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THE FIGHT FOR THE HÜRTGEN FOREST

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When American forces reached the German border in September 1944, they ran  into miles of steel-reinforced, concrete anti-tank defenses, for obvious reasons called "dragon's teeth,"  that formed part of the German fortifications of Adolf Hitler's West Wall,  better known to Allied soldiers as "the Siegfried Line."

 


THE FIGHT FOR THE HÜRTGEN FOREST:

11 SEPTEMBER TO 15 DECEMBER 1944

 

Medical Service, European Theater of Operations, September-December 1944

By the time that American forces reached the German border in the First U.S. Army's area of operations in September 1944, the Medical Service of the European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) and the 6th and 12th U.S. Army Groups (First, Third, Seventh, and Ninth U.S. Armies) was functioning smoothly and daily handling thousands of sick and wounded soldiers. Front line medical support in the airborne, armored, and infantry divisions was providing life-saving medical care under fire, while the chain of evacuation operated efficiently to move the casualties from the divisions to rear area hospitals in the Communications Zone for care. "Hard Fighting at the West Wall," an excerpt from the official history of the U.S. Army Medical Department in World War II, The Medical Service in the European Theater, covers the period of stalemate along the German border from mid-September through the onset of the German Ardennes offensive in mid-December and provides the Medical Service context for combat operations from Holland to the Swiss border.

Hard Fighting at the West Wall

The Hürtgen Forest

The U.S. Army's fight to take the Hürtgen Forest stretched from September into December 1944 when the German Ardennes offensive disrupted the entire Allied front. During these months, the battles of the V and VII Corps of the First U.S. Army became one of the most costly and controversial American operations of the entire European war. Eventually, the 1st, 4th, 8th, 9th, and 28th Infantry Divisions, 2d Ranger Battalion, and 46th Armored Infantry Battalion and Combat Command R, 5th Armored Division, were all heavily engaged in the fighting. The 9th Infantry Division was involved twice, once in September and then again in October, and its 47th Infantry Regiment was actually engaged three separate times. During its operations in early November in the area of Vossenack, Kommerscheidt, and Schmidt, known collectively as the battle of Schmidt, the 28th Infantry Division lost more men in the forest than any of the other divisions. The divisions suffered over 30,000 casualties in killed, wounded, missing in action, combat exhaustion, and to various disease and non-battle injuries. 

The Divisions

1st Infantry Division

   Casualties

    Division Surgeon

4th Infantry Division

   Casualties

   Division Surgeon

    Combat Interviews

   12th Infantry Regiment

Colonel Luckett's Report, November 1944

Extracts After Action Reports, November-December 1944

    4th Medical Battalion

8th Infantry Division

   Casualties

    Division Surgeon

        After Action Reports, November and December 1944

    8th Medical Battalion

After Action Report, November 1944

After Action Report, December 1944

9th Infantry Division

   Casualties

Consolidated Casualties Treated, August-December 1944, by Infantry Regiment

Division Casualties 15 June-31 December 1944

    Division Surgeon

Annual Report 1944

Monthly Reports August-December 1944

    9th Medical Battalion

28th Infantry Division

    Division Surgeon

110th Infantry Regiment

    103d Medical Battalion

        Unit Reports, October-December 1944

        Report of Operations, 1 November 1944-30 April 1945

5th Armored Division

   Division Surgeon

2d Ranger Infantry Battalion

 

Casualties

The fighting in the Hürtgen Forest was but one part of the overall Siegfried Line campaign during which the U.S. Army suffered very significant battle casualties, missing in action and captured, and disease and nonbattle losses. First and Ninth U.S. Armies incurred 57,095 battle casualties alone during the entire Siegfried Line Campaign. First U.S. Army combat losses totaled 47,039.

Killed 

7,024

Wounded 

35,155

Missing and Captured 

4,860

    The Ninth U.S. Army's battle losses totaled approximately 10,056.

Killed 

1,133

Wounded 

6,864

Missing and Captured 

2,059

    As for nonbattle casualties, the First U.S. Army had 50,867 and the Ninth U.S. Army had 20,787, for a total of 71,654.  So, a total of 128,749 U.S. soldiers were lost as battle and nonbattle casualties during the campaign. More detailed information on the American casualties of the divisions engaged in the fighting in the Hürtgen Forest will be added to this section in the near future.

First US Army Casualty Statistics

John Greenwood, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Medical History
Office of The Surgeon General, U.S. Army/
Headquarters, U.S. Army Medical Command
7 March 2007