· 22nd Infantry
· 4th Division
· VII Corps
· XV Corps
· 5th Armored Division
Ernest Hemingway compared the Hurtgen forest to the British Offensive in Paschendale during World War I. Many of the opposing German generals also compared the battle to those of 1917-18 and von Gersdorf said it was more horrendous than any he experienced on the Russian Front.
For your consideration 16 November
At 2245 hours on 15 November, the 4th Division's infantry regiments received the tentative word the attack would commence 16 November.
The morning of the attack began with increased activity from the Germans. First, indiscriminate heavy shelling from either 170mm or 240mm guns injured eight soldiers in King Company 3d Battalion. Then, at 1015, a patrol from the 1st Battalion ran into a German patrol while checking telephone wire. In the ensuing firefight one German was wounded and one American was captured. One of the observation posts reported increased sniping.
At 1245 hours 16 November, the lead elements of the 2d Battalion 22d Infantry stepped across the Roter Weh stream, followed by soldiers of the 1st and 3d Battalions. Although the VII Corps had delayed the attack until there was good weather for bombing, there was no air support used in the 22d's sector. Colonel Charles Lanham, the 22d's regimental commander, had also rejected the use of a traditional artillery preparation before the attack. Instead, he had the artillery fire on the flanks of the proposed regimental penetration in the hopes of misleading the Germans. In keeping with his efforts to deceive the enemy as to the regiment's objectives, Lanham also directed the battalions avoid the trails and advance through the woods.
Although surprise was not complete, the lead company of the regiment advanced about 600 yards in thirty minutes before making any contact. Lanham's efforts in concealing the attack helped the assault companies in their advance by preventing the German artillery from pinpointing their movement. For the first two hours of the attack, all the reports from the battalions to regiment and regiment to division cited little or no resistance and that things were "going well". That pronouncement soon changed.
George Company, 2d Battalion, led the regimental advance, with its 3d Platoon leading the company and the remaining platoons following in column. The company climbed the steep east side of the Roter Weh Valley and began to travel northeast through the dense pine woods which greatly limited visibility. About 600 yards beyond the Roter Weh, the 3d Platoon scouts encountered their first Germans, who fired a few shots and fell back to warn their comrades. As the company continued to climb the hill it began to receive machinegun fire from the German positions. From that moment, until the 22d left the Hurtgen seventeen days later, the front line companies seldom made a move free from enemy fire.
Lieutenant Twomey, the George Company Commander, after first trying to use his 60mm mortars to flush the enemy from their holes, brought up another platoon and with the help of the regimental Cannon Company, overran the initial German position. The two platoons moved forward yelling and firing their weapons from the hip. This was too much for the Germans and they fell back, with the Americans catching glimpses of them fleeing through the trees. After the company crossed the promontory known as Rabenheck, it halted at 1630 hours and dug in on the east slope of Hill 201.
Easy Company, the next company in line, came up a small draw on the left of George Company, shifting slightly to the left as it maneuvered through the woods. Its lead platoon ran into a German fortified position covered by a barbed wire entanglement and mines in the draw north of Hill 201. Here the 2d Platoon Leader, Second Lieutenant Erwin Mitman, recently awarded a battle field commission, was killed as he moved forward to recon the enemy position. The platoon medic, Private First Class Harry Coles, raced forward to help, only to also be killed. These two soldiers were probably the first in the 22d to die in the Hurtgen forest. When George Company called for Easy Company to come forward, the company commander, Captain Arthur Newcomb decided to bypass the enemy position. Easy Company dug in for the night on George Company's left, in the draw north of Rabenheck, overlooking Road W.
Later in the night, when he discovered supplies could not get up to the forward units, the 2d Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Walker, ordered Easy Company to go back and destroy the enemy position. Captain Newcomb sent Lieutenant William Mason with one reinforced squad from Easy Company and two squads from 1st Platoon Able Company, 1st Battalion, to destroy the German position. The enemy entrenchment consisted of from twelve to fourteen log covered emplacements surrounding a large pillbox with the entire area ringed by barbed wire. Mason's three squads advanced on line and took out one bunker at a time. Four Germans were captured out of the fifteen or sixteen manning the bunkers. The rest were killed.
During the first day's fight, the 2d Battalion had succeeded in driving a very small wedge into the German forward defenses, but at a high cost. Losses for the regiment were reported as nine officers and forty-six enlisted men, with the majority coming from the 2d battalion. Actual losses were four officers and sixty-nine enlisted. Since no vehicles could get forward, the soldiers of the weapons platoons hand carried the casualties 1000 yards back over the original attack route during the night. On the return trip to their companies, the soldiers carried forward supplies to the battalion.
The area of the Hurtgen forest battle is on the German-Belgian border just southeast of Aachen. The towns of Eschweiler to the northwest, Duren to the northeast, Rotgen to the southwest and the Schwammenaul Dam to the southeast form the four corners of the battlefield.
The first part of this post tells of the terrain and the second part of the German units facing the 22d in the Hurtgen.
The Terrain and Weather in the Hurtgen Forest
The Hurtgen Forest lies along the middle eastern portion of the forest barrier located south of Aachen in front of the Roer River. The towns of Eschweiler to the northwest, Duren to the northeast, Rutgen to the southwest, and the Schwammenaul Dam to the southeast formed the four corners of the battlefield. Figure 2 provides details of the Hurtgen Forest area in which the 22d fought. Entering the forest from the west, the 22d Infantry first encountered the Roter Weh road and stream. Immediately after crossing the stream, the soldiers climbed a 180 foot high hill that runs north south with a promontory known as Rabenheck. Firebreaks traversed the hill laterally, which during November were water-logged and had been filled with mines by the Germans. East of Rabenheck, the Weisser Weh road traveled north to south through a gorge. Known in the American plan as Road W, it was the only road suitable for resupplying the regiment. The Weisser Weh stream also traversed this gorge. In 1944, the stream was about nine feet wide and waist deep.
Two roads joined Road W near Rabenheck. Both also traveled down steep gorges cut into the rock by streams. The most important of the two in the 22d Infantry's sector was the one in the north, called Road X, which led to the village of Grosshau.
Road Z, in the southern part of the sector led to the village of Kleinhau. Between these two roads stood a 310 foot high ridge, which was cut by many streams. Road Y, an offshoot of Road X, zigzagged up the ridge and also led into Kleinhau.
The entire region was thickly wooded with hardwood and fir trees, with very few cleared areas. The forest was divided into forestry sections, with concrete markers telling the section numbers at each trail intersection. The firs, in nursery rows ten to fifteen feet apart; limited visibility to a few yards. Those areas not planted by foresters were thick with dense hardwood undergrowth. The combination of terrain and vegetation cleared for farming. East of the hamlets, the forest closed on the roads leading into the Roer plain and the elevation dropped 630 feet in the 2000 yards separating Grosshau and Gey. The one road between the two villages twisted and turned with an almost sheer sixty foot drop on one side.
The Hurtgen's topography robbed the infantryman of two of his closest companions, armor and artillery. The few roads and steepness of the hillsides restricted the use of armor until the infantry could clear a path to open terrain and the denseness of the forest limited the use of artillery because the observers could not observe the targets at long distances.
The trees tremendously increased the effectiveness of the defender's artillery while negating the effectiveness of the attacker's. Treebursts, caused by artillery rounds hitting tree trunks and branches, showered everything below with fragments. The shrapnel from the rounds was effective against attacking soldiers in the open, but had little effect on defending soldiers dug in with overhead cover.
Almost nothing is worse for an infantryman's morale than to be wet and cold and to hathes stayed wet, and the dampness bred hypothermia and trenchfoot.
The weather affected not only the individual soldier but also the organization. Even when it was not raining, water dripped continually from the trees. The soil in the area has a high clay content, which when wet turns into an oily, slippery mud that sticks to everything it touches. Trails quickly became axle-deep in mud under vehicle traffic, and soldiers climbing the slopes many times found themselves sliding back down the hill, only The German Forces in the Hurtgen.
Facing the 22d Regiment in the Hurtgen Forest was a conglomeration of many units. The 275th Volksgrenadier (VG) Division had been in the forest since the middle of October and had successfully opposed the 9th and 28th Divisions in their earlier bid to clear the woods. By 16 November, the 275th had absorbed thirty-seven different units. Two battalions of the 275th's 985th Regiment, each with approximately 300 soldiers, opposed the 22d's initial attack.
The mainstay of the German defense was its artillery. When the battle opened, General Hans Schmidt, the 275th Division Commander, controlled 25 pieces of motorized artillery (9 105mm, 6 150mm, and 10 122mm howitzers) plus had within his sector another 106 field pieces ranging in size from 88mm to 210mm, for at total of 131 tubes of artillery, not counting mortars, versus 96 pieces of artillery, counting corps artillery, that could support the 4th US Division. Schmidt's division also had twenty-one assault guns, twenty-two 75mm anti-tank guns and one 88mm anti-tank gun. And for the first time in months, the Germans had a good supply of ammunition. This was just the beginning strength. As units cycled into the battle, more artillery and more German regiments entered the line between the 22d and its objective, Grosshau. North and south of Grosshau were the I and III Battalions of the 1055 Regiment of the 89th Division and the II Battalion of the 1058 Regiment, 344th Volksgrenadier Division, was positioned in the center. While these regiments were from different divisions, the 275th commander, General Schmidt, remained in overall command of the sector. When the American attack resumed on 20 November, fresh German units faced them.
It appears throughout the battle that newly arrived German units acted as counter attack forces until they too became exhausted. On 21 November, the 344th VG Division replaced the 275th VG Division. The original 344th had been destroyed in the German retreat across France and rebuilt in October from remnants of the 344th and they had little time to train together. The surviving infantry soldiers of the 275th transferred to the 344th.
The 344th had no experience in woods fighting and was unfamiliar with the terrain. It is no wonder that only six days later, the 353d VG relieved the remnants of the 344th. This was the 353d's second stint in the Hurtgen, since it had been relieved by the 275th VG in early October so that it might reconstitute. Again the remaining infantry of the relieved division was absorbed by the incoming division. Quite possibly some of the German soldiers transferred to the 353d VG had been in that division before it was pulled out for reconstitution, remaining in the woods with the each successive headquarters.
The 22d met in turn, units of four German divisions during its eighteen day ordeal in the forest. When Grosshau fell on 29 November, the 22d Infantry reported that there were German units in the town from almost every division in the LXXIV Corps. As noted in Figure 8, the 250 captured prisoners represented four different divisions, eight different regiments, and forty-seven different company-sized elements. The regimental intelligence officer reported that he could not find a complete squad.
The morale and overall quality of the German forces facing the Americans in the Hurtgen was low. The units were a hodgepodge from everywhere. Intermingled as they were, therut. In their hopeless resignation some became fatalists, others sought consolation in religion. After collapse of the confidence in its leadership, the troops, in point of fact, continued fighting only for their personal security.
German division commanders in the Hurtgen sector ordered their soldiers not to retreat or surrender. The option to retreat closed; many preferred to surrender than face their superior's wrath for retreating.
Although many expressed a desire to surrender, fear for their families held many lower ranking German soldiers in place. During this period of the war, it was standard practice for German officers to require their soldiers to sign loyalty oaths. German soldiers also faced the threat of their families imprisonment in concentration camps if they deserted. Some divisions posted names of those who had deserted or been captured and used them as warnings to other soldiers in the division not to surrender.
Excerpts from one of the exhortations captured from soldiers of the 275th VG reads as follows,
Think about it
1. Don't surrender to the enemy, unless your are severely wounded and you can't shoot anymore.
6. Every act of treason will be known at home and not forgotten there. For traitors there will be no homecoming.
7. The families are responsible for cowards and deserters. Their names will be placed on the 'blacklist'.
Others were more vehement,
Traitors from our ranks have deserted to the enemy. Their names are: . . . .
These bastards have given away military secrets. . . Deceitful Jewish mud slingers taunt you with their pamphlets and try to entice you into becoming bastards also. . . As for the contemptible traitors . . .rest assured, the division will see to it that they never see home and loved ones again. Their families will have to atone for their treason.
Notwithstanding the threat of reprisals, many of the German soldiers saw surrender as the preferred solution for their plight. The motivation of a typical German soldier is shown in a diary of a soldier captured outside Grosshau,
22 November 44--While standing my post I am thinking about my brother who died 3 years ago. I am wet through and through and wish the only possible thing, either get slightly wounded or become a PW. The latter would be the much more appreciated solution.
23 November 44--While the shells explode in front of my foxhole I am writing this . . . The Corporal is missing since last night and we think he is a PW. We all envy him. . . .
In the eighteen days of combat, the 22d Infantry captured 764 Germans, many of who either walked into the American lines and gave up or waited until the Americans were on top of their positions to surrender.
The lack of first class troops in the Hurtgen Forest did not hamper a strong German defense. They overcame their personnel deficiencies by mining the few roads, trails, and firebreaks in the Hurtgen, and plotting massive artillery concentrations on the road and trail junctions. With the terrain further constricted, even poorly organized squads could hold out against much larger units, while inflicting heavy casualties on any attacker.
Excerpted from Paschendale with Treebursts
I also have the complete German Order of Battle down to the Company level to include the names of most of the company commanders. (Extracted from the interrogation prisoner of war reports.)
Subject: 22d Inf in Hurtgen 17 Nov 44
17 November 1944
Colonel Lanham believed the 2d Battalion's resupply problems hampered its ability to continue the attack on the 17th. Instead, the Regimental Operations Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Earl Edwards, ordered the 1st Battalion to pass around the left flank of the 2d Battalion and attack along the firebreak that led northeast over Hill 206. The 2nd Battalion was to follow the 1st Battalion.
The Germans reacted violently to the 1st Battalion's advance the morning of November. Heavy barrages of German artillery and mortar fire crashed down as soon as the battalion began to move forward. The fire caused heavy casualties in Baker Company, leading the attack, and killed the 1st Battalion Commander, Major Hubert Drake. Disorganization halted the advance for a few hours until the battalion reorganized and evacuated the casualties to the rear. The 1st Battalion Operations Officer, Captain Clifford Henley, remembered:
"Everything was in a muddle. B Company had about 50 casualties at the top of a slope and it was difficult to hand carry them in litters to the forward aid station 1000 yards away. Communications were also knocked out. We did everything possible to reorganize and push off with the attack as planned."
In the midst of this disorder, Lanham ordered the battalion executive officer, Major George Goforth, to assume command. The only instructions Goforth remembered receiving were that he was not to get in the same foxhole with Captain Henley because of the heavy officer losses.
Just before the advance resumed, four light tanks arrived and started forward with Baker Company. They were good for morale but little else. Two drove over mines and were knocked out and fallen trees prevented the other two from advancing far. German artillery fire constantly pounded the 1st Battalion. The woods close to the firebreaks were thick with anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and there was a continued pattering of sniper fire, but soldiers in the battalion concerned themselves more with the artillery fire than with the mines and small arms fire.
Obviously concerned about the heavy casualties, Lanham stopped the 1st Battalion attack at 1240 and limited the 2d Battalion's attack to the west side of Road X (Weisser Weh, a north south road the 22d had to cross) The 1st Battalion reached its objective on Hill 208 at 1310 hours and began digging in. The distance between the Germans and American was so close that Major Goforth's attempts to pull one company back from the front lines and into reserve failed. After talking with General Barton, the 4th Infantry Division Commander, Lanham ordered the 2d Battalion to continue its attack, and although the attack kicked off at 1500, the White Battalion (code name for 2d) could not cross the road.
In the regiment's rear area, the Germans kept up a heavy artillery fire on all trails and firebreaks, causing breakdowns in wire and radio communications between the regimental headquarters and the forward battalions. The German fire repeatedly cut the telephone wires and destroyed the radios.
The 3d Battalion, in reserve covering the rear against German infiltration, had no direct contact with the enemy, but nevertheless suffered heavy casualties from artillery. The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Teague, the last remaining infantry battalion commander in the division who had landed as a battalion commander on the Normandy beaches, and a large part of his staff became casualties within three minutes of the 1st Battalion Commander's death. The artillery did not let up and later that morning, Major James Kemp, the new 3d Battalion Commander radioed his position was "hot as hell".
Casualties for the day were heavy, especially among the leadership. Not only had the regiment lost two of its three battalion commanders, but company commanders, platoon leaders, and squad leaders fell in alarming numbers. Reported to regiment as killed, wounded and missing were two officers and 104 enlisted men. Actual losses were ten officers and 129 enlisted. The regiment received 148 replacements that night from the 92d Replacement battalion, most of whom had been wounded in the regiment's earlier campaigns and were returning from hospital. They stayed at the regimental service company overnight and went forward to the battalions the next day.
The 22d captured forty-two Germans on 17 November. Many of these captives said they were under orders to fight to the last man. They also reported the American artillery had not caused many casualties, but its amount and duration demoralized them by keeping them in their bunkers and preventing them from getting food or evacuating their wounded.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
If anyone would like information on the German formations the 22d Faced in the Hurtgen, I can also post. The data comes primarily from prisoner of war reports and intellegence analysis. Plus a few German diaries. Gives a much different perspective than what we've read after the war. (I find it similiar to the myth of the South histories published in the 1870-1900)
Subject: 22d Inf in the Hurtgen 18 Nov
22d Infantry in the Hurtgen 18 November 1944
Colonel Lanham planned on the eighteenth to renew the attack to the east. Hoping to mislead the enemy into expecting the attack to continue to the northeast, he had Baker Company plus artillery engage the Germans on Hill 210, while Able and Charlie Companies maneuvered to the east. They crossed both the Weisser Weh Road (Road W) and Stream and reached the high ground 500 yards beyond. The soldiers waded across the knee-deep water, almost all of them getting soaked. In an after action interview conducted with Able Company in December 1944, Private First Class John L. Page, squad leader and later platoon leader 2d platoon, commented,
"I never dried out, and neither did most of the rest of us for the next two weeks. The heavy mud caused most of the boys to throw away their galoshes and the constant rain and sleet made us that much colder and wetter. Not so bad when you keep moving during the day, but not so nice when you sleep with your sopped shoes on in a foxhole which leaks."
The miserable weather certainly affected morale adversely and probably also reduced combat effectiveness.
Lanham's feint was successful. The 1st Battalion suffered few casualties advancing to the high ground. Once there, the companies dug in. Just before dark, a 120mm mortar round struck the Charlie Company command post, wounding Captain Edward W. Martin and most of his headquarters platoon soldiers. To protect the northern flank and main supply route of the regiment, the 3d Battalion moved up and occupied the positions vacated earlier by the 1st Battalion. Although still not in direct enemy contact, the 3d Battalion continued to lose soldiers to enemy shelling. Lieutenant William Cook, Love Company Commander, was wounded as his company occupied positions south of Rabenheck.
Farther south, the 2d Battalion had much more trouble. The Germans, from their positions on the hill east of Road W, watched the advance and, as the assault companies neared the road, placed artillery fire on the entire battalion. The units following the assault companies suffered heavy casualties. The initial losses included Lieutenant Colonel Walker and most of the battalion staff. Then, in quick succession, Major Joseph Samuels, thet forward to assume command.
The 2d Battalion companies had problems crossing Road W. Easy Company encountered an extensive anti-personnel mine field west of the road. While maneuvering around the mine field, the company strayed off course and lost contact with both George Company and the battalion headquarters. Fox Company, the battalion reserve, covered the regiment's southern flank. Heavily hit, the company lost all but one of its officers and many of its soldiers. The German fire shifted to George Company, the right flank assault company, which also sustained heavy casualties. Failing to cross in the south, Lieutenant Twomey moved his company north and crossed the road behind Easy. The soldiers then climbed to the crest of the overlooking hills on the east side and dug in.
When the regiment halted its attack for the day, the 1st Battalion was north of Road X and the 2d Battalion was dug in on Hills 124 and 126 located south of thent to the north and the 12th Infantry Regiment to the south, were each about a mile and a half from the 22d, with only a cavalry troop screening the forest to the north. Three days of fighting had seen less than a square mile of the German defenses overrun and the main supply road for the 22d, (Road W) remained in enemy hands.
The night of 18 November the regiment reported 13 officer and 150 enlisted casualties to division headquarters. Actual battle casualties were 9 officer and 137 enlisted men. The 22d suffered 331 actual battle casualties in the first three days. If one includes non-battle casualties, the total was over 400. The casualties among officers were particularly high. In three days, the 22d had lost to enemy fire all three battalion commanders, a battalion executive officer, almost the entire 2d Battalion staff, large parts of the other two battalion staffs, and many of the company officers. Many of the soldiers felt better being with the assault elements than following. PFC Elton K. Fisher, a rifleman in Able Company, commented, "I'd rather lead with an assault platoon any day than wait and have to wade througurgency in getting the trails open, the attached engineers removed many mines while under artillery fire. As long as the roads were blocked, the path to get supplies in and casualties out followed a line of white engineer tape extending 3000 yards, with nearly the entire route through the woods. During each trip, members of the supply parties climbed two steep slopes and forded two icy streams, one of them chest deep, carrying loads of over 100 pounds each. The soldiers in the battalion support platoons could not keep up with the heavy demand, forcing commanders to take soldiers from the firing line in the rifle companies and replacements to form carrying parties to resupply the forward units.
The first days of combat had been an infantryman's fight. The densely wooded terrain, mud, and slopes restricted the tanks and tank destroyers to the roads, and as long as the roads remained mined, the armor could not move forward to assist the infantry.
On 18 November, the remainder of Charlie Company 4th Engineers joined the one platoon already attached to the 22d; but even with the additional engineers, the mine clearing proceeded slowly. In many places, the engineers found one mine placed on top of another and fitted them with anti-lifting devices. These mixed with artillery fire scattered the working parties.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest, 19 November 1944
Lanham worried about the 22d's forward units becoming isolated. To counter this risk, he directed each battalion establish a 360 degree defensive perimeter and attempted to move a two day supply of food and ammunition up to each battalion position. Higher headquarters also became concerned. At 0700 hours on 19 November, General Barton authorized Lanham to stop the regiment's attack for the day. Knowing time and lives were being lost in the woods, Lanham tried to continue with the advance, but the companies scheduled to lead were too disorganized. By 1200, none of his units had moved for one reason or another and realizing they wouldn't, again talked with General Barton. Barton ordered the attack halted, and the regiment reorganized and resupplied. To ease the supply situation he directed the 22d clear Road W to its northern boundary with the 8th Regiment, and the 12th Infantry to clear the area between it and the 22d.
Although there was no regimental attack on 19 November, fighting continued. Even the regimental command post was not immune from attack. Lieutenant Robert Mitchell, the Regimental Headquarters Commandant, was killed when bypassed Germans attacked the regimental command post. Getting the call for help, King Company attacked the enemy position near the command post, but couldn't destroy it. Item Company attempted to alleviate the supply situation when it cleared Road W to the regiment's northern boundary. The 2d Battalion got a new battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Kenan, who had been the regimental operations officer in Normandy until he was wounded, and Major Blazzard again became the regimental intelligence officer. Infantrymen dug foxholes deeper and hand-carried supplies up to the front lines. The engineers continued clearing mines and repairing the roads and trails.
The forest made it hard to control the maneuvering units, and leaders could not account for all of their soldiers. Although the regiment did not attack on the nineteenth, the regiment continued to suffer heavy casualties from German artillery fire. Losses reported for the day totaled 109. Actual casualties were 14 officers and 72 enlisted. Many of the casualties reported were soldiers killed or wounded in the previous days' fighting and not yet reported
From Paschendale with Treebursts
============================================================================================ Subject: 22d Infantry Hurtgen 20 Nov 44
The 22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 20 November 1944
On the morning of the twentieth, the 1st and 2d Battalions renewed the attack eastward. The 1st quickly advanced 600 yards to a point just west of the junction of Roads X and Y. The soldiers now used a different assault technique from the one they had used attacking across France. The soldiers moved in an open formation about five yards apart, reducing the likelihood that one shell would get more than a one soldier, and rather than stalking snipers or crawling up on machine-guns, the men listened for the whistle of incoming rounds. As one soldier put it, it was, ". . . a grim game of musical chairs, with everyone tensely watching for a possible location to dive while they had one ear cocked to the sound of the shells."
The 2d Battalion again took the majority of the regiment's casualties. The battalion's assault ran head on into a German tank-supported attack beginning at the same time. George Company, located on the exposed southern flank, was caught in the open as it began its advance and was pinned down in a crossfire of German machine guns and snipers in addition to heavy artillery shelling. Every officer and half the enlisted soldiers were killed or wounded. Lieutenant Twomey, who had ably led the company in the first days, was killed. The remnants fell back to the line of departure, too disorganized to continue the attack.
Easy Company, with secure flanks, advanced the 200 yards to its objective. Captain Newcomb discovered George Company officerless and sent one of his officers to take command. Before the end of the day this officer also lay dead, but not before he had collected about twenty-five of the survivors of George Company and reorganized them on their original position. Artillery hit the 2d Battalion command post again and wounded all of the staff officers. Only the Lieutenant Colonel Kenan and a half dozen communications men remained unwounded.
The 2d Battalion was now down to the strength of a company. Fewer than 150 soldiers remained in the front lines along with only six, while King Company continued to engage the bypassed strong point near the regimental command post. Patrols from Love Company combed the rear areas and searched for an enemy artillery observation post thought hidden behind American lines near the bridge. The German artillery fire was too accurate to be unobserved. Toward the end of the day, Lanham sent the remainder of Love to protect the 2d Battalion's southern flank.
The 22d Infantry reported 8 officers and 195 enlisted as casualties for 20 November. Actual casualties were 5 officers and 126 enlisted; a high price to pay for an extremely small gain. That night two hundred and six enlisted and one officer replacement joined the regiment. The regiment was virtually without reserves, unsupported on either flank and dangerously exposed to counterattack. It was becoming standard practice for the Germans to launch counterattacks against both flanks as soon as the 22d's battalions stopped their advance.
The regiment's supply situation by the end of the twentieth remained only partly solved. The engineers opened the firebreak captured by the 1st Battalion to jeep traffic, but shortly thereafter it became almost unusable due to axle deep mud, and mines buried on the shoulders of the break prevented vehicles from bypassing. The regiment's wounded and supplies continued to be hand-carried from the Weisser Weh Creek, now anywhere feam where it was assembled in waist and neck deep icy water. Mines continued to close the main supply route (Road X), and their removal went slowly.
With the access routes to the front blocked, American tanks and anti-tank guns were unable to support the regiment's infantry, who faced enemy tanks not operating under the same restrictions. The Germans armor was being used either singly or in small packets as support weapons for the infantry, and the numerous counterattacks usually were built around one or two tanks or assault guns.
Taken from Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d Inf Hurtgen Forest 21 November 44
On 21 November, General Barton called a pause to the attack to again give time to rectify the logistics and casualty evacuation difficulties, and clear up bypassed German pockets of resistance. He directed the next twenty-four hours be used to consolidate and open adequate supply routes.
There was no change in the front lines, but the 3d Battalion again was involved in clearing operations in the regiment's rear. Near the regimental command post, King Company, supported by tanks and a tank destroyer, attacked and finally eliminated the stubborn enemy strong point which had been holding out for three days. The regiment opened Road X as a supply route when Item Company, reinforced with tanks and tank destroyers, met Company L 8th Infantry on the regiment's northern boundary. The 1st and 2d Battalions remained in place and reorganized their fighting elements. Engineers cleared Road X of mines up to and 200 yards past the bridge over the Weisser Weh.
The 22d listed in its journal 306 casualties for the twenty-first. This figure was the second highest for any day during the entire battle, even though there was no attack. Actual battle casualties were two officers and fifty enlisted. Again, most of those reported on 21 November fell earlier and were not earlier missed. Parties of soldiers scoured the woods for the regiment's dead and wounded. Technician 5th Grade George Morgan, an armor artificer who spent most of his time in the Hurtgen finding bodies commented, "You can't get all the dead because you can't find them, and they stay there to remind the guys advancing as to what might hit them."
Counting the earlier days' casualties, more than 700 men were lost in four and a half days of fighting. These 700 represented more than 40 percent of the regiment's combat strength in the rifle companies. Replacements were arriving for the enlisted, but few officer replacements were available. One hundred and fifty-nine replacements reached the battalions, but only the 3d Battalion returned to near full strength. Lacking almost 300 soldiers and 40 officers, the regiment had significant shortages at the rifle company level. At this point high the casualties in the 1st and 2d Battalions had dramatically reduced the small group cohesion S. L. A. Marshall claims is essential for a unit to fight effectively.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d Inf Hurtgen 22 Nov 44
The 22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 22 November 1944
On 22 November, Colonel Lanham again used deception with good success. He had the 1st Battalion, along with two battalions of artillery, engage the Germans just north of Road X, while the full strength 3d Battalion, with companies in column in the order King, Love, and Item, swung around the 1st Battalion's left flank. The 3d Battalion moved several hundred yards up the Schiefersiefen Creek to the head of the draw, where it turned south and passed behind the enemy facing the 1st Battalion, in the process capturing an anti-aircraft gun and two 88mm anti-tank guns. Although the 3d accomplished this maneuver without ever making serious contact with the enemy, artillery fire killed the King Company Commander, Captain Charles Whaley and caused his company to lose contact with the battalion. Losing control of the leading company made Major Kemp hesitatant about continuing to the road junction, and he moved forward only after being prodded by the regimental commander. When the 3d Battalion reached the junction of Roads V and X 600 yards west of Grosshau, the battalion halted aand established an all-around defensive perimeter. The 1st Battalion feint was not without cost, for the Germans replied to the 1st Battalion fire with a violent artillery barrage and inflicted heavy casualties even though the soldiers remained in their foxholes.
On the southern flank, the badly depleted 2d Battalion advanced the first 600 yards against light opposition. The leading companies, Easy and Fox, faced little resistance until they crossed a road about six hundred past the line of departure. This initial success was probably due to the 1st Battalion's feint and the attack against the town of Hurtgen by the 5th Armored Division two miles farther south. At the face of Hill 119 the companies ran into a series of German dugouts and two dug-in self propelled guns and spent the rest of the day fighting their way through them.
The soldiers in the 2d Battalion not only bordered on exhaustion but, by now, consisted primarily of replacements. Small numbers and an almost complete disruption of normal organization exacerbated this situation. Squad leaders commanded the remnants of platoons. A private in Easy Company led a platoon consisting of six soldiers. Easy Company's weapons platoon was so short of men that Sergeant Picerello, one of the squad leaders, carried the company radio, a 60mm mortar and a bag of ammunition. Lieutenant Lloyd acted not only as platoon leader, but also as radio operator and artillery observer. To compound the problems, just before the attack the battalion received new replacements loaded down with extra equipment and clothing. The 2d Battalion continued to press forward without the small group cohesion SLA Marshall claimed was essential to combat effectiveness.
The 2d Battalion suffered heavy casualties as the attack ground slowly forward throughout the day. Small pockets of resistance repeatedly held up the advance. The shortage of leaders made it hard to get the soldiers off the ground when they came under fire. Casualties were so high the battalion called for "aid jeeps, anything that rolls. Send them directly up to the aid station." Two of the three officers in Fox Company fell during the attack. Easy Company finished the day with twenty-five combat soldiers.
By nightfall Easy and Fox Companies held a line between roads X and Y a mile west of Kleinhau. The remnants of George Company, in echelon to the right rear to protect the regiments southern flank, again encountered enemy tanks sortieing from Kleinhau and did not advance at all. To strengthen his southern flank, Lieutenant Colonel Kenan asked for and received one hundred replacements just arrived from the replacement battalion. He reported that since many of the replacements had seen previous combat with the regiment, he sent them as a group to help cover the southern sector. Later in the evening, Baker Company 1st Battalion, moved in to protect George Company's right flank and take over guarding the regiments southern flank.
The regiment reported 167 casualties to division, but most alarming was the growing number of non-battle casualties (battle fatigue, trench foot, etc.) which had increased to forty-nine for the day. Later recorded battle casualties were two officers and ninety-nine enlisted. But many dead still littered the battlefield.
Because of the cumulative strain of the battle on soldiers, organization, and communications, General Barton slowed down the pace of the attack. He directed the 22d to consolidate its positions on the twenty-third and clear Germans from the rear areas. General Barton also ordered the regiment to seize four key trail and road junctions a short distance from the front lines. He hoped the pause would give the 12th Infantry time to advance on the division right and finally take the enemy pressure off the 22d's long exposed southern flank.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d in Hurtgen 23-24 November 1944
The Twenty Second in the Hurtgen Forest, 23-24 November 1944
The 2d and 3d Battalions moved forward a few hundred yards on the twenty-third and secured the road junctions just in front of them. Road X was partially opened to the 3d Battalion and a platooon of tanks went forward to support the infantry. The Germans shelled the battalions, and the casualties continued to mount. The regimental journal noted 270 casualties for the day. The final report listed 3 officer and 165 enlisted casualties.
November twenty-third was Thanksgiving Day. The soldiers in the front lines ate hot turkey sandwiches--the only hot meal they received during the entire battle. Veterans of Baker Company, when interviewed in December 1944, remembered the radio message informing them turkey was waiting for pick-up at battalion headquarters, "Believing this to be a code word for something else, a small detail was sent out to find out the score." The men of got their turkey but could not eat until later because heavy artillery barrages kept them in their holes.
Four hundred and fifty-three replacements, including thirty-one officers, arrived on 23 and 24 November. They brought the regiment back to near full strength. Most of the replacements went to the 2d Battalion. In a message to General Barton, Lanham said that "White [2d Bn] is looking good now and would soon take out cooks and KPs etc., that White has been using on the line." There remained, however, a shortage of twenty officers and 125 men.
Within the regiment, every battalion had lost its battalion commander and two of the three rifle company commanders and the fighting condition of the battalions varied dramatically. The 1st Battalion consisted of about 50 percent replacements. The 2d Battalion consisted of 70 to 80 percent new replacements, many of whom had never participated in an attack, and remained considerably under strength. The 3d Battalion's casualties were still relatively few, although a heavy toll of leaders had been taken. The battalion was almost at full strength with only about 20 percent replacements in its ranks. Nevertheless, the 3d Battalion was not a fresh unit. Its soldiers had also been living, working, digging, patrolling, skirmishing, and dying for nine days in the Hurtgen Forest.
According to the 3d Battalion Operations Officer, some of the replacements were not up to the task. Recounting one instance when the replacements were moving forward with supplies, he said that,
. . . artillery shells soon began landing where they were and these replacements (a few of these men had been in prison back in the states and had been offered their freedom if they would volunteer to fight), scattered like the wind. It took some time to reassemble them."
On the afternoon of 23 November the division operations officer notified the 22d the offensive would not resume until the twenty-fifth and the units would use the next day to complete their reorganization. Major Goforth, the 1st Battalion Commander, disliked the delay "because it causes battle fatigue." The main supply route opened on 24 November and tanks and tank destroyers were able to travel to the front lines. Colonel Lanham again planned to surprise the Germans. If surprise failed, the success of the attack would depend on the infantry and armor working together. Captain Clifford Henley wrote in his diary, "Still in the woods, hoping to come out tomorrow and run the Krauts crazy with our armor."
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d in the Hurtgen 25 Nov 44
22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 25 November 1944
The 22d's objective on 25 November was Grosshau. Lanham's plan called for a combined attack of the 2d and 3d Battalions to take the village from two directions. The 3d Battalion would cut through the woods to the ridge north of Grosshau and assault the town from that direction, while the 2d Battalion was to make a secondary attack to the edge of the wooods sowthwest of Grosshau. From its new location the battalion could place direct fire on both Grosshau and Kleinhau. Each battalion was give a company of tanks in support. The 1st Battalion was ordered to occupy the 3d Battalion's old position west of Grosshau to cover the regiment's left rear.
Problems began with the supporting attack as soon as the 2d Battalion began its move. The trail so recently constructed by the engineers could not accomodate tanks and an alternate route had to be found. Someone found another trail but it entailed winching the tanks across a large crater, eating up more time. The battalion attacked without the tanks, with Easy on the left and Fox on the right. Resistance was light, but casualties still occurred. Germans bypassed by the assault companies killed the battalion executive officer, Captain Eggleston. The new officers and men made many mistakes which caused unnecessarily high casualties even against the light resistance. By 1030 hours, however, the battalion was at the edge of the woodline, about 600 yards to the southwest of Grosshau.
The 3d Battalion also met little initial opposition as it moved through the woods. King Company was on the left and Love was on the right. The battalion's unexpected attack swept rapidly to the edge of the woods northeast of Grosshau, capturing some Germans and bypassing others who surrendered later. Item Company captured Foresthaus Grosshau. By 0845 hours the battalion was in position along the edge of the woods. All indications received pointed to Grosshau being lightly defended, and Major Kemp assumed a coordinated attack on the village using armor and infantry would capture it quickly.
Unfortunately, getting the armor up through the minefields and mud to the infantry took four hours, delaying the attack until 1330 hours. Then coordination failed when the assault began, and only three tanks and one tank destroyer left the woods with the infantry. As the tanks emerged from the edge of the woods, German anti-tank fire destroyed all three. The tank destroyer pulled back into the woods. Three more tanks 300 yard back in the woods were then destroyed by anti-tank fire. The infantry in Love and King Companies were hit as soon as they left the woods by a massive artillery barrage and forced back. For three hours German artillery rained on the battalikon and artillery bursts cut down almost every tree in the area. The concentrations were so heavy and accurate that at on of the 3d Battalion's positions, eight of eleven scattered foxholes sustained direct hits, and fragments struck the other three. The Item Company Commander, Lieutenant William Lee was wounded. At about 1500 hours, Kemp called off the attack. Although Grosshau did not fall, 101 Germans were captured and two of the 22d's battalions were on the edge of the woods.
That night the regiment reported to the division personnel officer (G1) it had sustained 235 casualties, most from the 3d battalion. More leaders fell on the twenty-fifth than any other day in the battle. Actual casualties, 11 officers, 46 NCOs and 152 other ranks. In one day the Germans had reduced the 3d Battalion to the same condition as the 1st and 2d. The regiment had nothing left.
At this point few if any squads in the regiment had more than one or two soldiers in it who had been together for any length of time. In SLA Marshall's estimate, this lack of cohesive buddy teams should have precluded any further advance, continue it did.
Taken from Paschendale with Treebursts
Eight Days Remaining
Subject: 22d in Hurtgen 25 Nov Cont
Sorry, I left off part of the 25th of November post
22d in the Hurtgen 25 November Continued
When word came down from 4th Division Headquarters to prepare to continue the assault the following day, Lanham told Lieutenant Colonel Delaney he would wait for a direct order from General Barton. Henley wrote the "Men are tired and sleepy and their nerves are about shot. Too much of anything is too much." Lanham, after hearing much the same thing from the 1st Battalion commander, agreed and said,
"The general knows it too, but nothing can be done about it. The general has tried in higher echelons but it's just we or the Krauts . . . There is no relief in sight except in defeating the Krauts."
In his nightly report to the division, Lanham downgraded the efficiency of the regiment from "very good" to "good" because of regiment's continued loss of leaders. That night the regiment received 295 replacements to reload the ranks.
Because of the poor condition of the 22d, General Barton notified Lanham at 2130 hours on 25 November no attack on Grosshau would occur on the twenty-sixth. He also told Lanham to begin considering a night attack to take the village. Barton committed nine battalions of artillery, ranging from 105mm to 240mm (108 pieces of artillery total) plus mortars to shell the Germans in Grosshau. He wanted Lanham's regiment to improve positions and wait for the 12th Infantry Regiment and 5th Armor Division (V Corps) to come on line in the south before trying again.
From Paschendale with treebursts
Subject: 22d Inf in the Hurtgen 26 Nov 44
The 22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 26 November 1944
The regiment's disposition on 26 November looked like a horseshoe with the open end facing Grosshau, 3d Battalion in the north, 1st at the base and 2d in the south. A 500 yard gap, enough room for one company, separated the 2d and 3d Battalions and Lanham wanted the 1st Battalion to conduct a limited attack and straighten the center. So on the morning of the twenty-sixth, Company Charlie, consisting of mostly replacements, one veteran officer and less than a half dozen NCOs, attacked along both sides of Road X towards a point just short of the western edge of Grosshau.
This attack had problems from the outset. German artillery fire landing on the company's line of departure delayed the jump off time. The attack started with one squad leading each of the two assault platoons until the company began to cross an opening in the woods about 150 yards wide. All semblance of the attack formation was lost when artillery started dropping in the clearing. Private Forest Casteel, one of the new replacements commented,
"The artillery was worse that I ever want to see; one hit two feet in front of my hole and broke my rifle butt-plate and ripped my cartridge belt. I saw others who weren't so lucky. It was the first taste of battle for a huge number of us, and I guess that one day of that is worth an entire shift of basic training."
The training the replacements received in the United States had been no preparation for hell they encountered in the Hurtgen Forest.
Continuing to move forward, the soldiers overran a German position of about fifty soldiers and killed about twenty more. The company was both disorganized and smaller when it got to its objective. In position for only an hour, the members of Charlie Company began receiving artillery fire, direct fire from enemy machine gunners who had infiltrated the company's rear, and shells from a Mark IV tank holed up in a building on the edge of Grosshau not more than seventy-five yards away. When it looked like they were in danger of being overrun by German infantry the men beat a hasty retreat to their original line of departure. The company commander, Lieutenant Frederick Sweeny, was the last man out and carried the two remaining wounded men. By the day's end, Charlie Company had an effective strength of approximately twenty officers and men.
The regiment reported to the division personnel officer (G1) 135 soldiers killed, wounded, or missing, but no replacements were available for assignment to the 22d. All of the division's infantry replacements went to either the 8th or 12th Infantry. If there were problems with American organization, as Van Creveld maintains (discussed later in detail in Chapter Four), on the twenty-sixth of November, the 22d should have become ineffective.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d in the Hurtgen 27 Nov 44
22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 27 November 1944
On the twenty-seventh, Lanham again ordered the 1st Battalion to close the gap between the 2d and 3d Battalions. Nothing had changed from the day before. There still was only enough room to commit one company. This time Baker Company received the mission.
Halfway to the objective, Baker Company's attack was stopped by German machine-gun crossfire and artillery when it attempted to cross the open ground. Casualties were heavy with the company losing fifty-four out of seventy-nine soldiers, including the Lieutenant Donald Dickenson, the company commander, and two other officers. Seventeen of the eighteen men in the 1st Platoon were killed or wounded. The 2d Platoon tried to cross the same open ground and received almost the same treatment, with only twelve coming back. The desperate fighting stopped only when a German medic helped carry a wounded American back into the American lines. The company reorganized and tried again with the remaining thirty soldiers.
The advance resumed when Marcario Garcia, a Private First Class squad leader who began the battle as a scout, single handedly destroyed one machinegun holding up his company. After being wounded by another machinegun, he went back into the woods and destroyed it gun also. The army later recognized his bravery with the Medal of Honor. The remaining soldiers of the company moved forward to the neck of woods located just west of Grosshau, and dug in.
With Baker Company battling for its life, Lanham directed the 2d Battalion to attack north against the flank of the resistance holding up the company. Lieutenant Colonel Kenan ordered Easy Company, a quarter of a mile south of Baker Company, to hurry to the assistance of the beleaguered company. Easy's company commander, Captain Donald Faulkner, left his company headquarters and weapons platoon to hold the company's original position, and he and his three rifle platoons, totaling about three officers and forty-five men, ran north to the road. In his diary, he wrote,
"We moved out at the double and down into a stream draw. I thought "this is a natural spot for a mortar concentration," and either the Kraut's had mental telepathy or good observation, for immediately a heavy mortar concentration swished in through the trees, smack dab on top of the command group. My runner, carrier, was injured at my side and Peters was killed next to me. We kept going and came in on the run to a picture of real carnage--arms, equipment, dead and wounded, Jerrys and GIs strewn all through the woods. Blasted trees, gaping shell holes, and the acrid smell and smoke of small arms and mortar fire completed the terr. Company B remnants--2 lieutenants and 15 to 20 enlisted. . . . This was no picnic."
The two companies in this attack totaled about seventy soldiers, less than two full-strength platoons. Although desperately undermanned, they continued to move forward until it became impossible.
It appeared likely Baker and Easy Companies would be counterattacked like Charlie Company had been the day before. Lanham ordered the ground held at all cost. The regiment and battalion headquarters made every effort to get armor and anti-tank guns forward, but the tank and tank destroyer crews were unwilling to move forward because they thought the road was not clear of mines. To prove the road clear, Lieutenant William Jourdan from the regiment's Anti-Tank Company single-handedly drove a halftrack up to the front line pulling an anti-tank gun. Embarrassed by Jourdan, four tanks and two tank destroyers then followed and took their place in the woods. After eleven days in the forest, the 22d had established a continuous front at the edge of the forest facing Grosshau, the regiment's second-day objective.
Although the 1st Battalion had conducted the main attacks on 26 and 27 November, the other two battalions, especially the 3d Battalion in the north, continued to suffer heavy casualties from artillery. Because of the reduced strength in all of his regiments, General Barton shortened the regimental sectors, leaving 22d with a sector only 1200 yards wide.
The 22d's losses were again heavy considering the modest gain. One hundred and fifty-two soldiers were reported killed, wounded or missing on the twenty-seventh. Actual casualties for 26 and 27 November amounted to 13 officers and 239 enlisted, or the equivalent of three of the companies currently fighting in the forest. The division personnel officer (G1) sent 220 replacements to the regiment during the night. Easy Company for the first time moved replacements to the front without suffering a single casualty. The 1st Battalion was not so fortunate and reported almost half of the replacements sent forward during the day as casualties. Captain William Surratt, the Able Company Commander, was evacuated when a 120mm mortar round landed beside his foxhole. By 27 November, more than half the soldiers in the regiment had fallen; in fact almost as many replacements (1640) had arrived as there were soldiers in all the rifle companies at full strength. (1737)
The terrible beating Lanham's soldiers were taking must have weighed heavily on his mind. When the VII Corps Commander, Major General J. Lawton Collins, visited the 22d Command Post on the twenty-seventh, he asked Lanham how many days of fight the regiment had left in it. Lanham replied "About three, if they are very rough days" Later in the day when talking with Colonel Chance of the 12th Infantry, Lanham expressed reservations about his regiment's chances of success in attacking Grosshau:
"We haven't enough stuff to take Hill 90. . . . We are on edge of Grosshau. . . . Don't know how far we will get as enemy is looking down our throats from all angles."
Lanham's comments to General Barton were of the same vein:
Blue [3d Bn] is battered pretty badly. . . . [Lanham] Believe that Blue's effectiveness will cease after an hour and a half--getting shelled too heavily--the town isn't anything. If we get the town we will get beaten to death.
Lanham was clearly attempting to forestall the attack on Grosshau.
The 22d awaited the order to attack Grosshau, but it did not come. However, everyone assumed that when the 12th Infantry came abreast on the left and the 5th Armored Division took Kleinhau, General Barton would order Grosshau taken. North of Grosshau lay a ridgeline dominated by Hill 90, where German units were able to both look down into the 22d's sector and cover Grosshau and its western approaches. From this hill the 1st and 3d Battalions lived under continual observation and fire. Lanham dreaded the order because a crossfire from the village and the hill would decimate any unit attacking Grosshau from the north, just as a crossfire had ripped the 3d Battalion on 25 November.
From Paschendale with Treebursts,
Subject: 22d in Hurtgen 28 Nov 44
22d In the Hurtgen Forest 28 November 1944
Colonel Chance informed Lanham on 27 November his 12th Infantry would take Hill 90 the twenty-eighth. Major Kemp, commanding 3d Battalion 22d Infantry, had the same idea. He knew his battalion would eventually be required to take either Grosshau or the woods east of the village. In the words of his operations officer, Lieutenant George Bridgeman , "He didn't want the Krauts looking right over his left shoulder." Kemp was not aware the 12th was going to take the hill, so, when he sent platoons from Item and King Companies to secure the hill, they met A Company 12th Infantry on the crest. When the platoons attacked the hill, they found the resistance extremely light in comparison to that previously encountered. There was some small arms fire, but the regiment's periodic report states there was "not the accustomed artillery and mortar fire."
In the 1st Battalion sector, preparations continued for the attack on Grosshau. The battalion was close enough to German lines that exchanges of American wounded could take place. Major Goforth told Lanham, "The Krauts in town have orders to stay to the last man." He listed the strength of his companies as: "B Company about 38 enlisted and 3 officers, E Company the same, and Charlie Company, 56." Lanham then told Goforth that there were only twenty-five riflemen in any of the companies not in contact. Later in the day, three soldiers from the Anti-Tank Company rescued five engineers who had walked up the road into Grosshau while clearing mines.
The soldiers of the regiment had been in the forest for twelve days. Their miserable existence consisted of rain dripping through the trees, never-ending mud, never getting dry, never getting warm, no hot food, not enough sleep, and laying at night shivering, wrapped in raincoats in foxholes filled with cold water. The soldiers were becoming enfeebled even without enemy action. Trenchfoot, especially in the Second Battalion, was in the words of the battalion commander "approaching serious proportions." For days on end, the constant artillery fire kept soldiers close to their water filled holes.
Casualties for 28 November were 117, light in comparison to other days. The regiment received nine replacements. Because of the shortage of riflemen, Lanham asked his executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel John F. Ruggles Jr. to check the companies for how many cooks, kps, and supply personel each had.
On the morning of the twenty-eighth, the division commander gave Lanham the authority to "make officers on the spot" from outstanding non-commissioned officers (NCOs). The problem was that by this time there were very few NCOs left to commission.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d Inf in the Hurtgen 30 Nov 44
The 22 Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 30 November
The 22d Regiment's next objective was the wooded area between Grosshau and Gey, the last bit of the Hurtgen Forest before the Roer plain. Lanham ordered the 2d and 3d Battalions to attack northeast to the edge of the woods facing Gey. The 1st Battalion remained the regimental reserve and occupied the 3d Battalion's positions when they moved out. Lanham ordered the 46th Armored Infantry Battalion, attached temporarily to the 22d Infantry, to attack on the right of the 2d Battalion 22d Infantry, toward Hill 401.5. This maneuver would close the gap between the 22d and the 5th Armored Division in Kleinhau. When giving the orders, Lanham said that he did not believe the battalions' missions were difficult.
The morning of 30 November, the 3d Battalion began its advance toward the woodline facing Gey. Love Company was on the left and Item Company was on the right. Fourteen tanks and tank destroyers supported the attack with eight on one flank of the battalion and six on the other. The tanks and tank destroyers on both sides then crossed their fires in front of the advancing infantry. As the 3d Battalion Narrative relates, this was a
". . . rather ticklish maneuver to make--that is to keep the tanks on both sides abreast of the infantry--It is remarkable that only once did one of the tanks get a little behind and accidentally shot four of our men."
The Germans replied to the attack with heavy shelling, but this time focused mainly on the armor.
The attack was successful. When the 3d Battalion reached the edge of the woods just above the east-west stretch of the Gey road, the battalion commanded the open ground south of Gey. At this point, the 1st Battalion moved forward to the position the 3d Battalion had left northeast of Grosshau.
The 2d Battalion's attack ran into much more difficulty. The battalion had to advance over 800 yards of open ground east of Grosshau, enter the woods and continue its attack towards Gey. George Company attacked on the right, Fox Company on the left, while Easy Company remained in reserve in Grosshau. In the words of Lieutenant George Wilson, Fox Company Commander, the first 300 yards reminded him of training exercises conducted in the United States. Then, as Wilson writes, "the sky fell in and we were in hell." From front and flanks the Germans had perfect observation of the assault companies as they moved across the open ground, and kept them under violent and accurate fire with machine guns, 88's, air-bursts, and heavy caliber artillery. Lieutenant Mason observed that the German timed fire was the most perfect he had ever seen, with the shells exploding about thirty or forty feet off the ground. Soldiers moved forward by jumping from one shell hole to another.
When Fox and George Companies reached the edge of the woods, they had between them one officer and less than a hundred men. Wilson pulled the remainder of his company back about 300 yards to a German trench. This move left a net advance for the day of about 500 yards.
During the 2d Battalion's ordeal in the open field, Major Goforth, commander of the 1st Battalion, informed Lanham that Baker Company in Grosshau continued to receive sniper fire from Germans still in the village. Lanham directed the battalion "not to take any more prisoners from Grosshau."
The 46th Armored Infantry Battalion lost 50 percent of its strength trying to reach its line of departure on Hill 401.5. The Germans located on the hill effectively stopped the attack before it started. Instead of assisting the 22d's advance, the units of the 2d Battalion had to swing right to permit the 46th to withdraw. Units became intermingled; George Company's 2d Platoon strayed into the 46th sector and joined a company of the 46th until 3 December when the 22d was relieved.
Losses for the day were heavy. The battalions' reported to regimental headquarters 178 casualties, most of whom had fallen in Fox and George Companies' attack across the open field. Seven replacements arrived to fill the ranks. The personnel shortages in the rifle companies caused Lanham to lower the efficiency of the regiment from "good" to "fair". The battalion commanders now developed their orders in much greater detail because so many leaders were new. Battalion commanders began maneuvering the decimated companies like platoons and the remaining veterans were leading the replacements from the front, increasing their risk of being killed or wounded and ultimately decreasing the units' effectiveness.
The soldiers in the rifle companies now faced a new problem, the shortage of drinking water. Earlier in the battle, soldiers had obtained water from the Weisser Weh Creek. Now they had to find water in small streams and then carry it up to the soldiers on the front lines. Private First Class Fern L. Hartman noted the severity of the crisis and what soldiers did to obtain water:
"We had plenty of rat[ion]s, food and ammunition, but never enough water. We put raincoats over our holes and tried to catch some of the rain and sleet, but invariably a shell would come along and splash some mud into what we had carefully collected."
The use of raincoats to acquire water worked when the soldiers were not moving, but they certainly must have gone without water for long periods when they were attacking.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d Inf in the Hurtgen 1 Dec 44
The 22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 1 December 1944
22d in the Hurtgen Forest 1 December 1944
Given the 2d Battalion's inability to move forward and tie in with the 3d Battalion, the regiment found itself facing in two directions. The 3d Battalion faced north, and the 2d Battalion faced east. A thousand yard gap separated the two battalions. The 1st Battalion, in reserve, faced the gap but was some distance back in the old 3d Battalion area. To close the void between the two battalions, Colonel Lanham ordered the 1st Battalion to tie into the right flank of the 3d and the 2d Battalion to advance to where Fox Company had advanced before pulling back.
The 1st Battalion had a dual mission on 1 December. First, it was to attack southeast across the open ground and then move through the woods to outflank the Germans holding up the 2d Battalion and the neighboring 46th Armored Infantry Battalion. With this first phase accomplished, the 1st Battalion would swing to the left, attack to the northeast, and come abreast the 3d Battalion. Major Goforth planned an artillery and mortar preparation before the 1st Battalion's attack, along with a feint from the 2d Battalion and decoy smoke to the east of the battalion's sector.
The attack started late because, as the battalion reported to regiment, "we had to brief rookie officers." Favorable winds blew some of the smoke across the open ground so that it helped screen the 1st Battalion's movement. The battalion attacked with its companies deployed in column: Charlie Company leading, then Able, and then Baker. One platoon of tanks supported the assault company. Once again, the thick woods prevented the tanks from maneuvering or taking any part in the fighting.
The flank attack evidently surprised the enemy. Charlie Company crossed the field unseen and overran an enemy battalion headquarters. Following Charlie Company, Able Company did not fare as well. By the time the company's turn came to cross the field, the smoke screen had dissapated. Able Company lost 65 percent of its strength crossing the field and the thirty-five remaining soldiers dug in on the left flank of the battalion.
The 1st made its turn to the northeast early and advanced without much opposition to the north edge of the woods, but in the process did not clear the enemy completely from the 2d Battalion's left flank. There, on the right flank of the 3d Battalion, the 1st established a small semicircular perimeter facing north, east, and south.
Despite the success of the 1st Battalion's advance, the 2d Battalion still had to attack to reach its objective which was about 300 yards inside the woods. The heavy casualties the 2d Battalion had suffered over the course of the battle made it difficult to accomplish even small tasks. The errors committed by the replacements caused the casualty rate to keep climbing and accelerated the deterioration of the battalion's combat power.
By 1 December there were very few experienced infantry officers left in the 2d Battalion. Qualified NCOs were just as scarce. Officers from other positions within the regiment as well as fresh replacements attempted to fill the gaps in the rifle companies' leadership. Newly assigned leaders, unfortunately, had little or no time to organize their units or even to learn the situation before they led their soldiers into the attack.
Fox Company had fifty soldiers available for the 1 December assault with most squads consisting of three to five men. There were two leaders in the company, both lieutenants, one the company commander and the other a platoon leader loaned from the battalion heavy weapons company. There were no infantry sergeants left.
The Company Commander, Lieutenant Wilson, gave the lieutenant all the riflemen, and instructed him to move 100 yards to the wood line and hold. Lieutenant Fitzgerald stood up and shouted "come on all you riflemen, let's go." and about thirty followed. This poorly organized group of soldiers reached the edge of the woods without opposition, but instead of holding there continued into the woods, became disoriented, and turned to the south. In a draw outside the battalion sector, Fitzgerald halted the platoon and had the soldiers begin entrenching. Just as they began to dig, a small German unit counterattacked them. Only four of the platoon made it back to the main body of the company.
Wilson had the remainder of his company dig in where they were. Lieutentant Colonel Kenan reported to Lanham that he had been at the Fox Company Command Post, and,
". . . that all that is left of company at present is 2 officers and 12 enlisted, the rest are wounded and lost . . . G Company now has 50 men on left of F Company . . . E Company has 60 men."
The fighting strength of the 2d Battalion consisted of just 124 soldiers, 64 percent of a full strength rifle company.
The 2d Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kenan, sent Captain Faulkner's Easy Company to hold the battalion line, established just inside the edge of the woods, several hundred yards short of the objective.
"Late afternoon got a rush order to go to assistance of Company F who were in a bad counterattack. Sent 1st platoon (14 men under sergeant) over the open field alone. Saw it pinned down under timed fire, mortar fire and MG fire from right flank hills. Wish we had smoke. (9 men got through)"
"Received more news of F being attacked by Jerry and is bad. Now dusk, moved Company at the double long way around through woods and across open. Flushed some Krauts and passed them back down the company line. Wonder where those PWs ended up."
"Lieutenant Mason and self ended up lead scouts just to get there. Found F, Lieutenant Wilson and 15 men left out of 150. Said Lieutenant Fitzgerald was the hero of the day. F Company moved back at midnight. We made too much noise cutting trees for our holes and some replacement shouted "timber". We got a mortar barrage for it and more casualties."
Captain Faulkner and his executive officer acted as scouts to get Easy Company into the battle because the majority of the company was made up of inexperienced replacements.
Lanham probably realized that his regiment was but a very thin shell of its former self, liable to break at any moment. Only eleven tanks and five tank destroyers remained in the two tank and one tank destroyers company attached to the 22d. The regiment suffered 132 reported casualties and received 89 replacements. Fox Company's debacle was another indication of the condition of the regiment. Concerned that the Germans would learn the condition of his regiment when they interrogated the American prisoners captured on 1 December, Lanham worried that a major counterattack would take back what his regiment had gained with blood.
In a conversation with the commanding generals of the 4th Infantry and 5th Armor, Lanham broached the subject of postponing the attack scheduled to continue on 2 December. The 5th Armor commander wanted to continue because "it will be better to attack tomorrow than to sit still and take losses." Although not recorded, the 4th Division commander, General Barton, apparently agreed to attempt to get the corps commander to delay the attack.
Later that night, Lanham called Barton to see if the corps commander had made a decision about the attack. Barton replied that he was waiting for an answer but ordered Lanham to proceed with the plan until he learned otherwise. The general closed by saying, "He is sure S6 [Lanham] can do his part because he has already done the impossible." Later, after Lanham had told him that "in order to do this thing tomorrow he has scraped the bottom of the barrel," Barton replied:
"The outstanding performance since D-Day has been by the 22d Infantry. G6 [General Barton] said that "General Collins told him the 22d Infantry has been fighting a wonderful fight under severe handicaps."
At 2150 hours, Lanham received the message, "The plan of attack as ordered previously will go as ordered."
While Lanham attempted to get his higher headquarters to understand the plight of his regiment, his subordinates tried to tell him the same. The entry in the staff journal prompted by Major Goforth's call telling Lanham that the 1st Battalion was in bad shape was,
"Red [1st Bn] did a wonderful job today and he knows they are in bad shape. S6 [Lanham] said that White [2d Bn] is worse and the people to right [46th AIB] of them are just as bad off. S6 said we are soldiers and we have our orders so we will do our best. S6 said we have 24 to 48 hours more in front of us with one more job to do which is almost done now."
With this message Lanham encouraged the 1st Battalion commander and explained that all battalions were in the same plight. He called on Major Goforth to see the fight through to the end.
With no more riflemen available, Lanham used the soldiers from the Support, Anti-Tank, and Regimental Headquarters Companies to establish a reserve. At 2300 hours 1 December, he reported the following to Barton:
"CT [combat team] 22 is organizing spare parts as follows:
1. Sending as a reserve for the 2d Bn 60 men from AT [anti-tank] Company. AT Company being stripped down to bare necessities for firing their guns.
2. Creating a regt'l reserve from 20 men from Service Company, remains of I & R [Intelligence and Reconnaissance] Platoon (12 men) and remainder of Security Platoon. Total strength estimated to be 40 to 45 men. Regt'l Reserve will move to vicinity Grosshau."
If the infantrymen of the regiment are its blood and they are easily replaced with a transfusion, then the units Lanham formed his reserve from must be considered the backbone, replaceable only with major surgery.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d in the Hurtgen 2 Dec 1944
The 22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 2 December 1944
Colonel Lanham planned on 2 December to send a task force from the 1st and 3d Battalions to clear the front of the 2d Battalion and get the 2d forward to tie in with the 1st. A German counterattack struck before daylight between Baker and Item Companies stopped the maneuver before it started. The Germans attack immediately penetrated to the rear of Item Company and surrounded its command post.
At regimental headquarters, word of the attack arrived at 0650 hours. Initially, Lanham and his operations officer believed the attack presaged attacks against the regiment's other two battalions. When asked the status of the breakthrough, Lanham told Barton,
"The attack was of 250 strength, I Company is dispersed, tanks and K Company have gone to help. G6 [Barton] asked how much we had on line. S6 [Lanham] said only thin line."
For the next three hours, the regiment did everything possible to halt the breakthrough. Germans had retaken Hill 382.5, located northeast of Grosshau, and by 0815 hours, both Majors Goforth and Kemp were reporting Germans approaching their command posts. Lanham told them to hang on and fight, help was on the way.
The 3d Battalion soon turned the enemy attack to its advantage. Now it was the Americans who were in the defensive positions. King and Love Companies sealed both flanks of the penetration and the Germans found their routes for reinforcement and retreat blocked when Major Kemp, the 3d Battalion Commander, called for artillery concentrations between Gey and the woodline. To prevent shooting each other, the two American companies used hand grenades, rifle grenades, and bazookas on the cornered enemy forces. In the ensuing fight, sixty Germans either died or surrendered, with only three of the captured being uninjured.
In the midst of the German counterattack, Lanham's worst fears of a major attack on his regiment seemed about to be realized. One of the tank destroyer units attached to the division reported intercepting a German message announcing a Panzer division moving west into Lanham's sector. Lanham ordered all the roads and tank approaches leading into the regiment's sector mined. The message was incorrect, but it nonetheless added to Lanham's burden.
General Barton now also realized the problems the regiment was having. Barton informed the VII Corps Commander, Collins, of the counterattack in the 22d's sector and recommended that elements of the 83d Division be sent to relieve the 22d immediately. At 0945 hours Barton amplified his earlier statement to the corps commander, explaining that,
". . . he felt that with the number of replacements and the condition of the men in the 22d Inf that there was no further attack left in the 22d; that the noncoms and junior leadership had been completely milked out of them over the long period they had been in the fight; they had attacked until there was no attack left in them; replacements are not lacking in `guts' but they are not trained soldiers as we had before. . . ."
Barton understood that the 22d could not continue its attack because there were no veteran junior leaders left. Although the regiment remained above 75 percent strength, he realized the heart of the regiment was gone. There were few soldiers left in the squads willing to subordinate their personal survival to the regiment's mission. The only thing that kept the units in the regiment from breaking to the rear were the few remaining veteran leaders.
When Lanham next talked to Barton, Lanham was unaware Barton had already decided to relieve the 22d. After Lanham related to Barton the condition of his regiment, Barton replied, "It will be taken care of." In a very brief message, at 1500 hours, Barton communicated to Lanham that, "You will be getting relieved tomorrow. . . . You will go to an assembly area and then . . . take over new positions in the south." During the afternoon of 2 December, some of the soldiers of Item Company believed lost began reappearing. Later in the afternoon the 2d Battalion reached its objective abreast of the 1st Battalion. The Germans had pulled back.
The 22d reported 149 casualties, the majority coming from the 2d and 3d Battalions. The division personnel officer (G1) was able to replace only one third of the casualties.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d in the Hurtgen Forest 3 Dec 44
The 22d Infantry in the Hurtgen Forest 3 December 1944
The regimental headquarters spent the last night in the Hurtgen planning the next day's relief and the move to its new location. Lanham, still concerned about what might happen before relief arrived, directed Captain Henley to remain with the regiment instead of going with the advance party. The journal reflected that, "He considers Captain Henley a symbol of good luck to the Regiment and we have some 20 hours to sweat out."
At 0845 hours 3 December, the 1st Battalion notified regimental headquarters that about 150 Germans were attacking Baker Company, located around a single house on the Gey-Grosshau Road. The German attack hit the company on its flank and began to roll the company position up, taking out one foxhole after another. American and German artillery pounded the open ground, keeping the Americans in their holes and preventing the main body of Germans from reinforcing the twenty-five soldiers who had broken through the American line.
Lieutenant Westman, Baker's Executive Officer, used the headquarters platoon of radio operators, cooks, and other soldiers to help close the breach. Help also came from Able and Charlie Companies. Lieutenant Don A. Warner Jr., the Able Company Commander, arrived with fifteen soldiers from his company, obtained a machinegun from a nearby half-track, and prevented the attack from spreading. Staff Sergeant Louis Pingatore of Charlie Company, meanwhile, took two or three men from each platoon, all brand new replacements, and moved toward the house now occupied by the Germans.
When machinegun fire pinned down his squad, Pingatore employed an expression, or one similar thereto, that non-commissioned officers have used since the Greeks stood before the walls of Troy, "Well men, we can't do a f_____g thing sitting still." With that, the soldiers got up and began firing simultaneously. By 1245 hours, the 1st Battalion had regained the lost ground.
This attack, although serious, did not hinder the completion of the relief. Neither did a German attack by about thirty aircraft that flew up and down the 4th Division sector machine gunning the roads, but causing few casualties. The 330th Infantry (83rd Infantry Division) took over the sector and the 22d withdrew and reported its last seventy-six losses.
Later, on 4 December, when the regiment was at its new location in Luxembourg and headcounts of each company were made, another eighty casualties were reported, with most of the casualties listed as either killed or missing in action.
This last segment concludes the narrative account of the 22d's ordeal in the Hurtgen. I welcome any comments.
From Paschendale with Treebursts
Subject: 22d Hurtgen Epilogue
When the 22d Regiment pulled out of the Hurtgen Forest, it was posted to Luxembourg, where on 16 December 1944, even in its reduced state, it played a major part in containing the German Counter-offensive in the Ardennes. In February 1945, the Regiment again crossed into Germany, breaching the Siegfried Line at the same location the 22d breached on 13 September 1944. After seizing Pr|m in February, and Hillesheim in early March, the Regiment was given its first two week rest away from the front line. It was the only extended period in which the regiment was able to rest during the war. Back in combat in April, the 22d participated in the pursuit across Germany, crossing the Isar River at Miesbach and ended the war on occupation duty north of N|rnberg.
In the eleven months and two days of combat the 22d Regiment suffered 9359 battle casualties; killed and wounded. Non-battle casualties were also high. The 4th Infantry Division reported 13,091 as non-battle casualties. Although no records listing non-battle casualties by regiment have been found, a proportional share of 4,000 would make the Regiment's total casualties more than 13,000 for the eleven month period. If we assume a replacement for each casualty, this means that a total of over 16,000 soldiers served with the regiment in action; and 81 percent, regardless of time in the unit, became casualties of one sort or another.
What became of the participants in the battle? Major General Barton, (G6) was relieved of command of the 4th Infantry Division on 27 December and Brigadier General Blakeney, the Division Artillery Commander, assumed command. Colonel Lanham (S6), was promoted to Brigadier General and became the Assistant Division Commander for the 104th Infantry Division. The Regiment's XO during the Hurtgen, Lieutenant Colonel Ruggles became the Regimental Commander and remained so until the Regiment was deactivated. Lieutenant Colonel Edwards, the Regimental S3, remained in that position the remainder of the war and was the last soldier in the regiment. On the Regiment's deactivation, he turned the 22d's cased colors in for storage. Major Blazzard, the Regimental S2, when offered a choice between battalion command and a trip home, chose the trip home. Lieutenant Colonel Teague (Blue6), the 3d Battalion Commander who was wounded on 17 November, came back to the Regiment as the Executive Officer (S5).
The Regiment's three battalion commanders at the end of the war were products of the 22d; all having landed on 6 June as captains with the organization. Major Goforth (Red6) was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and remained the commander of the 1st Battalion. When Lieutenant Colonel Kenan, the 2d Battalion Commander was relieved in February, Captain Henly, now a major became the 2d Battalion Commander. Major Kemp, the 3d Battalion Commandr, remained the battalion commander, and ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel. Captain Newcomb, who entered the Hurtgen as the E Company Commander and became the White5 when Major Samuels was wounded, was killed in February 1945 while again commanding a company. Captain Harrison, who became the Blue5 on 17 November, remained the 3d Battalion Executive Officer, and ended the war as a major.
The 22d Infantry entered the Hurtgen Forest expecting a low cost success. Instead, the Regiment fought its way through the woods virtually unsupported in a battle of attrition against elements of four German Divisions. Although the 22d suffered more casualties than any other regiment in the Hurtgen it lost no ground that it did not immediately recover. The last days of the battle saw fresh German battalions breaking thorough decimated companies of the 22d, only to be cut off, killed or captured by other equally attrited companies rushed into the breach.
The soldiers of the Regiment did not quit, but at the end there was no attack left in the Regiment. The loss of junior leaders was too great. The soul of the regiment had been ripped out. The evidence suggests that the regiment kept fighting as long as there were soldiers in it who had trained together in the United States, or had had significant previous combat experience in the regiment. The regiment remained above 75 percent strength, but when all its veterans became casualties its effectiveness was dramatically reduced. As long as there were veterans around whom the replacements could coalesce the regiment moved forward. The loss of these small unit leaders quite possibly dealt a more deadly blow to the regiment's ability to attack than did the loss of every rifle company and battalion commander.
The Regiment without doubt lived up to its motto Deeds, Not Words.
Thus the epic of the 22d in the Hurtgen comes to an end.
I welcome any comments
============================================================================================= Subject: 22d Hurtgen Conclusion
The 22d in the Hurtgen Forest -- THE AFTERMATH
On 16 November 1944 the 22d Infantry attacked into the Hurtgen Forest, not to come out until 3 December. During that eighteen-day period, the regiment lost 2774 soldiers, or 87 percent of its assigned strength. With the turnover in the rifle companies, and the accompanying loss of cohesion at the small unit level, the Regiment's ability to continue came to rest on the organizational structure and its leadership. Only veteran leadership could keep a unit from disintegrating after having suffered such terrible casualties. When front-line leaders became casualties, other veterans moved into these positions. When squad cohesion disappeared, the only thing remaining for a soldier was the framework of his company and regiment. David Rothbart, the Assignment Sergeant for the Regiment, put it best when he wrote,
"It is becoming apparent that what makes this a good division is the little turnover of personnel in artillery, communication, heavy weapons teams and other supporting units; also, there are always just enough experienced men in the rifle companies to enable them to function effectively, and perhaps most important of all is the able leadership from battalion commanders on up."
As the battle progressed, battalions shrank to the size of companies, companies to that of platoons, and squads existed in name only, and the veterans disappeared. The last days of the battle saw replacements with three day's experience in the unit leading replacements with one, and the Regiment could no longer continue. The 22d was but a remnant of its former self. Many companies had fewer than ten of the original 165 soldiers present for the initial attack answer the roll call on 4 December.
The Regiment had fought and defeated in turn elements of twenty-five German units, ranging in size from regiment to battalion. There are no existing casualty figures for the German units, outside of those captured, but it must be assumed that the German casualties were at least as high if not higher than the 22d's. German companies suffered the same fate as the 22d's, but lacked the ability to regenerate and were burned in the flame of the Hurtgen. When the German organization broke, rather than retreat, the soldiers surrendered.
Most of the soldiers, officers and enlisted, were bitter about their experience in the Hurtgen. Technician 5th Grade George Morgan, an armorer-artificer who spent most of his time in the Hurtgen Forest collecting bodies, was most poignant when he said,
" You can't get protection. You can't see. You can't get fields of fire. The trees are slashed like a scythe by artillery. Everything is tangled. You can scarcely walk. Everybody is cold and wet, and the mixture of cold rain and sleet keeps falling. They jump off again and soon there is only a handful of the old men left."
In a letter to Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway's biographer, Colonel Lanham wrote,
"At this time my mental anguish was beyond description. My magnificent command had virtually ceased to exist. . . . These men had accomplished miracles . . . my admiration and respect for them was . . . transcendental.
" Chaplain Boice wrote,
"Perhaps in the final analysis, the sacrifice demanded in Hurtgen will be deemed worthwhile; we wouldn't know that. . . . We are only the men who fought the battles, . . ., who lay in the slime and mud night after night, . . ., who did not come out of a foxhole long enough to eat Thanksgiving dinner, for life was more precious than food. . . . A part of us died in the forest, and there is a part of our mind and heart and soul left there."
Captain Faulkner, the company commander whose company seized Grosshau in house to house fighting, recorded in his diary,
"Company E had 79 men and 6 officers before Grosshau (when he took command of the company), received about 160 new men and now only a little over 80 with 3 officers are going back. It had better be worth it."
The last commander of F Company, George Wilson, wrote in his book If You Survive,
"The objective lay only four and a half miles away, but it took eighteen terrible days to reach [it]." After he had listed the casualties for the regiment and his company he continued, "It was an awful beating--a terrible price for that damned patch of ground."
Lastly, Ernest Hemingway in his novel Across the River and Into the Trees, in which he tied in his experience with the 22d Infantry in the Hurtgen, wrote,
"Well anyway this regiment was rebuilt as American regiments always are by the replacement system . . . It boils down, or distills, to the fact you stay in until you are hit badly or killed or go crazy and get section-eighted. . . . "
"We got a certain amount of replacements but I can remember thinking that it would be simpler, and more effective, to shoot them in the area where they detrucked, than to have to try to bring them back from where they would be killed and bury them. . . "
The soldiers of the 22d knew they had been roughly handled. Many did not believe the ground seized was worth the near-destruction of their regiment. The 22d Regiment paid 2714 casualties for one village and six thousand yards of forest. The combination of dark forest, miserable weather, and incessant, inescapable artillery fire embedded forever the battle in the psyche of the soldiers who fought it.
But there was a benefit to the American's fight in the Hurtgen, although one not intended. It served as a spoiling attack against the German buildup for the Ardennes Campaign and constituted a threat against the northern flank of the 6th SS Panzer Army, weakening the army from the beginning. General G. V. von Gersdorff, Chief of Staff of the 7th German Army both in the Hurtgen and during the Ardennes Campaign, wrote about the impact the Battle in the Hurtgen Forest had on the upcoming German Ardennes Counter-Offensive,
"In my opinion this was one of the primary reasons for the failure of the offensive by the German right wing. A Hurtgen forest clear of enemy forces and under German control would have enabled us to start the offensive with a quite different impetus. Being intended as the center of gravity in the Ardennes Offensive the 'Hurtgenwald' evidently was one of the decisive factors leading to the failure of this operation."
So the effort in the Hurtgenwald was not without reward, for the fight around Hurtgen, Kleinhau and Grosshau possibly changed the outcome in the Ardennes by presenting a strong northern shoulder against which the 6th SS Panzer Army broke, thus enabling the Americans early in the battle to deny the quick approaches to the Meuse River. Had the American effort bypassed the Hurtgen Forest to the north in November, the forest would have served both as the hinge on which the German Counteroffensive would pivot in December and as a natural shield through which the American divisions would have to fight to hold the flank.
Robert S. Rush, Paschendale with treebursts
Subject: 50TH: HUERTGEN FOREST CONTINUED
From: JOHN AUSLAND
It took only a couple of days after the 4th launched its attack for us to understand that we were up against a determined and skillful defense. During a brief pause, I wrote a short letter home. Here it is, along with excerpts from LETTERS HOME that may give you a little idea of how the fighting went. (This is based on my recollections, reinforced by research in official records at the National Archives.)
Dear Folks, Somewhere in Germany, November 20, 1944
All goes well. Read your newspapers.
I imagine the purpose of this letter was to let my family know that I was still alive, since they would have been reading in the press about the fighting.
Before we got to the Huertgen, Lt. Col. Cyril J. Letzelter had replaced Jack Meyer as Commander of the First Battalion. He had commanded it for a short while in Normandy but was wounded. Although a likable person, other officers I have talked to while writing this book have agreed there was something lacking. In the Huertgen, he would return at night to the battalion's rear command post. Capt. Ralph Thomas, the battalion S-3, and I would plan the next day's attack. He would prepare orders to the company commanders, and I would arrange any artillery preparation. Early in the morning Letzelter would return to our forward command post, and the attack would begin. If the companies ran into trouble during the day, their commanders would get together and decide how to deal with it.
One day an awkward situation arose, when regiment decided to have tanks attack along a road. The tank commander was clearly unenthusiastic about moving through the forest, since the Germans had anti-tank guns and the hand held panzer faust. About the same time as the tank commander showed up, so did Col. Richard G. McKee, who had replaced Col. Rodwell as commander of the 8th Regiment. The tank commander put increasingly difficult questions to Letzelter, which he had difficulty answering. Finally, Col. McKee intervened and the tanks set off down the road. A short time later a commander of one of the tanks showed up, sobbing. A German shell had hit the tank, and his best friend had had his face blown off.
There was another pause, and the Germans took advantage of it to move reinforcements into the forest opposite us. At this point, however, Col. McKee ordered the Second Battalion to make a big demonstration, with artillery, smoke, and the lot. It then remained in place, while the First Battalion moved forward with no artillery or mortar preparation. This worked well. The Germans fired their artillery and mortars at the demonstrating battalion, which remained in covered dugouts. The First moved forward without resistance until it reached the regimental objective, a monastery in the forest at Gut Schwarzenbroich. There, however, it ran into German resistance. (It was during this action that Corp. James R. Flannigan earned his DSC, but more on this later.)
On November 25, eight days after the attack began, General Barton ordered the 8th and 22nd to consolidate, while the 12th moved between them. This gave each regiment a more reasonable front to cover. It was, however, too late. All the units had suffered so many casualties, particularly in company officers, that they were hollow shells. Joe Gude's C Company for example, had only forty-four men. Before replacements could get to where he was, many were wounded or killed by artillery or mortar fire. END
Copyright 1993, John C. Ausland