AUTUMN/WINTER 1944


Battle of Hürtgen Forest

Date April 14, 2021

The longest battle
During the autumn and winter of 1944/45, the longest battle of the Second World War on German soil took place in the Hürtgen Forest. With this battle, the war precipitated by the Nazi regime returned to Germany. The battle caused numerous casualties on both sides. The U.S. Army attacked three villages near the German-Belgium border, surprising the Germans who surrendered with little resistance. The German army regrouped and counterattacked. A brief but horrific battle ensued, and as the enemy pressed forward, the Americans retreated in haste, leaving behind their wounded and their dead.

Circumstances

The Hürtgen Forest consisted of thick woodland, bare hilltops and deep gorges. In the fall and winter, heavy rain and snowfall and a lack of roads made it extremely difficult to penetrate, either by foot or in vehicles. Nonetheless, the Allies pushed into the rough and unfamiliar terrain in order to secure their advance towards the Rhine. The battle proceeded from mid-September 1944 to mid-February 1945, and ended with an Allied victory which, however, cost numerous casualties on both sides. For the American G.I.s, the very name – with it’s first syllable, ‘hurt’ – became a byword for injury and death. To this day, hundreds of soldiers on both sides remain unaccounted for, and their remains continue to be found...

All Souls Day | November 2, 1944 | Germany
Elliott served as a privateer (Bazookaman) in B Company of the 28th Infantry, 109th Division. At that time his Company was stationed nearby the city of Germeter. On the second of November a battle, later known as All Souls Day, started. On this day, the U.S. 28th Infantry Division moved to capture the town of Schmidt, which controlled many key roads through Germany’s Hürtgen Forest.
The hilly and impenetrably wooded Hürtgenwald was the last major physical barrier before the wide and flat plain leading directly to the Rhine River. Just five months after landing in Normandy, the Allies had pushed the German army out of France, and the Germans were starting to call up old men and young boys. Most Allied commanders assumed the badly pummeled Wehrmacht was on the verge of collapse. That assumption turned out to be a bad one. The 28th Infantry Division was deployed along a north-south ridgeline, with Schmidt on a parallel ridge immediately to the east. Between the two ridges the Kall River snakes through a steep and very deep gorge. It was perfect ground for defense.
Maps showed a logging trail running into the gorge and a bridge at the bottom over the Kall. That would be the main avenue of attack and the division’s main supply route, but no one sent out a reconnaissance patrol. That caused serious problems during the attack.