Includes 100 illus.
Speak of the Huertgen Forest and you speak of hell.
During a seemingly interminable three months, from mid-Sep. to mid-Dec. 1944, six American infantry divisions-the 1st, 4th, 8th, 9th, 28th, and 83d-and part of the 5th Armored fought at one time or another in the Huertgen Forest. These divisions incurred 28,000 casualties, including 8,000 due to combat exhaustion and rain, mud, sleet, and cold. One division lost more than 6,000, a figure exceeded for a single World War II engagement-if indeed it was exceeded-only by the bloody Marine battle on Tarawa.
The name Huertgen Forest is one the American soldier applied to some 1,300 square miles of densely-wooded, roller-coaster real estate along the German-Belgian border south and southeast of Aachen....The forest lay athwart the path which the First U.S. Army had to take to reach the Rhine River, and thus American commanders considered it essential to conquer it. By the time both American and German artillery had done with it, the setting would look like a battlefield designed by the Archfiend himself.
The Huertgen was the Argonne of World War II.
One day not long ago another personal manuscript, much of it about the Huertgen fighting, crossed my desk. This one, I soon discovered, was different.
This was a lengthy narrative written by a former lieutenant, Paul Boesch. It was obviously too long for publication, yet the combat sections of it revealed a genuine, first-hand grasp of what war is like at the shooting level and what it does to the men involved. It was too human a document to be ignored. It too faithfully mirrored the experiences, not of one man alone, but of millions, to go unnoticed. It too sharply underscored the innate faith, humor, devotion, and even the weaknesses of the American soldier to be forgotten.
With Paul Boesch’s permission I went to work with him to prepare this combat portion of his manuscript for publication. The result is The Road to Huertgen.