered 33. of severe wounds sustained while helping a wounded American soldier out of the "Wild Sow" ("Wilde Sau") minefield. A place perhaps. but wanted to appear more unassumingly with a frugal shape. no theatrical representation.S." The plaque was created by the sculptor Tilman Schmitten. November 7. Eupen. at which once everything may have started rationally.Battle of Hürtgen Forest until 23 February. A memorial in Vossenack dedicated to the battle for the Hürtgen Forest The memorial sculpture "A Time for Healing" A memorial sculpture on Kall Bridge recalls that moment of humanity amidst the horrors of war. then however. 4th Infantry Division to the memory of Friedrich Lengfeld (29 September 1921–12 November 1944). hewn in stone. It was officially dedicated on the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire on the Kall Bridge. The memorial sculpture and plaque were endowed by the Konejung Foundation: Culture .
during bombardment. p. Dept of the Army. Battle of Hurtgen Forest. htm) from the original on 7 August 2010. (http://www. In addition. mil/ . New York.jpg  “Hopes Dashed in the Hürtgen” (http:/ / www. This causes hot metal shrapnel and wood fragments to rain down. 2010. Archived (http:/ / web. • Miller. Charles B. The WWII Soldier"& s_dispstring=His Dad. The Battle of Hurtgen Forest.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=MBRB& p_theme=mbrb&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_text_search-0="His Dad. TX: Texas A & M University Press.amazon. Upstream are other.com/indexmain. London: Orion Publishing Group.mobileregister. the technique proved particularly deadly until American GIs learned to "hug a tree" instead.  Konejung Stiftung: Kultur (http:/ / www. 2000. believing his fighting spirit to have totally collapsed under the stress of the Normandy breakout and the reduction of the Falaise Pocket. army. 1987 ISBN 978-0804100038 Eye witness account 4th Infantry Division • Whiting. . de/ ATimeForHealing. The WWII Soldier. org/ web/ 20100807183545/ http:/ / www. & #32.S.E&p_text_date-0=2004&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D& xcal_useweights=no) Mobile Register. New York. mil/ books/ wwii/ 7-8/ 7-8_5. htm)  "Huertgen Forest: Offensive. Is Resting in Flanders Fields". archive. United States Army. If you survive. Orion Books. • An article by the son of an American soldier who died in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest: “ His Dad. 1995. The WWII Soldier AND date(2004)&p_field_date-0=YMD_date& p_params_date-0=date:B. . (http://aberjonapress. look at a few of the surviving Siegfried Line bunkers. Gerald. Hugh M.178.html) 16 October 2004: . 1984. konejung-stiftung. pp. (http://www. Office of the Chief of Military History.xi-xiv. U. history. historynet. mil/ oai/ oai?& verb=getRecord& metadataPrefix=html& identifier=ADA151627). dtic. dtic. htm) (First ed. Today tourists can visit a museum in Vossenack. Douglas. htm) by Edward G. George. More military blunders.  de:Bild:Lengfeld memorial. One analysis:240–241 is that U.com/dp/1585442585) • Nash. history. The Battle for the Rhine 1945.com/catalog/vwbtg/ index. and take a walk along the infamous Kall Trail.  Cole. College Station. army. Bedford: The Aberjona Press.1984. Forest. Army in World War II: The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge (Chapter 5) (http:/ / www. Victory was Beyond Their Grasp: with the 272nd Volks-Grenadier Division from the Hürtgen Forest to the Heart of the Reich.newsbank.S. American forces were concentrated in the village of Schmidt and neither tried to conquer the strategic Rur Dams nor recognized the importance of Hill 400 until an advanced stage of the battle. Deliberate Attack. The Bloody Forest: Battle for Huertgen September 1944 – January 1945. 2008. Retrieved August 12. References Notes  Regan. Charles.  The Schwammenauel Dam holds back the Rurstausee and is the major structure in a network. Zabecki August 16.  Whiting. com/ battle-of-hurtgen-forest-fight-for-schmidt-and-kommerscheidt. American commanders in particular misunderstood the impassability of the dense Hürtgen Forest and its effects of reducing artillery accuracy and making air support impracticable. mil/ books/ wwii/ 7-8/ 7-8_5. (1965). A Dark and Bloody Ground: The Hürtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams.html) • Astor. originally an article in World War II magazine Bibliography • Wilson. (http://nl. Miller and David T. 2005.Battle of Hürtgen Forest 8 Historical analysis Historical discussion revolves around whether the American battle plan made any strategic or tactical sense. ISBN 0-297-84617-5. 16 November 1944" (http:/ / stinet. Ballantine Books. Retrieved 2007-02-03.).  "Tree bursts" is a technique of using air bursts by timing artillery shells set to go off in the treetops. Presidio Press. http:/ / www.  Neillands. Robin (2005). Since American soldiers had been trained to react to incoming artillery fire by hitting the ground. strategy underestimated the strength and determination remaining in the psyche of the German soldier. Edward. structures: the Paulushof Dam holding the Obersee and the Urft Dam holding the Urfttalsperre. 271–274. 1944 – 1945. smaller. Siegfried Line Campaign Center of Military History. 1989.  MacDonald.
hurtgen1944.5ad. ISBN 1-84603-121-4. 9 • • • • • • External links • The 22d Infantry Regiment in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest (http://www.imdb.5557) from the Veterans History Project at Central Connecticut State University . 1993. MacDonald.htm) • The Battle of Hürtgen Forest (http://www. and Sidney T. 1993.org/hurtgen.Battle of Hürtgen Forest A19. United States Army.html) • The Battle of the Huertgen Forest (http://home. Neriani. aspx?pgID=877&id=108&exCompID=56) • 5th Armored Division (http://www.org/hurtgen. (2007).amazon.be/~sh446368/index.htm) • Oral history interview with Arthur C. University Press of Kansas.htm) • The 9th Infantry Division's battle in the Hürtgen Forest (http://9thinfantrydivision.org/ahf2.ccsu.com/Index.armyhistory.scarlet. Center of Military History. We owe our freedom to GIs who fought (http://www. Lawrence. United States Army. veteran of Hurtgen Forest and Bulge Battles Regan. G. KS (2001) (http://www. Rush. Robert Sterling. Center of Military History. The Siegfried Line campaign.naplesnews. Charles B.. Steven J.net/ battle-of-the-hurtgen-forest/) • When Trumpets Fade – movie (1998) (http://www. Osprey Publishing Ltd.com/title/tt0135706/) • Battle of Hurtgen Forrest (http://www. a member of the 8th Infantry Division describes his experiences from the battle of Hürtgen Forest (http://content. 1984.com/dp/0700611282/) MacDonald. and Schmidt.. Three battles: Arneville. Altuzzo. Charles B.homestead.library.edu/u?/VHP. Hell in Hürtgen Forest: The Ordeal and Triumph of an American Infantry Regiment. Siegfried Line 1944–45: Battles on the German frontier. Carlton Books.5ad. Zaloga. Mathews.com/news/2008/dec/15/ guest-commentary-we-owe-our-freedom-gis-who-fought) by Peter Thomas. More Military Blunders.
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