On 16 November 1944, the Allies launched Operation Queen with the goal of crossing the Rur river and then pushing forward to the Rhine. The ground troops received direct support from one of the largest tactical air operations of the entire Second World War. As a result, the cities of Düren and Jülich were almost completely destroyed. Although the Rur Dam Schwammenauel southeast of Schmidt was originally not a factor for the American operational planners, the U.S. High Command now realized that if its floodgates were opened, the entire plain of the Rur around Düren would be inundated, rendering the river impassable. On 13 December the U.S. troops pushed towards the dam. Due to the weather and the stubborn German resistance, their advance was slowed. “The forest was a hellishly grim place to fight”, veteran George Morgan would recall later. The U.S. soldiers spent the cold winter nights in foxholes, some of them in summer uniforms, and were totally unprepared for this kind of combat. In addition to the mounting casualties – dead and wounded – more and more soldiers were disabled by frostbite and pneumonia. The German counteroffensive in the Ardennes – the Battle of the Bulge – began on 16 December 1944, and temporarily stopped all Allied operations in the Huertgen Forest. Only after the offensive collapsed on 10 January 1945 did the American forces renew their attacks. Not until mid-February were the last German troops pushed out of the forest. As they withdrew, they opened the Rur Dam Schwammenauel, thus hampering the Allied advance around Düren for around two weeks.