27 September, 2011

27 September 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
27 September, 1944      2100
Dearest Sweetheart –

Excuse the V-mail but I couldn’t help it today. I almost missed writing you altogether, darling – but it’s the most uncomfortable feeling in the world going to sleep of a night without having written you sometime during the day – so I’m trying to get this off to you.

I was away all day and got back a little while ago. I’ll write you the first thing in the morning, dear, and tell you where I was etc.; nothing important – but I like to keep you posted from day to day.


When I got back I found a letter of yours from Sept 12, a chain letter of 3 V-mails from Verna and one from Lawrence. Have not read them yet but will as soon as I send this. Will close now – Sweetheart – wishing you and the family a Happy New Year. Remember dear -– you have and always have

All my love
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about the Huertgen Forest

Forest showing two Westwall (Seigfried) defense Lines.
To the north of the forest is the Stolberg Corridor.
To the south of the forest is the Monschau Corridor.
On this date, Greg is in the forest at Rott, a district of Roetgen.

The Battle of Huertgen (Hürtgen) Forest is the name given to the series of fierce battles fought between U.S. and German forces during World War II in the Huertgen Forest, 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. The battles took place from 14 September 1944 to 10 February 1945, over barely 50 square miles (130 square kilometers), east of the Belgian–German border, about 5 miles south of the city of Aachen.

The Huertgen Forest is dense with conifers and occupies a rugged area between the Roer (Rur) River and Aachen. The German defenders had prepared the area with blockhouses, minefields, barbed wire, and booby-traps. There were also numerous bunkers in the area, mostly belonging to the deep defenses of the Siegfried Line (also known as the Westwall). The small numbers of roads, tracks, firebreaks and clearings had allowed German machine-gun, mortar and artillery teams to pre-range their weapons and fire accurately. Bad weather as well as the density and rough terrain of the forest prevented proper use of the Allied air superiority. The tall forest canopy also favored the defenders. Artillery fire was fused to detonate as tree bursts. While defenders were protected from shell fragments (and wooden splinters from the trees) by their dug-in defensive positions, attackers in the open were much more vulnerable. Conversely, U.S. mortar platoons needed clearings in which to work; these were few and dangerous, being pre-ranged by German troops, so mortar support was often unavailable to rifle platoons.

The impenetrable forest also limited the use of tanks and hid anti-tank teams. Improvised rocket launchers were made using rocket tubes from aircraft and spare jeep trailers. Transport was similarly limited by the lack of routes: at critical times, it proved difficult to reinforce or supply front-line units or to evacuate their wounded. The Germans were hampered by much the same difficulties, of course; their divisions had taken heavy losses on the retreat through France and were hastily filled up with untrained boys, men unfit for service, and old men. Transport was also a problem because of the difficult roads and the lack of trucks and fuel. Most supplies had to be manhandled to the front line. But the German defenders had the advantage in that their commanders and many of their soldiers had been fighting for a few years and had learned the necessary tactics for fighting efficiently in forested areas, whereas the Americans were often well-trained but inexperienced.

In the Huertgen Forest
Most of the books on the subject conclude that the American commanders made a huge mistake by entering the forest and should have bottled it up and gone around it. They are right, when they argue that the forest itself had very little strategic value. However, what was important was the Roer River and the dams that controlled the river’s flow. The only way the Americans could capture the dams was to enter the forest. Without control of those dams, the Allies could not have moved over the Roer River because the Germans could have blown up the dams, cutting off any American troops that had crossed it. Destruction of the 180-foot-high Schwammenauel Dam, engineers said, would have swelled the Roer at Duren by 25 feet and created a raging torrent one and a half miles wide. Two out of three of the Allied Army groups would have had troops that would not have been able to cross the river into Germany.

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