Battle of Hurtgen Forest file photo

Battle of Hürtgen Forest

19 Sep 1944 - 10 Feb 1945

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Located at the border of Germany and Belgium, the Hürtgen Forest was a wooded area 50 square miles wide that provided another possible corridor for the Allies to thrust into Germany. Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges' First Army, charged with taking the densely wooded terrain, quickly saw the advance becoming a standstill as the American material advantage were taken away by the fierce shelling from well defended German positions. "The enemy had all the advantages of strong defensive country, and the attacking Americans had to depend almost exclusive upon infantry weapons because of the thickness of the forest", said Dwight Eisenhower.

After nearly a month of fighting, the Americans suffered 4,500 casualties after pushing only a few kilometers into the forest. Had the Americans advanced further, the German defenders also had the option of opening the dams nearby and flood the entire forest. Meanwhile, elements of Hodges' army besieged the city of Aachen a short distance north of the forest; Aachen became the first large German city to fall under Allied control when it fell on 21 Oct 1944. Instead of enveloping Hürtgen Forest and move the bulk of his forces eastwards into the heart of Germany, Hodges decided to eliminate the German forces in the forest to secure his southern flank.

Early in Nov, the Allies launched a new offensive into the forest. The elements of the First Army encountered exploding trees, a technique deployed by the German defenders where shells exploded 80 to 100 feet above the ground, and the explosion at the treetops sent a rain of shrapnel and wood splinters of wood down at the American troops who uselessly proned at the first sound of explosion. The American troops, however, quickly learned to "hug a tree" in which they stood flat against large tree trunks to minimize body area exposed upwards. Replacement troops flowed into the forest constantly, but not at a rate that replaced the mounting number of casualties; many units had over 100% casualty rate with the fierce fighting. "It was brutal," said Jacob Pennegar, an Army private who went into the forest as a replacement.

"You'd look around, you couldn't see far because the forest was so dark. But you could make out medics scurrying around. Sometimes you'd hear the wounded yelling for a medic. Sometimes you'd hear their buddies. If it was their buddies, there wasn't much need for a medic."

The Germans also booby trapped a three-mile wide zone in the forest with mines planted every eight paces to slow any possible American advance. To top it all off, on top of potential death delivered by shelling and mines, German snipers dotted the forest, taking out unsuspecting American soldiers who became lost in the directionless snow-covered landscape.

The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was the longest battle the Americans had ever fought in the history of the United States military. The American forces suffered 33,000 casualties (though 9,000 of which were attributed to non-combat causes such as illness and friendly fire), while the Germans suffered 28,000 casualty (12,000 of them died). Despite the eventual American victory achieved with the "Yankee doggedness" as described by Eisenhower, many historians argue that the lives spent at Hürtgen was in vain for that the forest was of little strategic value. While the American troops fought the extended battle, dams on the Roer River remained under German control.

"One way or another, they got you. You froze to death or you got sick or you got blown to bits." Said Leonard Lomell, an Army lieutenant and a survivor of Hürtgen.

Sources: Brutal Battle in the Forest, Crusade in Europe, University of San Diego History Department, Wikipedia.

Also spelled Hurtgen Forest or Huertgen Forest.

Photographs

Browning M1919 machine gun crew of 2nd Battalion, US 26th Infantry in the streets of Aachen, Germany, 15 Oct 1944German prisoners marched through Aachen, circa late Oct 1944US Army Sergeant Joseph H. Kadlec delivering Christmas packages sent from home, near Aachen, Germany, 14 Nov 1944M3 Half-track vehicle of 16th Infantry Regiment, US 1st Infantry Division moving through a muddy road in the Hürtgen Forest, Germany, 15 Feb 1945
See all 5 photographs of Battle of Hürtgen Forest



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. frenchie* says:
    23 Apr 2006 11:15:54 AM

    well written, very informative
  2. Barbara Pisarro says:
    6 Jul 2006 12:20:15 PM

    My father was a survivor of the Battle of Huertgen Forest. Is there any way of finding out how many survivors of the battle are still living?
  3. Anonymous says:
    20 May 2007 06:12:37 PM

    Hello, my father was wounded and taken prisoner on Nov. 9 - 44, as documened in the Hurtgen along with 7 other men from his unit, (from a town of 8000 in western pa28th inf, 112th div.) One waS later confirmed dead. What I am confused about is that on the papers we have ( he died in 1991),he was listed as a prisoner of stalag 5. I have been on here trying to research a stalag 5, without much luck. My sisters and I do have Christmas cards (from 4546?) and such from fellow prisoners (One from the Polish doctor who was allowed to care for him, a fellow prisoner, telling Dad not to send money as he would not get it.. that things werent great, but he was confident they would get better... another from a fellow prisoner who said Turkey this year for Christmas, not grass soup.. I am so sorry I didnt ask, but I know he wouldnt have told me.. I have three sisters and I think he didnt want us to ever know what and how bad it was. Can anybody out there give me insight into Stalag 5 and where it was located? My sister has Dads postcard to his mother and dad, (liberation) saying basically Boy, they came in here last night and what a time we had... you have never seen so many happy guys...! I can only imagine..
  4. Big S says:
    24 Mar 2008 05:26:22 PM

    extremely great job. the battle of hurtgen forest was a really brutal fight. I can't imagine being an American soldier during that battle.
  5. Anonymous says:
    3 Jun 2008 01:30:13 PM

    i am a naturalized american citizen of german origin and used to live in aachen. i am very familiar with the eiffel and huertgen forest. we drove through the area, (while visiting my old friends), about seven years ago. it's a beautiful area. ---- while living in aachen as a young girl we often visited the eiffel. we found fortified bunkers with openings for machine guns and large concrete boulders used as fortification against foreign tanks.
  6. Bart van der Sterren says:
    11 Nov 2008 10:29:49 AM

    In September 2008 I adopted the name of an US soldier who is missing since 17 November 1944. His name is etched on the “Wall off the Missing” at the military cemetery in Margraten in the Netherlands . His name is CLIFFE H WOLFE. He was born in Michigan Wayne County. His service number is 36506694 and he served in the 109 INF 28 DIV reaching the rank of Technical Sergeant. He probably died in the battle of the Hurtgen Forest. People around here still consider it to be an honour to remember the fallen U.S. soldiers. For me it is the least I can do to show my gratitude and respect for what so many young men from far over the ocean did for us more than 60 years ago. The adoption of a name on the “Wall of the Missing” means visiting the cemetery on a frequent basis, placing of flowers on special days or occasions (like e.g. Memorial Day or Christmas) and when relatives wish to do so and corresponding with the homeland. I just started my search for relatives in the US of this soldier so I could sent them pictures of the cemetery and let them know that he is not forgotten.

    I hope you can help me and that you can tell me where I can get more information. Bart van der Sterren

  7. Anonymous says:
    18 Dec 2008 06:05:14 AM

    I SAW THE BATTLE ON FILM, BUT THE FILM DID NOT DESCRIBE IN DETAIL THE HORROR SO APTLY PUT BY THE STORY I JUST READ. THE AMERICANS WERE VERY BRAVE.
  8. Cathryn says:
    10 Jun 2009 04:07:56 PM

    My father was captured in January 1945 outside of Strasbourg. He was imprisoned at a slave labor camp before being moved to Stalog 5A, which is located just south of Ludwigsburg, Germany. Things were pretty bad in this camp, but an improvement from the other camp. As the allies approached, these soldiers were forced to take part in a death march across southern Germany.
  9. Erik says:
    28 Jun 2009 01:27:05 PM

    Hi Cathryn,

    My Grandfather was imprisoned in Stalag 5A from December '44 until April '45. He was left for dead, so I don't think he had to join the death march. After the war he returned to Holland, but he has been an old and grumpy man for the rest of his life. He died in 1991. Do you know if there are pictures from this camp?
  10. Nancy says:
    25 Mar 2010 06:13:19 PM

    My father is 88 and a survivor of this battle. He was in Company F, 18th Infantry. Would there be anyone else from this unit still living?
  11. J says:
    23 Apr 2010 11:32:57 AM

    Nancy,

    My grandfather was in Company F, 18th Infantry. Unfortunately he died in 2008 at age 87. He was wounded in battle Nov. 27, 1944 while carrying a wounded soldier over his shoulder. His name was Morris Davidson.
  12. Scorpio says:
    26 Jun 2010 12:40:55 PM

    Check out my website: http://www.huertgenforest.be/
  13. Patti says:
    27 Jul 2010 11:01:58 AM

    My dad was shot in the Hurtgen Forest. He will be 94 in September. Pray always for our soldiers.
  14. Gary says:
    18 Oct 2010 03:34:56 PM

    My Father was wounded in this battle by a shell burst in a tree. He was with the 1st Division 16 inf 2nd bn Co.E he is 86 now.
  15. Anonymous says:
    3 Dec 2010 08:26:33 AM

    My uncle, staff sgt. Warren Willis Hunter was in the Hurtgen Forest war. He was only 19 years old and was killed Nov. 10 1944. He was from Welty,Okfuskgee county,Oklahoma. Is it possible there's someone out there, that's still alive who knew him or served with him in the battle?
  16. Chris says:
    30 Dec 2010 07:13:42 AM

    I am researching 1st Lt. Paul Ramsey, Co F, 26 Inf Div (Yankee Division). Captured Sept 1944. (Forward Artillary observer). Any information would be appreciated regarding this hero.
  17. 9th ID Friend says:
    16 Jan 2011 09:46:49 AM

    Dear Mr. Chen, please update the date of your article to reflect what most professional researchers agree was the actual START of the Huertgen Forest campaign, SEPTEMBER 14, 1944. The Breaching of The Siegfried Line is widely acknowledged as the beginning of the bloody battle. Please update your info. Thanks so much.
  18. Nancy Johnson Koper says:
    6 Mar 2011 06:08:07 AM

    My father is a veteran of the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, and, before it, of fighting in France, a week or so after D-Day. He was taken prisoner in the fall of 1944 and was in one (or two)Stalags in Germany. One of them was north of Berlin. I'm very proud of him and of all the other servicemen who served and fought so hard in that battle.
  19. brad matthiesen says:
    23 May 2011 02:55:48 PM

    My uncle. Donald matthiesen, died on November 2, 1944 in the battle of Hurtgen forest. How can I find out more information about him and his involvement in the battle?
  20. Rod Hoel says:
    30 May 2011 01:27:32 PM

    My uncle was a medic and wounded severely. He had nightmares all his life but refused to talk about his time there. I recently found a typed letter describing his time there. He wrote of another medic named Anton, My uncle was 30 years old at the time & the troops called him Pops, His name was Stanley Howe born in Mn but spent most of his life near Chicago. Any info would be appreciated.
  21. Alan Klees says:
    30 Jul 2011 10:31:58 PM

    My uncle Alfred Klees, born in Germany near Koln, was at this battle, survived and was wounded in the Battle Of The Bulge. If any living survivors knew my uncle Alfred, please contact me. arcumenicus@gmail.com
  22. Seinsche, Klaus says:
    30 Sep 2011 11:21:17 AM

    Guten Tag! Leider spreche ich nur wenig Englisch. Zur Übermittlung von Informationen stehe ich gern zur Verfügung.
    mfG.
    Klaus Seinsche
  23. JSC says:
    1 Nov 2011 04:29:41 PM

    My great uncle PFC Jack F. Cooper was killed on Hill 400. He was was from Alabama and was with the 4th Infantry 22 Division.
  24. Carl Hudson says:
    3 Dec 2011 05:00:39 PM

    My uncle, PFC Clyde Hudson was killed in action in the battle of Hurtgen forest Nov 1944. He with 2nd plt company B 8th inf. This is ingraved on his grave marker.I can't seem to find out anyother info on this unit.If anyone has information about the unit please email me. Thanks, Carl
  25. C Neeley says:
    17 Dec 2011 01:51:57 PM

    My brother...yes brother(I was only 2)was wounded in Hurtgen Forest and died 2 days later (Nov 27, 1944). He was one of Rudder's Rangers. I found the book "The Battalion" by Col. Robert W. Black (himself a Ranger)on Amazon and my brothers name (Keith Bragg) is mentioned in the book on page 201 when he was wounded. Glad I found this book. It goes into quite a bit of detail about Hurtgen Forest battle...more than I ever knew. By reading this book I found out exactly where he as wounded. Only wish you could find any of the men still living, but I doubt it as most of them would be their 80's and 90's, if still alive.
  26. Don says:
    13 Aug 2012 04:17:45 AM

    When I was a kid I would often see my dad taking a nap on the living room couch. I always thought it was funny how he would wake up springing into action, usually with a shout, sometimes a scream. He was in the 42nd Rainbow Div. one of two to service in his unit.
  27. Jerry Nelson says:
    12 Sep 2012 07:40:15 PM

    I've watched and read American war history for over 40 years and have never heard of The Battle of Hurtgen Forest! The longest battle in our history.
    I wonder if it's a military secret?
  28. Brian J says:
    16 Sep 2012 10:55:18 AM

    My Grandpa Lyma's brother Wayne Charles (still living in his 90's) was in the battle of Hurtgen forest. Mr. Wayne Charles Never talked about it to anyone, even family. Surprizingly he agreed to do an interview with my daughter's High School History Class assignment in 2004.
    He said he wanted to finally do it. I went along with my daughter with a tape recorder.
    The stories were extremely real and horrifing (even tamed down I'm sure for my teenager interviewer daughter ). Even some 60 years later the pain was still strong; Mr. Wayne Charels broke down several times during the interview but soldiered thru it. I wish a professional interview could be conducted, worthy of such a great hero, Mr. Wayne Charles
  29. Dave says:
    16 Nov 2012 09:09:36 PM

    ( In Reply to:)
    Anonymous says:
    20 May 2007 06:12:37 PM

    Hello, my father was wounded and taken prisoner on Nov. 9 - 44, as documened in the Hurtgen along with 7 other men from his unit, (from a town of 8000 in western pa28th inf, 112th div.) One waS later confirmed dead. What I am confused about is that on the papers we have ( he died in 1991),he was listed as a prisoner of stalag 5. I have been on here trying to research a stalag 5, without much luck. My sisters and I do have Christmas cards (from 4546?) and such from fellow prisoners (One from the Polish doctor who was allowed to care for him, a fellow prisoner, telling Dad not to send money as he would not get it.. that things werent great, but he was confident they would get better... another from a fellow prisoner who said Turkey this year for Christmas, not grass soup.. I am so sorry I didnt ask, but I know he wouldnt have told me.. I have three sisters and I think he didnt want us to ever know what and how bad it was. Can anybody out there give me insight into Stalag 5 and where it was located? My sister has Dads postcard to his mother and dad, (liberation) saying basically Boy, they came in here last night and what a time we had... you have never seen so many happy guys...! I can only imagine..

    The "Stalag 5" your looking for is known as "Stalag V-A" It was located on the southern outskirts of Ludwigsburg, Germany. It was open from 1939 - 1945. The camp is evacuated on the evening of Easter, April 1, 1945. Prisoners detained at the camp, at the time of evacuation, take part in a forced march across southern Germany.
    You could find more information from this memorial Website: http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/ww2/pow/stalag5a.php
  30. Vic says:
    2 Apr 2013 03:45:15 PM

    Hi. In reply to anonymous and Cathryn.

    Does anyone have any photos of Stalag V-A that they have come across in the last few years since posting this? I also am looking as my uncle, 44th Inf Div, was a prisoner there captured Jan 1, 1945. I am looking for a website also I came across several years ago that had some photos I think taken by British troops.
  31. Anonymous says:
    6 Apr 2013 08:15:13 PM

    I'm looking for any info about Lt. Col James E. Casey, My father. He was a battalion commander but I don't know any details.
  32. Anonymous says:
    18 Jun 2013 12:48:54 AM

    My father was with the 121 infantry reg.8th div that took the town of hurtgen.He shared memories of the shell bursts,the mud and freezing cold.They would blow a hole in the first house and work their way.The germans would be upstairs and they would be below.Bodies everywhere.When I asked him about his worst experience of the war,he would put it in two words "The Hurtgen"
  33. Marc Dolce says:
    19 Feb 2014 10:41:49 AM

    My Grandfather (Paul Dolce)fought during this battle. He was wounded and received the purple heart. He passed away when I was only 6. My Father told me stories that were passed down from my Grandfather. I still even have the Western Union telegram that my Grandmother received in 1945 when he was wounded. reading this article really helped me put the pieces together of what he and many others went through...thank you
  34. Kathy Handy says:
    4 Aug 2014 05:22:31 PM

    My father, Richard Haines, was also with the 121st Army Infantry Regiment 8th Division, Gray Bonnets. He entered Huertgen on Nov. 29, taking the place of a guard who had been shot -- the guard turned out to be the son of a doctor in the town my dad was from in Schenectady, NY. It was also the first birthday of his second-born daughter at home. He made it through and eventually helped to free prisoners in a death camp known as Wobbelin -- I believe with the 82nd who got most of the credit, with the 8th getting co-credit in 1988-89. Anyone with any information on this Huertgen Forest journey -- please share. These soldiers did a mighty job, and we never want to forget.
  35. Anonymous says:
    4 Aug 2014 05:24:25 PM

    Sargent Storey was a man from my dad's (Richard Haines) 121st Infantry 8th Division who was killed and who my father admired. He had a picture of him that he treasured. If anyone knows of a Sgt. Storey, I'd appreciate any additional information.
  36. Jody says:
    23 Aug 2014 06:11:21 PM

    My uncle, James William Bumgardner, died on Dec. 5, 1944 during the Hurtgen Forest battle. Wonder if anyone knew him. He previously drilled soldiers in Kentucky.
  37. R.G. Manini Sr. says:
    24 Aug 2014 10:06:47 AM

    My Uncle, PFC Elio T. Manini, "F" Company,26th Inf. Reg. 1st Inf. Div. was KIA on 11/26/1944, during the Battle of Hurtgen Forrest. Does any one, who was in this battle, know or remember him. He was awarded the Silver Star for action in this battle...

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Battle of Hürtgen Forest Photo Gallery
Browning M1919 machine gun crew of 2nd Battalion, US 26th Infantry in the streets of Aachen, Germany, 15 Oct 1944
See all 5 photographs of Battle of Hürtgen Forest



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