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Extract, After Action Reports 12th Infantry

The Fight for the Hürtgen Forest

EXTRACT

AFTER ACTION REPORTS 12TH INF

Nov. 1 - 5 - During the first for days of November the Regiment continued its program of combat and contact patrolling in the Losheimergraben area. On the 5th of November the 60th Inf Regt relieved the 12th and the Regiment closed into an assembly area north of Holzheim.

The Hurtgen Forest

On November 6, 1944 Combat Team 12 was notified to move to the vicinity of Zweifall, Germany - a distance of forty-five miles - at once. This was at 1410. Despite the short notice, by 1745 the regiment was on the march. The entire march was made during the hours of darkness - the night was intensely dark and very rainy. The first order stated that the 12th Infantry would be attached to the 28th Division, and that initially it would go into an assembly area as division reserve. However, while the entire regiment was still moving on the road, late that night a change of orders was delivered verbally to the column commander. "The 12th Infantry will relieve the 109th Infantry in the front lines tonight" - without prior reconnaissance. The word was passed along the column by runner, since there was radio silence. Change in plans were made on the march. Muddy, narrow roads caused vehicles to slide into ditches. The blackness of the night hampered operations. Finally about 0200 the column arrived at a detrucking point behind the front lines. Guides met the troops. A quick decision was made. We would relieve the 109th Infantry in place unit for unit. The 12th Infantry troops then marched on foot up to the front. In spite of the many difficulties by 1250A, November 7, 1944 the regiment had completely relieved the 109th Inf Regt in the sector of the Hurtgen Forest 1,000 meters west of Hurtgen (040355) running generally south to Germeter (027336). Major General Raymond G. Barton, our Division Commander made the following statement about this operation: "Seldom in the entire annals of military history does there appear a troop movement that equals this performance by the 12th Infantry. Only well trained and well disciplined men with excellent leadership could have accomplished this feat."

The 12th Combat Team was now attached to the 28th Division. The 28th Division had been assigned the tremendous task of clearing the enemy to the east of the Hurtgen Forest and capturing the towns Vossenack and Schmidt thus protecting the southern flank of the major American offensive that was to take place in this sector.

On November 6th their 1st Bn made an attack to clear the enemy salient from the draw

on the left flank of the division. Initially the attack had gone very well but the enemy was determined to protect this corridor into Duren and the Rhine Valley at any cost, hence they struck back swiftly and powerfully. The 28th Division offensive was the only attack taking place on the First Army front. This circumstance enabled the Germans to concentrate their artillery and reserves in this area. Because of the wide front assigned and the power of the German counterattacks, the 28th had been forced to employ all available troops to stop the penetrations. No maneuvering force was left to attempt to regain their original objectives so the VII Corps had hurriedly attached the 12th Infantry to the division.

By the morning of November 6th the 109th Infantry had been relieved for action to the south and the 12th Infantry had again begun offensive action. With this attack began the hardest fighting that this regiment had ever been through. Added to the natural obstacles of tall, closely knit woods, steep hillsides and lack of roads were deliberate mine fields, wire entanglements and booby traps planted by the enemy during the weeks of inactivity in this sector. Continuous rain, show and freezing weather severely hampered our operations and during the next month the regiment suffered as many casualties from trench foot and exposure as it did from battle,


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November 8th

First Battalion attacked at 1230A in an attempt to cut the enemy salient on our left flank. By 1345 Co B in the lead had been stopped by machine guns firing along final protective lines covered by tactical wire and booby traps. Enemy mortar and artillery concentrations bursting in the thick fir trees fell like rain on the men caught without the shelter of foxholes. Co C advanced to the left of B only to meet the same fire. Evacuation and supply was almost impossible. Night found the 1st Bn digging in on this line.

November 9th

First Battalion was withdrawn to Regt'l Reserve in order to support the attack of the 3rd Bn who were ordered to clear the woods east of the Hurtgen - Germeter Road. Co K crossed the road at 1100A and advanced 400 yards through heavy artillery and mortar fire before being stopped by an enemy line, protected again by machine guns and small arms covering concertina wire that was mined and booby trapped. All fire breaks leading towards the enemy, our only means of supply, were covered by accurate artillery interdictions and, in some cases, machine gun fire. Co I was committed and drew abreast of K Co by 1345A. By dark Co K had some elements through the enemy's tactical wire but were forced to dig in for the night.

November 10th

The entire regiment jumped off on the attack, 3rd Battalion to continue its mission. 1st Bn to renew the assault on the draw; this time hitting northeast across the draw with the help of the 2d Bn who were to out off the draw by hitting from east to west. Heavy artillery and mine fields again slowed our attack and at 1220 L Co was hit by a counterattack of Bn strength. At 1300 a similar counterattack was launched against the 2d Bn, hitting between E and F Co's.

In the meantime the 1st Bn was pinned down by the most tremendous artillery concentrations to ever hit the regiment. By the day's end neither side had given ground - but an enemy pocket penetrating between E Co and F, G to the north had cut the fire-break that was being used as our main supply route.

At 1900 the 12th Infantry reverted to the control of the 4th Division.

November 11th

Co's B and C were again pulled back because of the enemy threat from Hurtgen. Enemy penetrations had completely isolated F and G Co's and one platoon of Co L. By this time the 3rd Battalion was badly depleted but continued the attack on the woods east of the Hurtgen - Germeter Road. "A" Co pushed forward and made contact with E Co - and at 1500 C Co was attached to the 2d Bn. . . jumping off in an attempt to contact F and G. They were stopped by machine gun and 65mm direct fire and were unable to reach the stranded companies before dark. No movement could be attempted after dark because of the intense blackness of the thick forest - and the ever-present menace of Shu-mines and booby traps.

November 12th

The entire 1st Bn was committed in an effort to reach the isolated 2d Bn. After a gruelling day's fighting the 1st Bn pounded their way through to F and G Co at 1415A. Enemy forces again drove in, this time behind the 1st Bn. Even with the combined - although greatly depleted strength of the 1st Bn, F and G Co's were unable to fight their way back before darkness set in. In the meantime I & L Co's. by sheer dogged determination, reached their objective at 1340A.


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November 13th

Under cover of a bitter cold misty morning F & G broke through directly south to join up with L and I Co followed by the 1st Bn who covered their withdrawal. By 1550A a new line was established tying in the entire regimental front with Co E on the left (North) flank F, G, B, C, A, L, I & K stretching to the south and east.

November 14th

The day was spent regrouping. The 2d Bn was withdrawn to Regt'l reserve and the 1st Bn spread their forces to cover the sector thus vacated. Heavy artillery shelling throughout the day made the relief all the more difficult.

November 15th

1st & 3d Bns continued to improve their positions while the 2d Bn received reinforcements and reorganized in their assembly area.

November 16th

Again the attack. This time the 2d Bn was given the draw on our left (Northwest) flank to clear of enemy. This draw was vitally important as it contained a much needed road net into Hurtgen, Kleinhau, Grosshau, Gey and finally Duren. The plan this time was to attack directly up the Valley so as to keep the supply route open at least as far as they were able to go. The going, once more, was rough - but by dark the 2d Bn had moved 1,000 yards from their line of departure reaching the road fork at 015346. The road had been covered by Teller mines and the shoulders were thick with anti-personnel box type sizes (Schu mines), which will blow of a leg when stepped upon. Meanwhile the 3rd Bn had again jumped off in an attempt to secure the Germeter-Hurtgen road against intense small arms fire. The enemy fire was more than a match for one battalions and our troops were forced to remain on the west side of the road. L Co's commander was killed, and K Co's commander seriously injured during this action.

November 17th

The 2d Bn once more attempted to push forward with E and F abreast, E to clear the west road and F the east road up the valley. These roads were flanked by steep, rugged slopes on both sides. The bridge across the culvert just beyond the fork on the east road was cut, making tank or TD support impossible. In addition both roads were mined. Three times during the day E & F started out and three times they were forced back to their line of departure by well directed machine gun, mortar, and artillery fires.

November 18th

G Co was given the mission of encircling the enemy position by moving up the hill between F Co and E in order to clear the enemy from that ridge. To make this more entailed about two miles of painstaking marching thru a jungle of fallen trees, mines and constant mortar fire. Lt Daspit, commanding G Co was seriously wounded. At 1245A G Co reported their mission was accomplished and they had reached their objective. However there was a formidable enemy line just 25 yards to their front. With their flank thus cleared E and F again jumped off but were unable to make headway down the narrow draw.


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November 19th

Still with the same objectives the 2d Bn attempted a new plan. F Co following G Co guides were to make contact with G on the ridge and then, together with G, they were to move directly west into the draw in order to hit the enemy's flank. The contact was made and the two companies jumped off at 1005A in the attack. The fire-break was even more formidably defended than had been anticipated and later proved to be the German's main line of resistance. It extended across the entire regt'l front. By this time both companies were badly depleted and had a total of only 90 men available for fighting. It was impossible for them to advance. Co C to the east of the 2d Bn, about five hundred yards, had continually patrolled the gap in an excellent manner in spite of very heavy mortar fire.

November 20th

The entire regiment once more jumped off in an attempt to secure the two all-important roads leading into Hurtgen. The 3d and 1st Bns already badly decimated moved forward but again were forced back into their holes because of the heavy mortar, artillery, machine guns and small arms fire that continually harassed them. E Co having received some reinforcements at dawn and supported by three tanks pushed straight up the draw for 450 yards and finally made contact with F and G Co's at 1931A.

November 21st

The 121st Inf Regt jumped off at 0900A in an attempt to push thru our lines and thus relieve the regiment. They were stopped cold on the enemy's MLR after suffering heavy casualties. Our Bns remained in line during the night but received orders to move to assembly areas at dawn.

November 22nd

The 4th Division less the 12th Infantry had jumped off several days previously with the 8th Inf on the North and the 22d on the South moving East. Their objectives were Kleinhau and Grosshau (22d Inf) and Gey (8th Inf). The 12th of having been relieved by the 121st Inf after a five mile road march closed into Bn assembly areas at 1215. These areas were along the high ground 3,000 yards West and slightly north of Hurtgen. Their mission was to protect the south flank of the division. To accomplish this mission the 2d Bn was ordered to jump off on the 23d and seize the high ground and cut the road leading into Hurtgen at 015360. At 1400 the entire 1st Bn received a very heavy concentration of artillery fire. Co A's Commander was killed and one of his two remaining officers was severely injured.

November 23rd

In spite of heavy rain and cold miserable weather the 3d Bn and 1st Bn managed to have their Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner. Even patrols from Co's B & C who were to patrol the gap between the 2d Bn and 22d Inf by reaching the north-south road 800 meters to their front had turkey sandwiches for breakfast. This evidentally helped their morale for they accomplished their mission in excellent style.

The 2d Bn was to be denied its turkey for the time as it jumped off in the attack at 1015 with F Co in advance. By dark F Co had cut the first north-south road and G Co had advanced to a position in their rear. E Co remained in its original assembly area. Small arms and mortar fire had slowed the advance of Co F but the ever-present threat of anti-personnel mines was still the main impediment to rapid progress.


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November 24th

The 3d Bn passed through the 1st Bn patrol line with the object of cutting both north-south roads into Hurtgen and seizing the high ground 200 yards west of the road. K Co in the lead made rapid progress inspite of some small arms and mortar fire. They reached their objective by 1100A. I Co pushed forward to make contact with K and consolidate the position. For the rest of the day the 3d Bn held this position in spite of extremely heavy mortar and artillery fire.

In the meantime at 0900A F Co jumped off and reached its initial objective, the high ground between the two north-south roads (022361) at 1031. During this advance the company had been under terrific mortar fire and their commanding officer was killed. After reorganizing they attempted to push on but were soon engaged in a heavy fire fight. G Co was committed to relieve the pressure on their left flank. By dark G Co had tied in with F and the situation was well in hand.

Co B while advancing on the left to protect that flank of the regiment had their company commander killed during the day's action.

November 25th

The big drive by the 121st Inf and Combat Command R was to take place to seize the town of Hurtgen and the 12th Inf was to push forward to the edge of the woods east of Hurtgen and support the operation by small arms fire. Co G jumped off at 0800A and by encircling the enemy from the north and moving rapidly - completely surprised the Germans by moving in on their rear. The Huns surrendered when they saw they were surrounded. G Co was able to report at21000A that resistance had ceased and that they were on their objective at the edge of the woods. In the meantime the 3d Bn had pushed forward strong patrols from K Co to the edge of the woods but were unable to move I & K Co's forward because of enemy small arms fire to their rear.

For the second time during the month the 12th Infantry had fought their way to the edge of the Hurtgen Forest.

November 26th

The 3d Bn with I & K Co's abreast, I on the north moved off at 0920 to reach the edge of the woods. This time they were able to gain their objectives, but only after heavy small arms fighting. By 1530A K Co was on its objectives and I Co, who was almost entirely out of ammunition, was only 200 yds short of theirs. At this time L Co passed through I Co, reached the edge of. the woods and tied in with K. Fifty-three prisoners were captured and many more killed in this operation by.the 3d Bn.

November 27th

The 2d Bn of the 121st was able to relieve the 2d Bn of the 12th in their sector. The regiment, (less the 3d Bn who remained in their position south of Forst Kleinhau) immediately moved north to assembly areas, prepared to again attack east on the 26th of November. A gap of three thousand wooded yards existed between the 22d Inf, fighting for Grosshau on the south, and the 8th Infantry, fighting for Gurzenich on the north.

The 12th Inf was to jump off in the direction of Gey in order to clear this gap of possible enemy troops.


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November 28th

The 1st Bn in column of Co's: A, C, and B in that order, moved out and were immediately engaged in a stiff fire fight on Hill 90 which was just east of Renn-Weg (Race-track) at 048386. They were still engaged at dark but C & B Co's had continued on to the Renn-Weg to the left flank of their objective 1,000 meters north of Hill 80. E Co moved into position ready to relieve A Company on the 29th.

November 29th

The 1st Bn on the north and 2d Bn on the south cleared the areas west of their positions of enemy pockets, consolidated and improved their position along the Renn-Weg and prepared to jump off to seize a line of departure along the edge of the woods west of Gey for an attack on that city. The 3d Bn was relieved in the Forst Kleinhau area and moved to regimental reserve.

November 30th

The 1st & 2d Bns jumped off at 0830A and pushed aggressively to their initial objective against heavy fire from an enemy line dug in just inside of the woods 800 yards west of Gey. By dark the line was consolidated 100 yards from the edge of the woods. G Co on the extreme north had pushed swiftly ahead and had reached the very edge of the woods with a clear view of the city of Gey. For the third time since the 8th of November the 12th Infantry had cleared a sector through the treacherous Hurtgen Forest.

The importance to the final victory that this month's operation contributed can best be gathered from the commendation of our Division Commander: Hq 4th Inf Div, File No. AG 201.22, dtd 17 Dec 44: Appendix #4

Strength

O [Officers]

WO [Warrant Officers]

EM [Enlisted Men]

Beginning of Month Nov

152

5

3023

Reinforcements for Month

72

0

1784

Total Strength

221

5

4807

Losses for Month

89

0

2061*

Strength At End of Month

135

5

2746


* Battle casualties, November 1305 - Non-battle 845

                             Dec. 1-7 273  -  [Non-Battle]  ?

December 1 to 8

The 12th Infantry remained in the Hurtgen forest until the 8th of December. On the 1st of December the 1st and 2d Battalions completed mopping up all enemy resistance overlooking Gey and were prepared to jump off for an attack on that city the next day. However, orders came through to consolidate our positions and improve them for defense as we were to be relieved by a new unit.

On the 2d of December the 3d Battalion moved to the vicinity of Grosshau to aid the 22d Infantry who had received a heavy counterattack at dawn. They were not needed however, as the 22d repulsed the attack after a hard day's fighting.

A counterattack of battalion strength hit the 12th Infantry on the 3d of December but we were ready and the enemy was repulsed with heavy losses. Some infiltration to the north of the regimental sector was noted, however, and the 3d Battalion was committed to


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clear this up. By darkness on December 5th, all resistance had been completely cleared in our sector.

Combat Team 331 of the 83rd Division moved into the rear of our area on the 6th of December prepared to take over the regimental sector. On the 7th a badly decimated and weary regiment trudged their way to assembly areas near Schevenhutte. The morale was high in spite of the full, bloody month spent in the woods of Hurtgen, The rumor had spread fast: "Luxembourg, the quiet paradise for weary troops" was to be our destination.

Stations - Regimental CP Location

Date

Time

Map Coordinates

Place

1 Nov 44

0001

971965

Holzsheim, Belgium

7 Nov 44

1120

992332

3 Mi SE Zweifall, Germany

22 Nov 44

1200

987365

2 Mi E Zweifall, Germany

29 Nov 44 to 5 Dec 44

2400

012390

2 Mi S Schevenhutte, Germany

 

Commanding Officers in Important Engagements

Regimental Commander

Col James S. Luckett, O-18209, from 1 Nov 44 to 1200, 21 Nov 44.

Col Robert H. Chance, O-5618, from 21 Nov 44

1st Battalion Commander

Lt Col Charles L. Jackson, O-21207, from 1 Nov 44 to 1700, 22 Nov

Lt Col Oma H. Bates, O-314561, from 22 Nov 44

2nd Battalion Commander

Lt Col Franklin R. Sibert, O-20329, from 1 Nov 44 to 1430, 17 Nov

Major Frank P. Burk, O-362021, from 17 Nov 44 to 1300, 25 Nov 44

Major John W. Gorn, O-22200, from 25 Nov 44

3rd Battalion Commander

Lt Col Kenneth R. Lindner, 0-395442, from 1 Nov 44

SOURCE: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, Records of the U.S. Army Adjutant General, World War II Records, Combat Interviews, 4th Infantry Division, Hurtgen Forest Battle November 7 to December 3, 1944, Folder I, Narrative, Miscellaneous Supporting Papers, Box 24021.