And now the start of another month away from you. How many more – I wonder? I’ve a pretty busy day scheduled ahead of me and therefore the V-mail. If I don’t get this off now – I might not get a chance to write.
I got some more mail yesterday – and the service in delivery seems to be getting worse. The letters yesterday were from the 23rd and 24th of October. I had almost forgotten that those letters were missing – but they were welcome nevertheless. I also got a letter from Mother B – from way back, one from Stan and one from a friend in the Pacific. Stan told me about the trouble of getting an apartment etc. He did not refer to you at all – or anyone in Boston for that matter.
Right now I’m in the mood for some hard kissing, darling; how about you? I sure would love to give you a sample of my own special brand – Deluxe – Can you wait? Naturally – it’s on a wholesale basis only, dear. Most stop now – sweetheart. Love to all at home – and
The End of The Battle of Huertgen Forest
To the 26th Infantry, Merode was no ordinary objective. It was a promise of no more Huertgen Forest. To fulfill that promise, the 26th Infantry had but one battalion, already seriously weakened by thirteen brutal days in the forest. Merode lies on a slope slanting downward from the eastern woods line. Although numerous roads serve the village from the Roer plain, only a narrow cart track leads eastward from the forest. Astride this narrow trail across 300 yards of open ground the 26th Infantry had to move. Behind a sharp artillery preparation, the attacking battalion commander, Colonel Daniel, sent two companies toward Merode shortly before noon on 29 November 1944.
Despite stubborn resistance from a battalion of the 5th Parachute Regiment in a line of strongpoints along the western edge of the village, Colonel Daniel's men by late afternoon had gained the first houses. Yet no one believed for a moment that the Germans were ready to relinquish the village. Employing numbers of pieces that the 1st Division G-2 estimated to be equal to those of the Americans, German artillery wreaked particular havoc. Despite several strikes by tactical aircraft and several counterbattery TOT's by 1st Division artillery, the German pieces barked as full-throated and deadly as ever.
The minute the riflemen gained the first houses, Colonel Daniel ordered a platoon of tanks to join them. Two got through, although one was knocked out almost immediately after gaining the village. Commanders of the other two tanks paused at the woods line, noted the "sharpness" of the enemy's shellfire, and directed their drivers to turn back. As they backed up, a shell struck a track of the lead tank. The tank overturned. Because of deep cuts, high fills, and dense, stalwart trees on either side of the narrow trail, no vehicle could get into Merode past the damaged tank.
Various individuals tried in various ways through the early part of the night to get more tank and antitank support into Merode. They might have been dogs baying at the moon, so futile were their efforts. Someone called for a tank retriever to remove the damaged tank, but not until the next morning did one arrive. Then for some unexplained reason, the retriever could not remove the tank. Someone else called for engineers to build a bypass around the tank, but this would be at best a long, tedious process. A sergeant trying to borrow tanks attached to another battalion of the 26th Infantry met a rebuff from the regimental operations officer. "You keep your tanks," the S-3 told the battalion commander. "He can't have them unless we know the [full] story on [his tanks]."
This was fiddling while Rome burned. The Germans even then were laying down a curtain of shellfire to prevent reinforcement of American troops in Merode. Soon after, they counterattacked. Because American radio batteries had been weakened by constant use, communications with the two companies in Merode failed. No one knew where to throw artillery fire to stop the German drive. Not until near midnight was there further word from the men in Merode. Then a plaintive message, barely audible, came over Colonel Daniel's radio set. "There's a Tiger tank coming down the street now, firing his gun into every house. He's three houses away now... still firing into every house... Here he comes.... "
That was all anyone heard from the two companies in Merode until about three hours later when a sergeant and twelve men escaped from the village. Using these men as guides, a combat patrol tried to break through to any men who still might be holding out. Shellfire and burp guns forced the patrol back.
For all practical purposes, this marked the end of the 26th Infantry's fight for Merode. Though prisoner reports through the next day of 30 November and into 1 December continued to nourish hope that some of the two companies still survived, attempts to get help into the village grew more and more feeble. The 26th Infantry listed 165 men missing on the day of the Merode engagement. For the Americans it was an ignominious end to the final fight to break out of the Huertgen Forest.
In fifteen days the 1st Division and the 47th Infantry, with an assist on two occasions by contingents of the 3d Armored Division, had registered a total advance of not quite four miles from Schevenhuette to Langerwehe. The division had cleared a rectangle of approximately eleven square miles embracing the northeastern extremities of the Huertgen Forest and a fringe of the Eschweiler-Weisweiler industrial triangle. 1st Division also had paid dearly. Indeed, with 3,993 battle casualties, including 641 in the attached 47th Infantry, the 1st Division would go down as one of the more severely hurt participants in the Huertgen Forest fighting.
The 26th Infantry, which fought fully within the forest, lost more than any of the other regiments, 1,479 men, including 163 killed and 261 missing. These did not include non-battle losses attributable to combat exhaustion and the weather. For the 26th Infantry, at least, these must have been as severe as in regiments of other divisions which fought completely within the confines of the forest.
For all practical purposes, the dread battle of the Huertgen Forest was over. More than 8,000 men from the First Army fell prey in the forest to combat exhaustion and the elements. Another 23,000 were either wounded, missing, captured, or killed. That was an average of more than 5,000 casualties per division.