The 28th Division had formerly been a component of the Pennsylvania National Guard. After mobilization, the division had been trained for participation in the invasion of France. On July 22, 1944, six weeks after D-Day, the 28th was shipped to France and quickly sent to the front. It fought with distinction throughout the Normandy campaign and, on August 29, had the privilege of representing the United States during celebration ceremonies marking the liberation of Paris. The men of the division did not have an opportunity to enjoy the City of Light, however. After marching through Paris they were immediately sent to the front. Once outside of Paris, the 28th, now under the command of Maj. Gen. Norman D. Cota, resumed its eastward journey. On September 7 the division rolled into Luxembourg, crossed the Our River south of Clervaux and became the first Allied division to breach Germany’s vaunted Siegfried Line.
Major General Norman D. Cota
Headquarter Rott, Germany
The 28th was then moved to the vicinity of Rott, on the western edge of the Hürtgen Forest. As it assimilated new recruits, the division was assigned the job of capturing Schmidt and the forests surrounding the town. The 9th Division had tried to secure the area a few weeks earlier and had been massacred. Following the 9th’s failure, the 28th was sent into the breach and, unsupported by other First Army units, received a similar treatment from the forest’s German defenders.
After its bloodletting in the Hürtgen, the 28th Division was sent to the Ardennes, which Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower considered to be a quiet area where new divisions could receive experience and battle-weary units could rest. There, what was left of the division began to take in thousands of new recruits to replace the casualties lost during the summer and fall campaigns. But although the Ardennes was considered a quiet sector, the men still held positions on the front line. The 28th’s portion of the front was a 25-mile-long sector that was more than three times the area an infantry division was normally expected to defend. The 110th was assigned the vulnerable center section of the line. To make the task even more challenging, the regiment held this portion of the front with only two of its three battalions, the 1st and 3rd. The regiment’s remaining battalion, the 2nd, was held behind the lines at Donnange and Wiltz, where it served as the division’s only infantry reserve.
The bulk of the 110th was deployed along the St. Vith-Oiekirch Highway. Known to the Americans as ‘Skyline Drive,’ the highway was a hard-surfaced road that ran parallel to the Luxembourg-German border and overlooked the Our River and Germany to the east and the Clerf River and Luxembourg to the west. Along this road, which ran about two miles from each river, Colonel Fuller deployed his two battalions along a series of strongpoints: Company A, 110th, held Heinerscheid; three machine-gun crews from Company D held Reuler; Company B and five 57mm towed cannons from the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion held Marnach; Companies K and B, 103rd Engineers, held Hosingen; Company L held Holzthum; and Company I held Weiler. Most of these towns, except for Hosingen, were on roads that ran east-west from the Our River and the German lines to the American rear. Believing that they were in a quiet area and that the Germans were too battered to launch an attack of their own, Fuller allowed his men to occupy their positions during the daylight hours and to retire to warmer quarters in the evening. During the hours of darkness, the forward American positions were only lightly held.