Mistake after mistake


FightingLiberationVictory and defeat




November 1944. American troops fight to no end in the Hürtgen Forest, in impenetrable woods and incessant rain, facing heavy resistance by the German Wehrmacht. At the headquaters far behind the front lines, senior officers prepare new attack plans. None oft hem know what the Hürtgen Forest looks like or what to expect in terms of opposition.

In September and October 1944, American troops have already failed two attempts to slip around the Siegfried Line from the north to attack the Germans from the rear, take the plateaus of the northern Eifel and push through to the River Ruhr. The impenetrable forests, incessant rain and heavy resistance by the German Wehrmacht caused delays and great losses.

Far behind the front lines, at the headquarters of the American 12th Battalion led by lieutenant-general Omar Bradley, high-ranking officers draft new attack plans for the American 1st Army and the American 28th Infantry Division fighting in the Hürtgen Forest. They rely on maps, radio traffic and phone calls, but no one really knows what the Hürtgen Forest looks like or what to expect in terms of opposition. The battle in the Hürtgen Forest is a disaster. Jeeps and tanks get stuck in the mud, battalions get lost and retreat back to Vossenack under a continuous barrage of shell fire. Supply routes are cut off, retaken, cut off again and retaken. The battle continues day and night, and many soldiers are close to exhaustion. After five days, it is complete chaos. General Hodges finally orders a full retreat.

The catastrophe in the Hürtgen Forest, later dubbed Allerseelenschlacht, resulted in Commander-in-Chief Dwight Eisenhower coming to take stock of the situation personally on 8 November 1944. Just behind the front line in Rott, Eisenhower meets with Bradley, Hodges and Gerow at Norman Cota's headquarters. Cota is supposed to host his superiors, but he is exhausted. Over 6000 of his men were killed, missing, wounded or captured in the fighting between 2 and 10 November 1944—the greatest loss of an American division during the Second World War.