Hurtgen Forest Week (What do you know or what do you want to know?)

That title is wildly misleading since the Battle of Hurtgen Forest lasted months, but this week 20-27NOV44 marks the last big push for the Allies to get out of the forest, capture the remnants of the village of Hurtgen, and then seize the high ridges overlooking the Roer valley.

I wanted to create a post for people to share their knowledge of the Hurtgen fight or ask questions about it. I live relatively close to the area and I like to visit it as often as possible for field historical research. There are some dedicated and wonderful local historians who will gladly help provide info to people there, and even a shockingly good private museum in Vossenack. (It’s like a magician’s house in that it looks like a shack from the outside but is 4 times larger than you’d expect on the inside)

If you’ve never been to the area, once you’re on the high ground next to Hurtgen, if you look east you can see across the vast expanse of the plains that lead to the Rhine, Cologne, and the Ruhr Industrial area. You could see the end of the war from this spot, even if it would be ephemeral.

On this date (20NOV44) the 121st Infantry Regiment trucked overnight from Bettendorf, Luxembourg to Gemeter, Germany to assume the primary responsibility for capturing Hurtgen. The move was made over 107 road miles, mainly in uncovered trucks, in freezing rain with sleepless men huddled in the back. Upon arrival, blackout conditions were mandatory since the whole area was under German artillery and mortar fire. There was no moon and thick clouds. Food was distributed that men could not see it and the whole situation was so disorienting that most could not figure out what they were eating. The regiment was tasked to do a relief in place with the 12th Infantry Regiment (4th ID) in the total darkness, and thick oozing mud. The Regiment moved towards the front by holding the belt of the man in front of them, but men often fell in the slippery muck, which cut the line and covered the men in a coat of freezing liquid that would persist for the rest of the week. Even behind the front lines, when men strayed from the path they risked stepping on land mines, but they did not know that until they started taking casualties. Needless to say, this causes great confusion and no actual relief-in-place occurs. No intelligence is shared. No one has any idea what is going on.

At first light on the 21st they are supposed to attack into a dense forest, in an area they cannot see and have no idea about, and has chewed up half a dozen US Divisions already…