16 November, 2011

16 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
16 November, 1944     1245

Hello, Sweetheart –

I’m trying to get an early start today and maybe I’ll succeed in writing a more coherent letter than I did yesterday. For the time being, dear, it’s quiet; I’ve just returned from lunch.

This morning – in fact – while I’m writing this, big things are going on all around us, but they’re big things on the part of the Americans – so everybody is happy. You’ll probably know what I mean by the time this reaches you.

Yesterday was just another day – and I guess that’s about all I can say of the past several weeks. The weather has been amazingly and uniformly rotten – and until this morning we hadn’t seen the sun for longer than 10 minutes at a time – for I don’t know how long. If Hitler ever had a potent secret weapon – it must have been the abominable weather that we’ve had ever since we approached the borders of Germany. Maybe we’ll get a break now. When we do, Herman the German will know he’s in a war again – and the People’s Army with him.

Last night I went to bed at 9 o’clock again, heard a Bob Hope program and fell asleep around 2200, I guess. I managed to sleep most of the night – although I was awake at 0600. I’m so darned rested and do so little work – that I can’t sleep well nights. Speaking of sleeping – and the night-time reminds me of your mentioning wearing my old bath-robe. If it’s a light-weight blue one, it is really an old one. Gee – it’s been a long long time since I’ve had a robe on. Even when I was in practice I never got a chance to lounge around very much. I hated staying in of an evening alone and managed always to find something to do. When I got in – it was always quite late – and I went to bed immediately. So chalk that down, sweetheart, as another thing I have to enjoy after the war. Boy! that list is really growing!

Not knowing more about Bud Gordon, her husband and her career – it’s difficult for me to express a very intelligent opinion, but off hand – if you quoted his ideas correctly, I’m on his side. I can understand his reactions and consequent worry on receiving perhaps more than one enthusiastic letter concerning his wife’s work and her future plans. He’s perhaps a little concerned over the fact that she might want to keep working at it and he doesn’t want that. So he writes her and tells her that. If he’s a sensible fellow and can use her income immediately during the post-war days -– he very likely will be glad to have her work for awhile. By the way – what did he do – prior to joining the Army?

I’m glad to read that you feel I know how to relax, darling. I think I do. Don’t you worry one bit about my being all keyed up because I’m not getting enough to do. I’ve been over here long enough to have seen a good many rotten things and my prime desire is to get home and get home well; that’s what matters most these days, dear. When I get back – we’ll decide what to do – but most important – we’ll have each other and each other’s love. I’m glad you already feel that you can depend on me; you’ll be surprised to find how much I’ll depend on you, too, darling. Together we’re going to have a swell time, dear; we’ll be happy, I know, and we’re going to enjoy life.

That’s all for now, sweetheart; there’s a few things going on that I want to see – and hear. My love to the folks and regards to Mary – whom I always seem to neglect. So long for now, dear, and

All my deepest love


about Operation Queen
First Army Begins

Greg said in his letter today "This morning – in fact – while I’m writing this, big things are going on all around us" and that there were a few things he wanted to "see - and hear". No doubt he was referring to "Operation Queen," as he was within 15 miles of the U.S. 8th Air Force's targets. This review was taken from Wikipedia's coverage of Operation Queen.

(A) Hahn, where Greg is staying, and bomb hits:
(B) Eschweiler, (C) Weisweiler (D) Langerwehe

The Allied High Command planned a large offensive by the 1st U.S. Army together with the 9th U.S. Army and parts of the British 2nd Army in the area of the Rur River, intending to establish bridgeheads at Linnich, Jülich and Düren. The long term target after the Rur was crossed was to reach the Rhine and establish bridgeheads at Krefeld and Düsseldorf in order to secure further advances inside Germany after the winter. This offensive was named Operation Queen. The 1st Army – already stationed near the Hürtgen Forest – was to carry out the main effort through the Hürtgen Forest toward the Rur River. The 9th Army was to advance north of the forest through the Rur plains.

To begin, American and British strategic bombers were to conduct a series of tactical assaults in the area to cut supply lines, destroy enemy infrastructure, and attack the enemy defenders inside their positions. The 8th U.S. Air Force was to bomb the fortifications around Eschweiler and Aldenhoven, while the medium bombers of the 9th Air Force were assigned to the second line of defense around Jülich and Langerwehe. At the same time the RAF Bomber Command was to hit the traffic centres of Jülich and Düren hard; the smaller towns of Heinsberg, Erkelenz and Hückelhoven were designated as secondary targets. Initially, the starting date of the offensive was set for 5 November, but because of bad weather it was delayed until 10 November and then finally called for 16 November. The ground offensive was to begin immediately after the air raids, allowing the defenders no time to reestablish fortifications, supply routes and communications.

Meanwhile, the German Wehrmacht, running out of strategic options, had already planned for an all-out counteroffensive in the West, codenamed Wacht am Rhein. The first draft of the plan was completed in secret in October 1944 and was aimed against the Ardennes, mirroring the successful campaign in 1940 against France. The plan required the best divisions of the Wehrmacht to be held back from the Autumn fighting, to gain time to build them up for the planned offensive. For the successful execution of the plan, the holding of the Rur River line was deemed as essential to prevent the Allies from a flanking attack. The German plan for the November–December Campaign was therefore to hold the Rur River line with a minimum of available forces until the Ardennes Offensive could be launched.

Opposed to the units of VII Corps were the shattered German forces of LXXXI Corps, commanded by Friedrich Köchling. The LXXXI Corps consisted of three divisions: the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division, the 246th Infantry Division and the 12th Volksgrenadier Division (VGD). Another unit, the 47th VGD was in the process of being transferred to the front. It was mostly made up from 18–19 years old Luftwaffe personnel. All the German divisions were seriously understrength, but mobile artillery and tank reserve was available.

On 16 November 1944 between 11:13 and 12:48, the Allied bombers conducted the preliminary bombings of Operation Queen. 1,204 heavy bombers of the U.S. 8th Air Force hit Eschweiler, Weisweiler and Langerwehe with 4,120 bombs, while 339 fighter bombers of the U.S. 9th Air Force attacked Hamich, Hürtgen and Gey with 200 short tons (180 t) of bombs. At the same time, 467 Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster heavy bombers attacked Düren and Jülich; 180 British bombers hit Heinsberg.

Mission Support bomber downed by flak around Eschweiler
(To read the story of this 384th Bomber Group aircraft, click here)

The result of the bombing was mixed. The German towns being hit suffered from severe destruction. German communications after the bombing were heavily impaired, and there was a considerable effect on the morale, especially on units consisting of more younger and inexperienced troops. However, the direct damage dealt to the German frontline troops was low, and casualties were few. Allied air commanders admitted that the bombing did not measure up to expectations. About 12 aircraft were shot down during the initial bombing by meager anti-aircraft fire. Together with the bombing raids, heavy artillery raids preceded the main thrust of J. Lawton Collins's VII Corps.

Jülich, Germany destruction

The attack of VII Corps commenced with a two-pronged attack with 1st Infantry Division on the right and the 104th Infantry Division on the left. In its initial attack 1st Division was only able to make ground slowly against the 47th VGD around Hamich. Casualties were heavy, especially after reinforced counterattacks by the mobile reserves from the 116th Panzer Division. After four days of fighting, Hamich was taken, but 1st Division had only advanced about 2.0 miles (3.2 km) with casualties of more than 1,000 men.

Meanwhile Collins ordered the American 3rd Armored Division to be split into Combat Command A (CCA) and Combat Command B (CCB). CCA was assigned to assist the 104th Division, while CCB would act independently to take four villages (Werth, Koettenich, Scherpenseel, and Hastenrath) in the northwestern fringes of the Hürtgen Forest, defended by the 12th VGD. This small corridor between the 1st and the 104th Division was one of the few places suitable for an armored thrust. Although CCB was able to accomplish its task in three days, the heavy mud had hindered its movement and tank casualties were heavy; CCB lost 49 out of 69 tanks.

Aside from the double thrust conducted by the 1st and 104th Division, the American command had determined that another attack route should be taken towards Düren. The task was passed to the 4th Infantry Division, positioned at the southern wing of VII Corps, to take a route between Hürtgen and Schevenhütte, also capturing the villages of Kleinhau and Grosshau. Here the 104th division would take over positions of the depleted 28th Infantry Division, badly mauled during the fighting at Schmidt. This position was still held by the weakened but experienced German 275th Infantry Division. The thinned out German lines could not offer as much resistance as in early November, but the difficult terrain as well as the mines caused heavy casualties to the Americans. After five days of fighting, the division had only advanced about 1.6 miles (2.5 km), suffering 1,500 casualties.

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