Battle of HUrtgen Forest
19 September 1944 – 10 February 1945

The Battle of Hurtgen Forest took place near the German border with Belgium in World War 2 and was characterized by a series of bloody combats in which the Germans resisted the U.S. Army's attacks over four months.

Beyond the Siegfried Line

After winning in France, the Allies were confidently approaching the borders of the Third Reich. On the other side, Hitler ordered manning the Siegfried Line (named Westwall by the Germans) to prevent an Allied advance into Germany until the Wehrmacht would launch a major counteroffensive.

By mid-September 1944, the U.S. First Army had advanced a few miles into the German territory, near the city of Aachen. On the right flank, there was a large and dense forest, which included several settlements inside it. Named Hürtgen Forest (Hürtgenwald in German), it was packed by the Germans with minefields, booby traps, barbered wire and bunkers.

Kernec at the German language Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to the Hürtgen Hotel

Beginning with September 19, the U.S. 9th Infantry Division started a series of attacks aiming to capture the village of Hürtgen, located in the middle of the forest. The Americans took heavy casualties, most often succeeding to advance a few hundred yards. The few existing roads limited the use of tanks, supplying the frontline units and evacuation of the wounded. Also, there was a small number of clearings, but they had been pre-ranged by the German artillery, so the U.S. mortar teams were often unable to provide support.

In early November, the  U.S. 28th Infantry Division, which had replaced the 9th Division, launched its attacks towards the villages of Germeter and Schmidt. In addition to the difficult terrain, the weather had become chilly and overcast, often preventing the air support. Nevertheless, the 28th Division captured the two villages, but shortly afterwards the Germans counterattacked with elements from the 116th Panzer Division and recaptured Schmidt.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J28303 / Jäger [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Battle of Hurtgen Forest - the Ultimate Struggle

On 16 November, the First and Ninth U.S. Armies started Operation Queen, aiming to reach the River Rur (not to be confused with the Ruhr River). The U.S. 4th Infantry Division met stubborn resistance from the German 275th Infantry Division, suffering heavy losses. After a slow advance and fierce fightings, another U.S. unit - the 8th Infantry Division -  would finally take the village of Hürtgen on November 29, 1944.

The Americans approached the eastern edge of the forest in early December, when the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion had a critical contribution by capturing the Hill 400.

But on 16 December, the Germans began their Ardennes Offensive and the U.S. Army was forced to halt any attack in other areas of the front. After defeating the German offensive, the Americans resumed the attacks in the Hürtgen Forest in February 1945.

The Germans answered by opening the Rur Dam, and the resulted floodings delayed the advance of the U.S. Ninth Army to the Rhine for another two weeks.

Considered a German defensive victory, the battle must be remembered especially for the tens of thousands of Americans and Germans who became casualties.

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