Our guide, Wybo Boersma, member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides is telling us about the bitter fightings between the Americans and the Germans in the Huertgen Forest in the winter of 1944.

Our guide is telling us about the bitter fightings between the Americans and the Germans in the Hurtgenwald in the winter of 1944.
 

From 28 to 30 August 2009 I joined a battlefield tour to the Hurtgen Forest with the Friends of the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek. This area, between Duren and Monschau in Germany, was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Western Europe, but remained nevertheless unknown.  Perhaps because of the last German offensive in the west in the Ardennen: the Battle of the Bulge. The battle of Hurtgen Forest was from September 12, 1944 to February 1945. Nine American divisions, 140,000 men, began the battle for a strategically important forest that was defended by ten German divisions, about 100,000 men. It is estimated that more than 68,000 soldiers, including more than 47,000 Americans were killed.

After the Second World War the whole region had been built again. In the woods and fields are still clear traces of the battle there.
We visited the former station in Roetgen, where the Americans on September 13, 1944 moved into Germany. Then the Hockerlinie in Dreilagerbachtallsperre on the road from Roetgen to Rott. This concrete dragon's teeth across the field and in the woods still exist.

What is the Battle of the Hurtgenwald?
The Battle of the Hurtgenwald (German: Schlacht im Hurtgenwald) is the name given to the series of fierce battles fought between U.S. and German forces during World War II in the Hurtgenwald, which became the longest battle on German ground during World War II, and the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought in its history.[3] The battles took place between September 19, 1944, and February 10, 1945, over barely 50 square miles (129 km²), east of the Belgian–German border.
The U.S. commanders’ initial goal was to pin down German forces in the area to keep them from reinforcing the front lines further north, between Aachen and the Rur (Roer) River, where the Allies were fighting a trench war between a network of fortified towns and villages connected with field fortifications, tank traps, and minefields. A secondary objective may have been to outflank the front line. The Americans' initial objectives were to take Schmidt, clear Monschau, and advance to the Rur. Walter Model intended to bring the Allied thrust to a standstill. While he interfered less in the day-to-day movements of units than at Arnhem, he still kept himself fully informed on the situation, slowing the Allies' progress, inflicting heavy casualties and taking full advantage of the fortifications of the Germans called the Westwall, better known to the Allies as the Siegfried Line.
The Hürtgen Forest cost the U.S. First Army at least 33,000 killed and incapacitated, including both combat and noncombat losses; Germans casualties were between 12,000 and 16,000. Aachen eventually fell on October 22, again at high cost to the U.S. Ninth Army. The Ninth Army's push to the Roer River fared no better, and did not manage to cross the river or wrest control of its dams from the Germans. Hürtgen was so costly that it has been called an Allied "defeat of the first magnitude", with specific credit being assigned to Model.
The Germans fiercely defended the area for two reasons: it served as a staging area for the Ardennes Offensive (what became the Battle of the Bulge) that was already in preparation, and the mountains commanded access to the Schwammenauel Dam at the head of the Rur Lake (Rurstausee) which, if opened, would flood low-lying areas downstream and deny any crossing of the river. The Allies only recognized this after several heavy setbacks, and the Germans were able to hold the region until they launched their final major, last-ditch offensive on the Western Front, into the Ardennes.

American jeep pass the railway station at Roetgen.

American jeep pass the railway station at Roetgen.

Our tour started at Roetgen on the German-Belgian border. There in Roetgen the first American soldier on German soil was photographed on the railway station. The railway station does not excist today but a small building and remains of the railroad remember of that time.

The former railway station Roetgen.

The former railway station Roetgen.

Near Roetgen we saw the so called Hockerline. This line is the counterpart of the French Maginot line and runs through the Huertgen Forest. I was photographed at one of the hockers in the Hurtgenwald.

The Höckerline

The Hockerline

That's me with a hocker in the Hurtgenwald.

That's me with a hocker in the Hurtgenwald.

Bunker in the Hurtgenwald.

Bunker in the Hurtgenwald.

We are watching one of the bunkers in the Hurtgenwald.

We are watching one of the bunkers in the Hurtgenwald.

The small Kalltalpad was used by the Americans to provide their troops, but also their tanks had to take this road to go to Scmidt.

The small Kalltalpad was used by the Americans to provide their troops, but also their tanks had to take this road to go to Schmidt.

Two Sherman tanks alongside the Kalltalpad.

Two Sherman tanks alongside the Kalltalpad.

General Eisenhower (left) and general-major Norman "Dutch" Cota in front of the headquarters of the 28nd Infantrydivision in a cafe at Rott.

General Eisenhower (left) and general-major Norman "Dutch" Cota in front of the headquarters of the 28nd Infantrydivision in a cafe at Rott.

The same window today where both generals were standing. Nothing has changed after 65 years.

The same window today where both generals were standing. Nothing has changed after 65 years.
 

The situation in Rott today. We found that the former headquarters in Rott is still a cafe!

The situation in Rott today. We found that the former headquarters in Rott is still a cafe!

A special place in the Hurtgenwald. Here the Americans and Germans concluded a mutual agreement for their wounded.

A special place in the Hurtgenwald. Here the Americans and Germans concluded a mutual agreement for their wounded.
A special place in the Huertgen Forest. Here the Americans and Germans concluded a mutual agreement for their wounded.
Trenches can still be seen in the Hurtgenwald.

Trenches can still be seen in the Hurtgenwald.

Trenches can still be seen in the Hurtgenwald.

Trenches can still be seen in the Hurtgenwald.

Grave of an American soldier who gave his life to save his comrades. He stept on a mine...

Grave of an American soldier who gave his life to save his comrades. He stept on a mine...

Grave of an American soldier who gave his life to save his comrades. He stept on a mine...

Grave of an American soldier who gave his life to save his comrades. He stept on a mine...

Our guide Wybo Boersma is explaining what happened in the Hurtgenwald.

Our guide Wybo Boersma is explaining what happened in the Hurtgenwald.

Our battlefield tour group in the Hurtgenwald.

Our battlefield tour group in the Hurtgenwald.

In 1947 the already heavily damaged forest also burned again during the removal of phosphorous munitions. There was then a newly constructed wood and now it is a wonderful nature.

In 1947 the already heavily damaged forest also burned again during the removal of phosphorous munitions. There was then a newly constructed wood and now it is a wonderful nature.

In 1947 the already heavily damaged forest also burned again during the removal of phosphorous munitions. There was then a newly constructed wood and now it is a wonderful nature.
In 1947 the already heavily damaged forest also burned again during the removal of phosphorous munitions. There was then a newly constructed wood and now it is a wonderful nature.
One of the many bunkers in the Hurtgenwald.

One of the many bunkers in the Hurtgenwald.

One of the many bunkers in the Huertgen Forest

We are walking through the Hurtgenwald.

We are walking through the Hurtgenwald.

A track from a U.S. armored vehicle that was hit and burned in the Kall Valley. The track section has melted into the road.