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Battle of Hurtgen Forest

History - Military history -- List of battles -- World War II

Battle of Hurtgen 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 American High Command was flush with success after the breakout at Normandy and the race to Germany, and therefore overconfident. The battles took place between September 13, 1944, through February 10, 1945, in a corridor barely 50 square miles on the border of Germany. They 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. 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. 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.


"For us the Hurtgen was one of the most costly, most unproductive, and most ill-advised battles that our army has ever fought." --Gen. James Gavin, Commander, 82nd Airborne Division, 1944-1945

"The German Command could not understand the reason for the strong American attacks in the Hurtgen Forest...the fighting in the wooded area denied the American troops the advantages offered them by their air and armored forces, the superiority of which had been decisive in all the battles waged before." -- Generalmajor von Gersdorff, Chief of Staff, German 7th Army, 1944-1945

"The forest up there was a helluva eerie place to fight...Show me a man who went through the battle...and who says he never had a feeling of fear, and I'll show you a liar. You can't get all of the dead because you can't find them, and they stay there to remind the guys advancing as to what might hit them. You can't get protection. You can't see...Artillery slashes the trees like a scythe. Everything is tangled. You can scarcely walk. Everybody is cold and wet, and the mixture of cold rain and sleet keeps falling. Then they jump off again, and soon there is only a handful of old men left." --T.Sgt. George Morgan, 1st Battalion, 22d Infantry

References

  • "The Battle of Hurtgen Forest" by Charles Whiting, in "The West Wall Series" Volume 4. 2000. Combined Publishing. 274 pp.
  • "A Dark and Bloody Ground: The Hurtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams, 1944-1945" by Edward G. Miller, in the "Military History Series" Volume 39. Texas A&M University Press. 250 pp.



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