01 October, 2011

01 October 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
1 October, 1944       1430
My dearest sweetheart –

Last night as I lay in bed I got to thinking how nice it will be when I can tell you all the things I’m thinking about, worrying about and dreaming of. All my life, it seems, I’ve kept my thoughts and problems to myself. It will be wonderful to have you to confide in, to help me with my problems, to allow me to think out loud.

I’ve been pretty blue the last couple of days, darling. I don’t know whether it’s due to the discouraging weather, or what – but I’ve felt the war just a little bit more today, yesterday and the day before. Tomorrow is 27 months of continuous Army service – and probably it seems longer because I’ve been with the same outfit all the while. It’s been a good outfit to be with – but I can’t hide the fact that medically speaking – it has been a complete waste of time. I guess that’s what really has me down. Oh – I’ve felt like that before and gotten over it, and I’ll get over this too – but I feel better just telling you about it, dear, even though I know it’s not fair to write you I’m blue. That’s one of the penalties you have to pay for being such a sweet and understanding fiancée.

I got to the point this morning – that I went to the First Army Surgeon, advance Section, and managed to find him in. I told him I was completely stale and asked him if there weren’t something I could do. He referred me to the personnel officer at Base Section and I’ve just come from there. The man I wanted to see was out, but I saw his representative. He told me there were other MC’s in the same position and with more time in service, but that Army was doing its best to reassign some of us. At any rate, he’s got my name on the list, but I don’t have much hope along that line. On the other hand, of course, is the probability that when this is all over that the fellows stuck in the hospitals will be the last to get out and that I might get out earlier for being in a separate battalion. The future holds that answer – as it holds so many others concerning us. One answer we don’t have to worry about though – and that is that I’m coming back to you, to marry you and live happily ever after.

I got a couple of letters yesterday – one from Lil Zetlan and one – a circular letter – from the Salem Hospital. I’m enclosing the latter. You may as well become acquainted with some of the names, dear, because you will eventually.

By the way, sweetheart, I was glad to read about Herb Zakim trying to date you. There’s nothing a fellow likes better than to feel that his fiancée or wife is attractive to others – as long as she is the faithful type; and about that I have no fear. And as to the reverse – you have never exactly asked me, but I can tell you anyway – you can and will be able to trust me, darling.

The enclosed little emblem was pinned on me by some enthusiastic Belgian some time ago. I’ve intended to send it along before but have forgotten up to now. You might like to wear it or save it. Thousands of these little emblems with the Belgian colors were to be seen in Belgium, this shape and a hundred other styles.

Well, sweetheart, I feel better now – having written to you. Everything will turn out all right, one way or another. Most of all I want to come home and marry you and show you how much I love you. Love to the folks, dear - and

My deepest love,


about The Battle of the Huertgen Forest
First Attack: September

From a thread on the Axis History Forum web site comes this paper which was awarded the Loyola University History Award for Outstanding History Senior Thesis for the 2001-2002 Academic Year.
The Huertgen Forest: The Necessary Battle
by: Craig Bayer

There were three main army groups that would march into Germany. The first was the 21st Army Group under the command of Field Marshall Montgomery. They were still in the Holland area where Market Garden had taken place. Above Switzerland lay the 6th Army Group. Between the 21st Army Group and the 6th Army Group was the 12th Army Group under the command of General Omar Bradley. It consisted of the First, Third and Ninth armies. General Courtney Hodges was the commander of the First Army. Under Hodges were Major General Lenard Gerow, commander of V Corps, General Joseph Collin, commander of VII Corps, and General H Corlet, commander of XIX Corps. VII Corps consisted of the 1st and 9th Infantry Units and the 3rd Armored Division. V Corps controlled the 4th and 28th Infantry Division and the 5th Armored Division. In early September, General Hodges had to give these troops the order to halt, while supplies were moved to Montgomery to make way for Market Garden. General Collins and VII Corps lay west of the German town of Aachen at the Netherlands/Belgium border....

"The 9th division was given the task of clearing the northern section of the Huertgen Forest to prevent its use by the enemy as a base from which to counterattack or place fire against the south flank of the 3rd Armored as it drove head on against the West Wall."
         - General Joseph Collins

General Collins would send the 1st Infantry Division to take the foothill surrounding Aachen and have the 9th Infantry Division capture the northern part of the Huertgen Forest. The 3rd Armored Division would then be free to attack the Siegfried Line. Intelligence estimated that the Germans had only 7000 men defending the area, mainly from the 105th Panzer Brigade and the 116th Panzer Division. The German commander in charge of the defenses at the Stolberg area was General Brandenberg. He believed that the Americans would concentrate their attack on the city of Aachen. On 13 September the attack had begun and by 15 September the 1st Division had captured the ring of hills around Aachen. The 9th Infantry Division managed to take the town of Zweifall in the north area of the forest with little trouble. On 16 September, despite heavy resistance, the 9th Infantry Division was able to capture the town of Vicht and advance on Shevenhutte. With their flanks protected, the 3rd Armored Division began its assault on the Siegfried Line.

A column of GIs ascends a hill and enters the forest.
Many of the men sent into the woods as replacements
were unprepared for what they would face.

Their initial success was due to Germany’s miscalculation of the American objectives. However, as the fighting continued, it became more and more obvious to General Brandenberg that the American attack was not towards Aachen and more likely towards Stolberg. Major William Sylvan, General Hodges aide-de-camp, was extremely worried about the American position once the surprise was up. “Colonel Dixon reported today, based on intelligence he had, the Germans now resolved to throw in everything on the present line in an attempt to hold the Americans before they could crack the defenses along it.” The Germans sent in the 7th Army Group to stop the attack. On 17 September the 12th Division of the 7th German Army group counterattacked the American 3rd Armored Division in the town of Stolberg, where the Americans took heavy losses and were halted in their tracks. On September 18, Collins had the 3rd Armored Division retreat.

The Germans laid an all out attack on the Americans and the fighting was brutal. The Americans had managed to gain a foothold in the northern part of the Huertgen Forest and the hills around Aachen, but the main objective had failed. The Americans’ initial success was due to the fact that the Germans believed the main American attack would focus on Aachen and had left the Stolberg Corridor and the Huertgen with minimal defenses. When the Germans realized their mistake they were able to counterattack and throw the Americans off base. By 13 September more German reinforcements had also begun arriving in the forest to further improve the defense.

The ill-supplied Americans were inexperienced and did not know how to fight against pillboxes. Their training at home had not taught them the techniques they would need to survive in the wooded areas. “When the Germans, secure in their bunkers, saw the GIs coming forward, they called down presighted artillery fire, using shells with fuses designed to explode on contact with the treetops. When men dove to the ground for cover, as they had been trained to do and as instinct dictated, they exposed themselves to a rain of hot metal and wood splinters. They learned to survive a shelling in the Huertgen by hugging a tree. That way they only exposed their steel helmets.” The Americans, as Sgt. Mack Morris reports, had not realized the extent of the German defenses in the forest. “In one break there was a teller mine every eight paces for three miles. In another there were more that 500 mines in the narrow break. One stretch of road held 300 teller mines, each one with a pull device in addition to the regular detonator. There were 400 anti tank mines in a three-mile area.”

Artillery-damaged Treetops in Huertgen Forest

Even if it had achieved its goals, the first attack into the forest was a complete failure because the Americans were not going after the Roer River dams.

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