25 November, 2011

25 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
25 November, 1944       1400

My dearest sweetheart –

It is actually 1415 now and I’ve just finished listening to the BBC newscast. Apparently there’s quite a war on, dear, although I don’t really need the radio to tell me that.

Today is Saturday again and this afternoon has just barely cleared out enough to have a football game – I mean if a game were scheduled. It’s quiet here now – outside and just another afternoon to kill. Afternoons have been rather un-busy these past several days – and consequently they pass very slowly. The evenings set in here now just about 1700-1715, as we’re finishing supper, and they’re long. It’s a good thing we’ve got into the habit of playing Bridge, for I’m finding that I manage to play about four nights a week anyway – and it sure does help pass an evening. We played last night and had some swell hands – including a Grand slam which my partner made – although I helped. It’s the first one I’ve ever taken part in, and I got quite a kick out of it.

I was wondering yesterday whether or not you got your Birthday present from me, darling; it seems like an awfully long time since I sent it out, but I haven’t heard a word from the APO – so I don’t know. Our APO is moving, by the way, and I suppose we won’t have any mail for another few days.

I’m sorry to disappoint you, darling, in reference to the G.I. Bill of Rights, although I don’t know all the details – it seems to me that most of the benefits apply to soldiers under 25, so I don’t believe it will help marry Professional men. I’m not worrying much about that subject though any more, dear. I’m just going to take things in stride and worry about that angle after I get back.

From what you wrote about Verna and Irv’s trip to Washington, they must have had a grand time. She corroborated that in a letter I got from her a few days ago – or did I tell you already, dear? I think Stanley will eventually remain away from Boston and from what I gather, it will probably be just as well. With a wife at odds with his friends, a good deal of unpleasantness would undoubtedly result. Verna implied that Betty was paying a good bit of the expenses, but that Stan was putting up his usually good front. I suppose you’ve heard all about this from Verna directly.

It’s exactly 1520 now and I suppose I should keep my mouth shut about it being quiet afternoons – of late. People have been coming in and out and I’ve just been able to sit down and write again, darling. I just had to send a soldier with a ruptured ear drum – to the hospital. The way he got it, I can’t tell you now – some other time perhaps, dear.

I haven’t told you yet that I love you, sweetheart, and after all – that’s what I try to tell you, successfully or not, every time I write you. It doesn’t make much difference either – whether it’s noisy or quiet here; about that, I’m always clear and I know how I feel and think. I would love so much to be with you tonight and every night, dear – instead of spending so many of these nights alone. You once wrote me – you’d never let me out of your sight once I got back; let alone sight, dear, – I don’t believe I’ll ever let you out of my arms – once I get you into them – so beware!

All for now, sweetheart, I’ll sign off for now. My love to the folks and

All my deepest love,


about The Attempt for Grosshau

American Advances 16 November 1944 to 2 December 1944
by the 1st, 4th and 8th Infantry Divisions
and the 5th Armored Division

From The Siegfried Line Campaign written by Charles B. MacDonald for the U.S. Army's Center for Military History (1990) comes this:
On 25 November 1944, the day before the 12th Infantry reached the woods line to provide the 22d Infantry a secure flank, Colonel Charles T. "Buck" Lanham saw a chance to capitalize on the commitment that day of the 5th Armored Division's CCR against Huertgen. In conjunction with that attack, he ordered an immediate attempt to capture Grosshau.

Colonel Charles "Buck" Lanham (right) with
author Ernest Hemingway in September of 1944

Seeking surprise, Colonel Lanham maneuvered one battalion through the woods to hit the village from the northwest while another battalion converged on it from the southwest. The plan did not work. Delayed four hours while tanks and tank destroyers picked a way over muddy trails and firebreaks, the attack lost every vestige of surprise. When the jump-off actually came at noon, coordination with the armor failed. Only three tanks and a tank destroyer emerged from the woods with the infantry. Antitank gunners in Grosshau quickly picked off the tanks. At the same time violent concentrations of artillery fire drove the infantry back. Men who had yearned for so long to escape the stifling embrace of the forest now fell back on it for refuge.

The sad results of this attack prompted the division commander, General Barton, to approve another pause in the 22d Infantry's operations. Colonel Lanham was to consolidate his positions, bring up replacements, and make detailed plans for taking Grosshau. In particular, the regiment was to make maximum use of nine battalions of artillery which were either organic or attached to the division. Here on the edge of the forest the artillery for the first time might provide observed, close-in fires capable of influencing the fighting directly and decisively.

In the meantime, on the division's north wing, Colonel Richard G. McKee's 8th Infantry on the second and third days of the renewed attack had come to know the true measure of the advantage the regiment had scored. The battalion which on 22 November had reached the junction of Road U and the Renn Weg drove northeast along Road U for more than a mile. Although subjected to considerable shelling, this battalion encountered only disorganized infantry resistance. On 24 November Colonel McKee sent this battalion northward to fill out the line between Road U and the division's north boundary and at the same time to cut behind those Germans who still were making a fight of it at Gut Schwarzenbroich. During the same two days, another battalion moved slowly against more determined resistance southeast along the Renn Weg and on 25 November surged to the regiment's south boundary. The total advance was more than a mile.

Colonel McKee's 8th Infantry stood on the brink of a breakthrough that could prove decisive. In four days, the regiment had more than doubled the distance gained during the first six days of the November offensive. The forward positions were almost two miles beyond the line of departure along Road W. Only just over a mile of forest remained to be conquered.

Yet how to achieve the last mile? The troops were exhausted. Because the leaders had to move about to encourage and look after their men, they had been among the first to fall. A constant stream of replacements had kept the battalions at a reasonable strength, but the new men had not the ability of those they replaced. For all the tireless efforts of engineers and mine sweepers, great stretches of the roads and trails still were infested with mines. Even routes declared clear might cause trouble. Along a reputedly cleared route, Company K on 23 November lost its Thanksgiving dinner when a kitchen jeep struck a mine. Every day since 20 November had brought some measure of sleet or rain to augment the mud on the floor of the forest. To get supplies forward and casualties rearward, men sludged at least a mile under constant threat from shells that burst unannounced in the treetops and from bypassed enemy troops who might materialize at any moment from the depths of the woods. Again a gap had grown between the 8th Infantry and the 22d Infantry. The gap was a mile and a quarter wide.

Medics aid a wounded soldier in the woods

With the failure of the 22d Infantry at Grosshau on 25 November, the 4th Division commander, General Barton, had at hand an all too vivid reminder of the condition of his units. Much of the hope that entry of the V Corps into the fight might alter the situation had faded with the disastrous results of the unrewarding early efforts of that corps to capture Huertgen. The successes of the 8th and 22d Infantry Regiments in renewing the attack on 22 November appeared attributable more to local maneuver than to any general pattern of enemy disintegration. General Barton reluctantly ordered both regiments to suspend major attacks and take two or three days to reorganize and consolidate.

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