Dark woods, narrow valley winding rivers - the Huertgen Forest between Aachen and Dueren is a isolated area. But the idyll is deceptive. 65 years ago one of the most lossy Battles of WW2 called “the Allersellenschlacht” was fought here.
Up to 70.000 men (between 55.000 US and 15.000 German soldiers) lost their lives between November 1944 and February 1945. If those figures are correct, so the Americans lost more men in the dark woods as in the whole Vietnam conflict.
The Huertgenwald Museum
Photos above left to right:
Photo shows the tiny town of Simonkall / Memory plate for the German Lw fest Bn. XXIV, which had no infantry experience, all of age 17 or 18. In October 1944, of 640 men only 130 remained, the unit lost 510 men within 8 days! On November 4, 1944, the day when this outfit was pulled out, only half of them were able to walk / Bunker of type Regelbau 10, this was Bunker gave shelter for 15 soldiers. They fought outside this bunker in trenches which have been nearby.
Near the entrance to the Vossenack cemetery, the war memorial for the 116th Panzerdivision can be found. In 1966 former members of this unit raised funds in order to have this monument erected. The formal ceremony was held on November 13, 1966
PFC Robert Cahow
As I said even today soldiers of both sides will be found found by german ordanace sweeping teams. So in the year 2000 Robert Cahow was found due to the fact the he still got 4 handgrenades laying with his remains and have been found by the german ordanance sweeping team. he was in action against elements of the 272nd Volks Gren Div December 13th 1944. On the left you can see the spot where Cahow was originally found.
Paustenbacher Höhe (between Lammersdorf and Simmerath)
The Paustebacher Höhe was a German stronghold defended by 6 bunkers and manned by soldiers of the the 89th Inf. Div. The US assault started September 19th 1944 but came soon to a halt due to the heavy German defending acts. Men of the US 9th Inf Div started almost 6 assaults per day to take the Paustenbacher Höhe but with no success and heavy casualties. It took the US 9th Infantry 10 days until the last German defenders have been killed or taken prisoner. The photo was taken on the Paustenbacher Höhe sight in direction Lammersdorf. Just in front of me was one of the 6 Bunkers manned by soldiers of the 89th Inf Div.
Dragonteeth line near Simmerath. The base of such roadblocks went down between 80 and 150 cm!
Schmidt and Kommerscheidt
KC and German Cross in Gold holder and former Jagdpanther commander Erwin Kressmann of the former heavy tank hunter Bataillon 519 joint us on our trip. He was awarded the KC for leading a counter attack against the village of Schmidt while attached to the 116th Panzerdivision. Here our group becomes the story first hand.
Erwin Kressmann fought with his Tank hunters 8,8 „Hornissen“ (Hornets) in Russia and in the Winter 44/45 also in the Hürtgenwald, where the Heavy Tank hunter Battalion 519 already had the new Jagdpanther. After his Huertgen actions , he fought on in the Battle of the Bulge. Mr Kressmann is still alive and well (see the Erwin Kressmann page for more infos).
Sgt Lemuel H. Herbert of 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry was found in 1998 during construction work. With his remains his dog tags have been found too. Although it took 1 year that the US Army confirmed that the remains was his. The helmet on the cross is his original helmet found in 1998.
Kall Trail this was the name for this narrow path from the church of Vossenack to the Mestrenger Mill in the Kall gore and up to Kommerscheidt and Schmidt. On November 3, 1944 this path was used by the 112th US Infantry, 28th Infantry Div. The American missed a recon mission to check out this route, the result was soon very severe. Even worse was that this narrow path was considered to be the main supply route for the US! Tanks had to use this as well – just unthinkable!
Generally; the US forces apparently believed that since the Americans faced German units made up mostly of old men and young boys, one more good, hard push would be sufficient to end the war. In late October 1944 the 9th Inf. Div. "Old Reliables" were relieved from the “green hell of Hurtgen Forest” after it suffered some 4,500 casualties in little more than 30 days of fighting by the 28th Infantry Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Norman "Dutch" Cota. The division, originally a Pennsylvania National Guard unit, wore a shoulder patch in the form of a red keystone, the symbol of Pennsylvania. The Germans had their own name for the patch. They called it der blutige Eimer -- the Bloody Bucket. This unit, more its 112th Infantry Regiment, saw action in the bloody fighting around the Kall Bridge / Mestrenger Mill area.
About two-third of the way down, a protruding outcrop of rock presented new problems for the US tankers. Here, after the first three Shermans had inched past, the next two slipped off the crumbeled left shoulder and each through a track. For 20 hours, the rock proved an unpassable obstacle until the 20th Combat Engineers at last blasted it away during the night of November 4/5th. Traces of their demolition work can clearly be discerned today.
Alongside the Kall-Trail, 300 yards up from the river and some yards up the western bank, lay a large German dugout. It was entirely underground except for the front partially barricaded with rocks. The roof had been construced of two heavy layers of logs, providing excellent protection from all shelling except direct hits. Here, on the thirds day, medics of the 3rd Bat., 112th Inf. later joined by those of the 1st, established an aid station. All through the battle, walking wounded were treated here and sent to the rear, but lack of Weasels and stretcher bearers prevented evacuation of the seriously wounded. When the Germans cut the Kall-Trail, on the night of the 5th, several of their patrols knocked at the door of the cabin. Satisfying themselfs that the medics were unarmed, they posted a guard and left. From then on, the aid post was left in a kind of no man's land. By the 7th, it had become so crowded with some 60 litter cases, that many had to be left outside, exposed to the rain, cold and shelling. In the confusion of the American withdrawl, the aid station was all but forgotten and for the next three days medics and patients were virtual prisoners of the Germans. The last group only got out on November 11th, after the Germans themselfs had asked for a truce to collect their dead. The Americans had to leave behind all their dead - several dozen - outside the dougout. Today, although it's roof has totally collapsed and its pit patrly filled up with rubble and underwood, the aid station dugout can still be seen alongside the Kall-Trail, a moving reminder of the pain and agony of 60 years ago. The Americans officer in charge was called Lt. Muglia.
Photos above (left to right): Tank chain near the Mestrenger Mill (Mestrenger Mühle), part of the Kall trail, US tanks 1944 at Schevenhütte
Carl Peterson. But in making that attack, the 112th also had to secure the spur ridge to Vossenack. Peterson allocated one battalion to take Vossenack, initially held one battalion in reserve,
and decided to send one battalion into the Kall gorge through the low ground immediately south of the Vossenack ridge. This, then, was the 28th's main attack. Making matters worse, the 112th
Infantry's main route of advance was along a very narrow, steep forest trail (Kall Trail) that had drop-offs to one side as it descended into and climbed out of the Kall gorge. At the bottom of
the gorge, a small stone bridge near the Mestrenger Mühle (mill) was the only way to get vehicles across the Kall River.
Today, as in 1944, a good stone arch bridge spans the Kall river near the Mestrenger Mühle. However, it is not the original bridge. The original one was demolished by the Germans on the night of November 8/9th, after the defeated Americans had withdrawn across the Kall.
Germeter and the Minefield "Wilde Sau"
After the September fighting the Germans used the rest period to reinforce their bunkers and defense positions. The 353rd Inf. Division were relieved by the 275th Inf. Division. The Germans built day and night to strengthen their „Wood fortress”. On the Eifel heights also called "The bloody plateau north of Germeter" the biggest minefields on the whole Western Front have been built. The most notorious one was the “Wilde Sau” (wild pig) minefield built from November 7th to November 11th 1944. . This death field was approximately 150 meters wide and around one Kilometer in front of Huertgen. Here the Germans dug all kind of mines and made this corridor of hell together with other obstacles and barbed wire to a impenetrable jungle. Three regiments of as many different American divisions bled to death on the bloody plateau, trying to gain the woods line overlooking Huertgen: the 39th Infantry of the 9th Division in October 1944, the 109th Infantry of the 28th Division and the 12th Infantry of the 4th Division in November1944. Two German units suffered equally badly in attempt to counter American penetrations: Regiment Wegelein in October and the 116th Panzer in November.
Lest we forget
Here is the memorial for German Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld, sponsored from the vets of US 4th Inf. Division in 1994. Lt. Lengfeld tried to rescue an American soldier who was hit and laying in the Wilde Sau minefield. Lengfeld was also severely wounded in the attempt to rescue the American soldier and died shortly after at the first aid post near the Lukas Mill.