I can’t remember everything I’ve written the past few days, but what I can recall is that I’ve been on the gloomy side of the fence, dear, – and that shouldn’t be. So today – despite the fact that sick call is still on, and people are coming in and out getting pills – I’m writing in the morning when my spirits are generally better. And I do feel better today, darling, and not because the weather has changed, because it hasn’t, damn it! If Hitler had a secret weapon, I’m sure it was the weather, because it sure has favored the enemy.
Say – I meant to tell you something – Remember when I wrote you about staying at the Prince’s place in Belgium? Well one of our officers – from Davenport, Iowa – wrote his folks about it too; his mother told a neighbor, the neighbor told a reporter, the reporter put the story, with elaborations, into the Davenport papers and before it was all over – the Chicago Daily news had a story on it. I saw the clipping – and darned if it didn’t read well. That was a good spot though and one I’ll remember. You should have a picture of the place by now.
I just noticed, dear, as I was writing, that covering the table on which I’m writing – is an August 31st copy of the Daily Hampshire Gazette – which Sgt. Kirby gets. I see items about Hadley, Holyoke, Easthampton etc. Ruby’s Furniture Company, for example, of Holyoke, etc. – is opening another store. Gosh – it was this time of the year that I was seeing so much of you and learning to love you by leaps and bounds! They were happy days, darling, but always clouded by the thought of my leaving any day. And leave I did. I’m glad that chapter of our lives is behind us – because it was a difficult one. I like to think that the greatest part of our hardships are behind us – although only a fool would really believe that. We’ve got life to face together, getting started, making an income, raising a family, and doing a great many other things – but the one big, tremendous difference is that we’ll do those things together and together we can face things so much better than when alone. You know, dear, I think a great deal about the time when we’re actually settled and I’m waiting for a practice to develop. And waiting is the correct word. I was never afraid of it when I was single – because a single person needs so little. I’m not afraid now, either, for that matter – but I can’t help thinking about it. Being a doctor is funny business; you just can’t bubble over with enthusiasm, pep and drive – like a salesman or a business man; you just have to “sweat” it out. That’s why I’m glad I had at least 2 years of building in Salem. I won’t be a stranger and some patients are bound to come back. And it will be so much more fun with you to help me, with you to come home to, to go out with and to plan my time off with. That’s why I get so fed up with all this here; I want to get going!! No more, I won’t go farther – because my mood is good today, sweetheart.
I’ll have to stop now, dear and do a little work. Didn’t hear from you yesterday – but no one received mail and that’s a little consolation. Hope you’re being kept busy and hope all is well at home. My love to the folks, darling –
On 12 October, some 5,000 German defenders in Aachen, supported by assault guns and tanks, launched a major counterattack against the American 30th Infantry Division. The German attack was disrupted due to an incessant Allied artillery barrage and by well placed American anti-tank defenses and armored assets. Two German infantry regiments counterattacked against the 1st Infantry Division. On 13 October, troops of the 26th Infantry Regiment assaulted the city proper. The fighting was bitter, with the U.S. infantry accompanied by tanks and self-propelled artillery to knock out German armor and reduce strong points. Fighting was house-to-house. Infantry blasted holes in the outer walls of buildings with bazookas and then cleared resistance room by room with small arms and hand grenades. Many SS troops died at their posts rather than surrender.
On 15 October, the Germans again counterattacked against the 1st Infantry Division, in an effort to widen the gap between the two American pincers; the bulk of the German forces were destroyed by artillery and air support, although a number of heavy tanks managed to break through American lines and were only stopped after continued air support. The 30th Infantry Division, with elements of the 29th Infantry and 2nd Armored divisions, continued its push southwards and finally outflanked the German defenses, allowing the 30th and 1st Infantry Divisions to link up on 16 October.
When German troops west of Aachen tried to relieve the siege in hastily organized counterattacks, American artillery beat them back. Aachen was completely surrounded, and gradually the German defensive position shrank to a small section of the western part of the city. Success in Aachen was then measured by the number of houses captured, as the advance proved to be sluggish. To cope with the thick walls of the older buildings in the city, the 26th Infantry Regiment used howitzers at point blank range to destroy German fortifications. The howitzer allowed infantrymen to advance from building to building without having to enter the city's streets, where they could be pinned down by enemy fire. Pinned on the surface by Allied aircraft, German infantrymen used sewers to deploy behind American formations to attack them from the rear.
On 18 October, the 3rd Battalion of the 26th Infantry Regiment prepared to assault the Hotel Quellenhof, which was one of the last areas of resistance in the city. American tanks and other guns were firing on the hotel, which was the city's defense headquarters, at point blank range. That night, 300 soldiers of the 1st SS Battalion was able to reinforce the hotel and defeat several attacks into the building. A violent German counterattack managed to overrun a number of American infantry companies outside of the hotel, and temporarily released pressure off the Hotel Quellenhof before being beat off by concerted American mortar fire.
belong to Through the Camera's Eye: The Allison Collection of WWII Photographs.
Two events then aided the final advance. First, to lessen front line infantry casualties, remaining German strongpoints were barraged with the heavy-artillery firepower of 155-millimeter (6.1 inch) guns. Second, to assist the 1st Infantry Division, a V Corps sector battalion was brought in to close a gap between forward 26th Infantry Regiment elements within the city. The defensive mission of this new battalion was changed 19–20 October to closely support the urban assault. On 21 October 1944, soldiers of the 26th Infantry Regiment, supported by the reinforced battalion of the 110th Infantry Regiment finally conquered central Aachen. That day also marked the surrender of the last German garrison, in the Hotel Quellenhof, ending the battle for the city.
The Battle of Aachen had cost both the Americans and Germans dearly. U.S. forces took some 12,000 German prisoners, and thousands more Germans were killed. Several hundred civilians also died. U.S. losses of 3,700 men (3,200 from the 30th Infantry Division and 500 from the 1st Infantry Division) were also high, particularly among experienced riflemen.
During the conflict the Germans had developed a respect for the fighting ability of American forces, noting their capability to fire indiscriminately with overwhelming amounts of artillery fire support and armored forces. However, German resistance at Aachen (as well as Operation Market Basket) had prevented a quick Allied crossing of the Rhine and bought Hitler time to strengthen his West Wall defenses as he planned for what would become known as "The Battle of the Bulge".
Remarkably, amidst all the ruin and destruction, Aachen’s magnificent medieval cathedral survived.