Mistake after mistake

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In November 1944, American troops fought to no end in the Hürtgen Forest. Here they were confronted with impenetrable woods, incessant rain and heavy resistance by the German Army. At the headquaters far behind the front lines, senior officers prepared new attack plans. However, none of them knew what the Hürtgen Forest looked like or what to expect in terms of opposition.

In September and October 1944, American troops had already failed two attempts to slip around the Siegfried Line from the north. If they succeeded they could attack 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 Army caused delays and great losses.

Far behind the front lines, at the headquarters of the U.S. 12th Army Group led by General Omar Bradley, high-ranking officers drafted new attack plans for the U.S. 1st Army and the U.S. 28th Infantry Division fighting in the Hürtgen Forest. They relied on maps, radio traffic and phone calls. However, no one really knew what the Hürtgen Forest looked like or what to expect in terms of opposition.

The battle in the Hürtgen Forest was a disaster. Jeeps and tanks got stuck in the mud, battalions got lost and retreated back to Vossenack under a continuous barrage of shell fire. Supply routes were cut off, retaken, cut off again and retaken. The battle continued day and night, and many soldiers were close to exhaustion. After five days of chaos, General Courtney Hodges finally ordered a full retreat.

The catastrophe in the Hürtgen Forest, later dubbed Allerseelenschlacht, resulted in Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower coming to check out the situation personally on 8 November 1944. Just behind the front line in Rott, Eisenhower met with Bradley, Hodges and General Leonard Gerow at General Norman Cota’s headquarters. Cota was supposed to host his superiors, but he was 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.

Mistake after mistake