Heroes: the Army
"In combat, being under enemy fire can best be described as being placed in a railroad marshaling yard. You are standing on one side facing the row upon row of tracks in front of you. You are then blindfolded and ordered to slowly walk across the busy tracks. The not knowing if and when one of those moving trains will hit you as you slowly proceed across is a little like facing enemy fire."
Survivor of the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest,
13th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division
Joseph Salzano Image Circa November 1945
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: 8th Infantry Division,
13th Infantry Regiment
- Dates: 1940 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Birth Year: 1922
- Entered Service: New York, NY
German Accounts of Actions Opposing the 8th Division:
We at World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words, have been given permission by the contributor, Mr. Joseph Salzano, to place the following German accounts of some of the fierce battles in which his unit, the 13th Regiment, 8th Division participated in.
The following accounts contain some five additional pages that have been added to the accounts of Mr. Joe Salzano's personal accounts of his actions during this major campaing.
By reading the following pages, you can get an idea of how this heated action was viewed by the adversaries facing the American advance into Germany.
These accounts also give some individual soldier's recollections as well as some civilian accounts of their experiences during this major campaign.
The following pages were originally documents written in German -- and then were painstakingly translated into English at the University of Maryland.
The following are accounts relating to the Battle of the Huertgen Forest -- in which the American forces suffered some 28,000 casualities -- while the German casualities can be only guessed at...
Notations as such  indicate the Page # from the original document.
47th Volks Grenadier Division at the Western Front.
The Deployment of GrenReg 89...Aachen
The deployment of GrenReg 89 in the defensive battles of Aachen in the time period between September and December 1944.
On September 12, 1944 12th InfDiv, stationed in Danzig, was put on alert. The division had been prepared for a transport and now the order arrived to quickly shift to the western theater of operations. The new location was unknown, but the Aachen area was what most people suspected. Initially, it was planned that the division was to operate as a coherent unit from the Eschweiler-Wuirselen area with the objective to lead an assault to the southwest. This was meant to drive deep into the flanks of the American troops that advanced south of Aachen. But the briefing on 9/15/44 at command post Pattern of LXXXI Army Corps rendered the result that such coherent operations could no longer be expected. The situation had worsened and the division could no longer gather in the area mentioned above. The first break through the Westwall had occurred south of Aachen. Kornelismunster, Vicht, and Zweifall had been taken by the enemy. Reportedly, forward tank units had already advanced toward Julich and Duren. The operational objective of the enemy was obvious. They wanted to overrun the Westwall, take the Rur crossings near Julich and Duren, and eventually reach the Rhine at Cologne in fast paced operations.
The situation had deteriorated even more between 9/15 and 9/16. The Westwall between Stolberg and Zweifall had been lost. There was a wide gap now and the details were unknown, even to the Corps. Small American combat groups held on to the bunkers near Stolberg. The connection to Aachen was lost and a politically hostile situation and complete chaos within the civil administration didn't alleviate this situation.
Early on 9/16 the division received its combat orders:
Enemy forward troops have to be pushed back wherever you find them,
the gap between Stolberg and Zweifall has to be closed,
the whole division has to be deployed to recover the Westwall between Stolberg and Zweifall.
The transport of the division, now driving with the fastest possible speed, worked, there were no incidents. Poor weather prohibited enemy aerial operations. The enemy didn't notice the approach of a fresh division, even at the jump-off line. This was the only way that a full division could reach the jump-off line without losses.
I. Battalion, FussillierReg 27, which had disembarked in Julich early in the morning of 9/16, and III. Battalion, which had disembarked in Duren, were immediately transported to the front. This was done with all present vehicles, including civilian resources (postal service busses, factory busses, trucks, etc.). Meanwhile the division received reports about the loss of Mausbach, Gressenich, and the southern parts of Stolberg. The enemy was said to have reached Atsch with reconnaissance troops. Verlautenheide had been lost. Decisive action was necessary, and fast. Aachen was in danger of being enveloped from the south and southwest. Furthermore, a break through to the Rhine by way of Julich and Duren seemed imminent. The CO ordered after a brief reconnaissance mission the right battalion (I. Battalion/27) to attack the hills near Verlautenheide along the road Julich -Broichweiden. The left battalion of the same regiment, which had disembarked in Duren, reached the area southwest of Eschweiler by way of Weisweiler and Eschweiler. Both battalions already made contact with the enemy in the late morning hours of 9/16/44. Weak forward forces of lst American InfDiv were quickly driven out of Verlautenheide and the houses south of Atsch.
Verlautenheide was recovered on the same day after partially fierce combat. III. Battalion, FuReg27, attacking from Atsch, reached the Westwall on both sides of Munsterbusch after engaging a weaker enemy. It also reached the southern part of Stolberg and established a connection to the remaining combat groups of 9th ParaDiv that had persevered in the bunkers. By the evening of 9/16 Regiment 27 held a closed frontline, even though it was only built on bases.
The connection to the right neighbor, 11 6th panzer Div had been established between Eilendorf and Verlautenheide. The threatening envelopment of Aachen had been stopped. The recovery of the Verlautnheide plateau robbed the enemy of the opportunity to advance toward Julich. The enemy had clearly been taken by surprise and the resistance of 1st American InfDiv varied by units.
Early on 9/17/44 GrenRegs 48 and 89 had arrived in full strength, including the artillery. Only l2th Fusilier Battalion and l2th panzer Jager were still missing. The absence of the assault guns was most painful because it was an invaluable weapon to support infantry assaults. A somewhat minor compensation for the assault guns were the 8 tanks of panzer Brigade 105, but the remainders of that unit, as well as those of 9th panzer Div were tied to the cornerstone position Stolberg.
GrenReg 89 was supposed to send I. Battalion into an attack toward Werth after successful gathering in the jump-off line. This attack was supposed to take Weissenberg and the dump sites of Diepenlinchen as the first objective. Both battalions of GrenReg 48 had orders to reach the Hamich-Heistern area. It then received orders to advance toward Mausbach by way of Gressenich, to attack Fleuth and to shift to Stolberg-Vicht after these objectives had been successfully solved.
GrenReg 89 had to attack around noon despite the absence of II. Battalion because increasing enemy artillery fire from Kornelismuhle and jump-off lines that we had detected, including tanks south of Diepenlinchen, allowed the conclusion that an enemy attack was imminent. The regiment took Werth, Weissenberg, and the dumpsites of Diepenlinchen in fierce combat, but we suffered heavy casualties. The attacks bogged down repeatedly. The reason was that the civilian population hadn't been evacuated in orderly fashion and now tumbled around between the mentioned towns and often got between the lines, at times forcing the commanders on both sides to cease fire. Valuable time was lost in that fashion. A continuation of the attack was impossible. The regiment dug in at the line that had been reached by evening. GrenReg 48, following its orders, attacked the town of Gressenich from Hamich in the morning of 9/17. One battalion succeeded and the enemy had to run. After a short fight, Krewinkel also fell. Just north of Mausbach , however, the regiment ran into an American counterattack that must have  been planned to assault GrenReg 89 in Diepenlinchen-Weissenberg-Hill 283.3. The enemy appeared to be shocked by the attack from an unexpected direction. He was hit hard in the flank and retreated quickly.
The CO of the attacking American regiment, InfReg 26 of lst American InfDiv as far as I remember, was captured on the battlefield while he was on a reconnaissance mission. At noon the I. Battalion of the regiment infiltrates Mausbach. At about 2 p.m. the church in Mausbach is recovered, the town is in our hands in the afternoon hours, 200 prisoners are taken. The insufficient artillery support is felt even though no enemy tanks have showed up yet. In the evening enemy artillery fire intensifies along the front. For the first time single tanks are deployed in the left sector, an attempt to initiate quick counterstrikes, but without success.
FusilierReg 27 receives orders to take additional bunkers near Munsterbusch on 9/18. The heavily battered GrenReg 89 is supposed to hold the line. GrenReg 48 is expected to take the enemy stronghold Schevenhutte in a night attack.
9/18 brought the expected counterattacks. POWs allow us to identify lst American InfDiv and 3rd ArmoredDiv. There clearly seem to be two objectives, one column moves against Stolberg. the other against Diepenlinchen-Mausbach-Werth. Assault on Verlautenheide fail. The enemy does gain ground in Stolberg, however, and a few bunkers are lost. The Hammerberg east of Stolberg also falls. Additional attacks from the Hammerberg toward Donnerberg fail. They are repelled with heavy enemy casualties. Single tanks are disabled, some are hit in close-range fighting. Extremely heavy pressure is applied out of Mausbach on Diepenlinchen with numerous tanks. Diepenlinchen falls around noon and the dumpsites of Weissenberg also cannot be held. Evening attacks against Hill 283.3 falter under extremely heavy enemy casualties. Also, smaller assaults out of Mausbach aren't successful.
On 9/18 the main-combat line runs as follows:
Southern fringes of Verlautenheide-Forestry Schwarzenbruch and Schwarzenbruch Estate-Schneidmuhle-Buschmuhle (west of Munsterbusch)-southern fringes of Munsterbusch-Stolberg Center-Niederhof-Hill 283.3-northern fringes of MausbachKrewinke 1-edge of forest south of Buschhausen-Schevenhutte/North.
9/19 again brought the expected attacks. Smaller reconnaissance missions are led against Verlautenheide. In the southern part of Stolberg there is house-to-house combat bat it doesn't take on any serious character. Some POWs are taken there in counterattacks. Furthermore, several bunkers on the Hammerberg are recovered. The divisional artillery, supported by several flak batteries from the Aachen air defense, and finally under one command, shoots at detected tank jump-off lines in the woods south of the Hammerberg. The left sector of the division remains relatively quiet that day. It appears as if the enemy also had heavy casualties and is catching his breath.
9/20 brought new attacks, just as we had expected. Most of them were conducted with company strength only but they did dictate the course of events and prevented us from  taking the offense. That day also brought the first coherent air force activities. They intervened in the fighting on the ground with fighter-bombers that targeted the maincombat line and battery positions. The Lightnings, flying in groups of two or three also made an unpleasant impression with their precise bomb drops on detected and expected firing positions. The bombs disabled MG and anti-tanks gun nests at Duffenter, Niederhof, and Hochwegerhof. But heavy pressure was only applied in Stolberg itself, where we lost several houses along Main Street. The enemy deployed tanks. The Fast ammunition once again proved to be effective for house-to-house combat and anti-tank usage. Several tanks were destroyed by it. From noon on heavier artillery fire, trying to find the targets, obviously these were batteries that had just arrived. The afternoon brings an assault on Hill 283.3, a company with tank support, the objective is Werth. It falters. Our reconnaissance patrol brings prisoners from Mausbach. The town is now controlled by an American position by day and converts into a part of No Man's Land at night. The effects of the loss of the dump sites near Weissenburg are now being felt. The slopes tower over the terrain to Eschweiler-Wesiweiler in the north and allows observation of Mausbach, Hastenrath, and the southern edge of the Eschweiler forest.
On 9/21 the First Battle of Aachen is fading. Renewed attacks in company strength prove that the enemy does not intend to a large attack to rekindle its bogged down offensive as long as no reinforcements arrive. Only Stolberg remains threatened but we hang on to the key positions, hills and slopes west of town, above Munsterbusch. The attempt by parts of 9th American Division to take Krewinkel also fails.
The First Battle of Aachen has to be seen as finished on 9/21, at least in the sector of our division and the neighboring sectors north and south. The waning strength of the enemy to keep attacking means that the envelopment of Aachen and the breakthrough to DurenJulich have failed. On the other hand, l2th Division has not been able to achieve the initial objective either. The wide gap in the Westwall south of Aachen had not been closed.
The combat strength of l2th Division was at about 14,800 men, of which
2,200 each =6,600
Panzer Jager troops
Division command and services in the rear
The casualties of the division had been highest on the first two days. GrenReg 89 for instance lost 200 out of 600 men. The casualties of GrenReg 48 in the fierce combat for Schevenhutte were also high. II. Battalion had lost about half of its strength by 9/19, nearly 200 men. The second part of the battle brought casualties mostly because of the  very precise artillery fire of the Americans. In the last two days the on-board guns of the fighter-bombers also contributed. The total casualties of the three GrenRegs in the First Battle of Aachen amounted to 600 men, half of which, i.e. more than 80% involved blood-loss. Most of these casualties occurred in the first part of the battle, they were inflicted by tanks, MG fire, and infantry fire. The casualties suffered in the house-tohouse combat in Verlautenheide. Stolberg, and Schevenhutte were also heavy.
In the Second Battle of Aachen, GrenReg 89 lost the slopes and dump sites west of Hill 283.3, Hochwegerhof. Niederhof, Steffenshauschen, and some of the houses south of Duffenter after see-saw battle action. The losses were lower than in the first defensive battle. The regimental sector was widened by the withdrawal of l2th FusBtl once the second defensive battle had been fought. The right border was shifted form Duffenter to the center of Stolberg.
The Second Battle of Aachen, which ended with the surrender of the remaining defenders inside the city on 10/21/44, brought heavy casualties on both sides despite the smaller battle zone, Heavy losses of equipment also occurred in both camps. 12th InfDiv came out of this battle with its units in order despite suffering severely high casualties.
The hope that the division would be relieved after two defensive battles of this magnitude, truly battles of attrition, unfortunately was negated. On l 0/22/44 LXXXI Army Corps instead gave out the order: "hold the current front-line as main-combat line, reinforce it, begin building up positions in the rear by following the guidelines that will be sent shortly!"
At the end of October two battalions of 500 men each arrived. They replaced most of our casualties and the companies were now back to a fighting strength of about 60 to 70 men. We cheerfully welcomed a regiment of 350 recovered veterans that arrived in early November because their experience would be invaluable. They were all veterans of the division, and experience showed that their fighting value was about triple that of new, inexperienced reserves.
We immediately began to focus on improving the positions and dugouts. B Line ran as follows in the sector of the division:
Road Aldenhoven-Aachen (incl. right border)-bunkers in WambachSteinbachshochwald-Steinfurth-shooting ranges Eschweiler Forest-southern fringes of Hasternrath-Hill 265.2.
The C Line ran as follows:
Vorweiden-Merzbruck-southern edge of Hohe-northern fringes of Eschweiler RoheNothberg-Bovenberg Forest-Hesitern.
The D Line:
Broich (right border)-southern fringes of St. Joris-northern fringes of Rohe-southern fringes of DurwiB- southern fringes of Lamersdorf-Heights and slopes Lucherbergnorthern fringes of Echtz.
The enemy was almost suspiciously quiet in the first half of November. Only as late as November 13-15, three days before the major offensive, the activities of several enemy assault parties showed a more active attitude of the enemy. Enemy aerial reconnaissance increased during that first half of November as much as the weather conditions permitted. Busy enemy fighter-bombers almost completely controlled the roads in the forward sector of the front. The arrival of numerous American artillery planes after November 10 were the unpleasant signal for the division that major combat activities were imminent. These artillery planes, so-called Oysters, were closely linked to the batteries and adjusted the firing coordinates to certain crucial points in the area, detected observer posts, crossroads, and fringes of towns. For hours and hours they would just circle above the maincombat line and this put a constant strain on our troops.
After about November 13, a scheduled shoot of fog shells at our observer positions began and it also covered those points in the area that allowed a good view over the battlefield. Our firing positions were fought systematically, but the enemy hadn't detected many of them. Noises of tanks in the middle sector, behind the slopes of Diepenlinchen showed that the enemy formed for an attack. Meanwhile the enemy air force had become so busy that it was impossible to move troops, supplies, and ammunition during the day.
The division hadn't been lazy during this time either. We had mined the terrain, especially the parts that could be used by tanks. There was almost no gap in the mine belts. The shift of 10,000 pioneers into the center of our defensive front goes to show that the enemy rarely obstructed the pioneer companies that were spread out across the regiments. They had made good use of the time granted to them. There was a thin, but closed line of barbed wire in front of the main-combat line.
On November 16, 1944 the main-combat line ran along the following line:
FusReg 27 Forestry Schwarzenbruch-southem fringes of Atsch- Kohlbusch Centerwestem edge of the city park in Stolberg-Great Slope (excluding)
GrenReg 89 Donnerberg-Duffenter-Hill 259.2-Hill 23 5- Weisweiler/Albertshof-Hill 283-Am Oberen Busch (south of Werth)-Hill 219
GrenReg 48 southem fringes of Gressenich-Bleimuhle
The line of forward-deployed bases:
Schwarzenbroich Estate-Shneidsmuhle-northern tip of Great Slope (only occupied at night)Steffenshauschen-Hochweger Farm-Hill 283.3 -northern fringes of Buschhssen Shevenhutte North.
Of the enemy we knew that the right wing was manned by l04th InfDiv, and that he had 3rd ArmoredDiv and 1 st InfDiv in forward positions in front of the center and left sector.
During the last days the artillery fire had steadily intensified. The Luftwaffe that did fly a few reconnaissance missions confirmed this impression. Artillery centers were detected in the Kornelismuhle and Brand areas. But other than that the requested and necessary reconnaissance of the Luftwaffe, in order to get a better idea of what was going on on the other side, never really happened.
On November 16, a day without a single cloud in the sky, a splendid late fall day, the enemy barrage suddenly set in at 11 a.m. along the whole front. Main-combat line, firing nests, entrances and exits to the towns, crossroads soon lay under a steadily intensifying artillery barrage. Our own artillery tried to counter these fireworks right away, but it had soon lost its eyes, the observer posts. Then, aside from the barrage, a never before seen amount of fog shells came flying and blinded our observers so that our artillery soon had to rely solely on the "schematic firing plan," which was in fact quite good.
Simultaneously with the artillery assault, enemy air force that had been shifted away from the regular flights into the Reich began its on assault on our front-lines. In the only 15-km wide sector of the division alone, about 5,000 four-engine planes were used between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. They mostly targeted parts of the main-combat line but also focused on our batteries and known command posts. They dropped 500 and 1,000 kilogram bombs. Some entrances to towns, such as in Luchem for instance, and the narrow crossroads in Langerwehe were under a thick bomb cover and had to be closed to all traffic. The strange experience of a sector of the front under enemy air bombardment is that the personnel and materiel losses of those attacked are relatively small compared to the immense effort made by the attacker.
At 12:45 p.m. on November 16, the infantry assault started. Tanks were in the mix as well. The center of gravity of the attack was Werth-Hastenrath with GrenReg 89 and Gressenich with GrenReg 48. Two American Combat Commands [term used in the original] could be distinguished, one made up of 3rd ArmoredDiv and 104th InfDiv moved against Donnerberg, the other with 3rd Armored and 1st InfDiv moved against Gressenich. The enemy attacked fiercely at all points and threw strong forces into the battle. He used flame-tanks and so-called shovel-tanks that ploughed through the ground and leveled the foxholes and buried the riflemen inside. A consequence of the enemy's carelessness when it came to mine belts, he had heavy casualties. This is where the insufficient ground reconnaissance work came back to haunt the Americans and they had to pay for it with their lives.
In the evening hours the situation was as follows: The main-combat line had been held by FusReg 27 and GrenReg 89, even though their casualties were appalling. The most severe assault had to be weathered by GrenReg 48, however. In its sector Kottenich and Gressenich had to be vacated. Consequently, the Americans achieved a tank breakthrough in Werth that spilled all the way forward to Scherpenseel fore it faltered. Panzer pursuit command groups chased the tanks all the way back to Werth at dusk. But at the fringes of Werth our pursuing troops were met by strong American infantry formations. The positions of GrenReg 89 south of Werth remained German for now. It was an especially unfortunate coincidence that the night November 16-17 had been chosen to begin with the relief of the division and its replacement by 47th VGD that had been transferred from Denmark. 47th VGD already had instruction squads deployed to the front-line positions. Due to the heavy American assault, the relief was postponed and GrenReg 103 of 47th VGD was assigned to l2th Division for the time being.
On 11/17 the enemy attacked in the same centers of gravity as on the previous day. His combat strength had not yet severely been weakened by the casualties of the infantry and the losses of tanks that had occurred the day before &emdash; we did know about the losses because we listened in on the enemy's radio traffic. The enemy reported several tanks destroyed by mines. The main-combat line remained safely in our hands even though Gressenich could not be recovered and Werth was lost in the sector of GrenReg 89.But the town of Scherpenseel could be defended in heavy house-to-house combat and after a see-saw battle in which possession of the town changed several times.
11/18 brought new major enemy attacks. The division had managed to bring parts of the freshly arrived GrenReg 103 to Scherpenseel. The regiment suffered casualties due to artillery fire on the way into the positions. The deployment of this regiment made a further tightening of the front-line in the sector of GrenReg 89 possible. GrenReg 89 now received orders to hold the southern fringes of Hastenrath and the great slopes to the west. The day brought more gained ground for the Americans. In the course of the afternoon Hamich fell after fierce house-to-house combat and despite the courageous resistance of GrenReg 48. Marauder air-wings started to carpet bomb the main-combat line and towns close to it in order to disrupt any movement of troops during the day. In the evening the enemy began to attack Hill 232. This attack went on until deep into the night and the defending FusBtl suffered heavy casualties. The hill could be held, however.
The division now requested panzer support because breakthroughs were threatening, specifically in the left sector if the American major assaults continued. 12th Division received the "Combat Group Bayer" of the newly arrived 116 panzer Division. It consisted of one panzer company, one panzer Grenadier Battalion, one artillery battery, and one flak battery that was to be used on the ground.
11/19 was a day of serious crisis in the sector of 12th InfDiv and in the sector of 47th VGD that by now had deployed the bulk of two regiments (GrenRegs 103 and 104). In the right sector of the division, the battle zone around Stolberg, pressure had risen around noon against Donnerberg and Duffenter. The American had succeeded in reaching the Donnerberg under cover of artificial fog. The hill itself and the houses of Duffenter were lost in the evening. Thus a threatening situation has arisen on the right wing. The town of Stolberg was less under attack and could thus be defended, but it now formed a protruded bulge in the front-line, especially since the neighbor to the right, the sector of the panzer GrenDivs, had also lost a lot of ground. This division thus decided to shift the front to the rear and to move into a prepared position at the northern fringes of Stolberg. In the afternoon Hill 232 near Hamich is under heavy attack again. It is the key position of that sector and is still fiercely defended by l2th FusBtl.
At 12 noon on 11/19, Combat Group Bayer forms for a counterattack at Hamich, together with parts of GrenReg 48. This attack, which obviously surprised the Americans, made up a lot of ground initially. Hamich is taken back. But then the attack is stopped just south of Hamich by artillery barrages out of Gressenich. We hold Hamich that day, but it wasn't easy. Even for this attack, with the rather optimistic objective of reaching  Gresenich, our forces were too weak, we especially lacked tanks and mechanized infantry.
11/20 sees intensified enemy attacks on the right wing. He attacks along both sides of the Autobahn. The bunkers near Wambach, manned by FusReg 27, are especially contested. In the sector of our neighboring division to the right, the enemy steps up the pressure on Weiden, more ground is lost. In the morning hours, assaults on Eschweiler. GrenReg 89 initially repels attacks against Scherpenseel, but then has to vacate that town that had also been defended by parts of the heavily battered GrenReg 103. l2th FusBtl, which had so heroically defended Hill 232, has reached its limits and can no longer hold on. The hill is lost early in the afternoon. Hamich is also lost, again, but all enemy attacks against Heistem are defeated by parts of GrenReg 48, tanks of Combat Group Bayer, and parts of GrenReg 104. 47th VGD is engaged in heavy fighting in the woods and the enemy gains only little ground in the direction of Wenau. In the evening we manage to pull out GrenReg 48, or better the parts of it that were still fighting. In the night 11/20-21 this regiment that had been engaged in major battle is transferred to the Langerwehe area, direction Schleiden, in order to initiate a counterattack in the sector of the heavily battered 183rd InfDiv.
11/21 brought the continuation of attacks on a wide front. In the new left sector of the division a crisis is building when the American gains ground against the weary and tired troops of GrenReg 103, 47th VGD, and advances toward the Bovenberg Forest. All day long the enemy tries to take Hastenrath. In the evening we can hold it no longer, Hastenrath is lost but Volkenrath to the north is still defended by bases, very fiercely defended by GrenReg 89 and panzer Jagern. Strong infiltration of the lines of our neighbor to the left, GrenReg 103, create an unclear situation. The towns of Nothberg, Volkenrath, and Buschhof (in the sector of the neighbor to the left) at the westem edge of Bovenberg Forest remain ours. There the division and 47th VGD manage to build a weak defensive front based on dugouts.
FusReg 27 holds the westem and southwestern fringes of Eschweiler. a position into which it had been pushed back during the day. Several bases remain in Eschweiler Aue. The enemy pursues our troops only halfheartedly into this very congested area of houses and factories since he is repeatedly stopped by mines and other charges and suffers casualties.
The situation deteriorates for the troops in and around Eschweiler in the evening because the enemy applies increasing pressure on the city from the south. Here, the remainders of GrenReg 89 and panzer Jager unit 12 fight a desperate struggle against an enemy that is constantly receiving reinforcements. The American manages still in the evening hours to take Bergrath in an assault by way of Volkenrath and Bohl. They have now advanced to the railroad Duren-Eschweiler. The embankment is held by our weak defensive line, but barely. Two batteries of ArtRg 12 that cannot be shifted because of the dangerous situation that other units are in, form the spine of this make-shift front-line and they are almost all the way up front.
11/21 brings weaker enemy assaults relatively to the previous day that had been extremely hard-fought and had led to heavy casualties on both sides. This gave the division valuable time. FusReg 27 and GrenReg 89 can now calmly continue to mine Eschweiler. they can regroup as well. The troops m the rear are being built up in the old main-combat line. This goes unnoticed by the Americans and thus contributes to a veiling of the restructuring. They repel the few American assaults adeptly and thus coax the enemy into believing that Eschweiler is still occupied by all our troops.
On 11/22 the attacks resume in full furor after that brief respite. That day again the American artillery fire intensifies. The fighter-bombers are also more active due to the good weather conditions. The enemy creates a real control system above our firing positions. Fighter-bombers and Lightnings, usually flying in pairs and carrying one or two 500-kg bombs, dive at our batteries like birds of prey whenever they see muzzleflashes, drop their bombs and silence the batteries. This makes it immensely difficult to call in any artillery fire, but the actual losses in men and materiel remain quite low because there are only a few direct hits.
Meanwhile the American prepared the final assault on Eschweiler. Marauder wings have been dropping bombs on Eschweiler since early morning without interruption. The last formations of regiments 27 and 89 had left Eschweiler in the early morning hours and where in the process of occupying the new main-combat line east of Eschweiler. The enemy wasted ammunition and used tubes and barrels to an amount never before seen. In the course of early afternoon the rear guards that have conducted such a splendid deception, are ordered out of Eschweiler and into the new main-combat line. This was supposed to be done group by group without alerting the enemy. It worked! In the afternoon the American attacks with tanks and infantry, another Combat Command of 3rd Armored Div and 104th InfDiv. The advance is very hesitant and the westem part of Eschweiler is occupied in the evening of November 22.
11/23 brings a continuation of the attacks. The sector of the division has become narrower after we had to give up Eschweiler. This was an urgent necessity since our fighting strength had so severely been reduced in eight days of a raging defensive battle of attrition that it was only with great difficulty that we could hold on to a coherent frontline at all. In the evening of 11/23 the main-combat line runs along westem fringes of Putzlohn (3rd panzer GrenDiv)-west of the Zukunft mine- Hovenmuhle factory-eastern fringes of Nothberg- Steinbruch company- western edge of Bovenberg Forest (south of the Bovenberg Estate). The day is a defensive success,
11/24 brings weaker assaults, as always on the days after defensive stands. The situation becomes dangerous only in the sector of 47th VGD, to our left. There, the town of Heistem is lost. The American takes the towering heights around Heistem as well.
Sporadic enemy attacks against Weisweiler are rejected in the night November 24-25.
The bruised and battered 47th VGD is tra sferred under the command of 12th InfDiv in the night 11/24-25. According to the orders of the rmy Group, Group Engel is formed  with 12th InfDiv to the right and 47th VGD to the left. Group command post remains the command post of 12th InfDiv in Lamersdorf
11/25 is a relatively quite day. Sporadic American attacks are kept at bay, they also use less ammunition now, and it looks like they have to get supplies first. The Group gains time to put the outfits in order and to strengthen the bases along the make-shift defensive line.
On 11/25 the attacks increase but do not reach by far the ferocity of the days before. They are rejected almost everywhere. In the course of the evening we hold the line westem fringes of Eschweiler-Hucheln-western edge of Bovenberg Forest-southern fringes of Bovenberg-Schonthal-terrain north of the Laufenburg.
On 11/26 the enemy center of gravity is in the Bovenberg Forest and near Bovenberg. We lose Bovenberg but recover it in a hearty counterattack of GrenReg 104, 47th VGD. Heavy assault on both sides of the Autobahn. Conducted with tanks, they take on such ferocity that Weisweiler has to be vacated in the evening. The right neighbor (3rd panzer GrenDiv) can no longer hold the main-combat line either. In that sector Putzlohn falls to the enemy. A breakthrough in the Inde valley toward Inde looms large. In the evening the main-combat line runs from eastern fringes of Weisweiler-Bovenberg-Schonthal-north of the Laufenburg.
On 11/27 the feared enemy breakthrough occurs near Inden. This poses a direct threat to the right flank of 12th Division. During the day Frenz is lost. GrenReg 89 holds on to the Frenzerburg Farm and the farms toward Wesiweiler (Paland, southeast of Weisweiler), however.
On 11/28 heave fighting breaks out near Langerwehe and Jungersdorf. Both towns are lost. The outfits of 12th InfDiv and 47th VGD, already lumped together into combat groups, no longer have the strength to stall the enemy, especially given the artillery and air support of the latter. The Rosslerhof Estate is highly contested. A counterattack of GrenReg 89, supported by assault guns of 12th InfDiv recovers the estate for a few hours but it has to be vacated again in the evening. The close-range combat in that area show an increasing amount of bittemess on both sides, especially since the forest is so dense and therefore difficult to survey. The front-line in the right sector of the division holds up, generally speaking. The Frenzerburg remains ours despite heavy assault.
On 11/29 the front-line holds again in the face of strong enemy attacks. LXXXI Army Corps reports the arrival of 3rd ParaDiv to the division. A full division, coming from a refreshment area in Holland, particularly good soldiers and most of all, they are equipped way above the normal level of an army division. The first outfits of 3rd ParaDiv are brought into Jungersdorf to stabilize 47th VGD that very evening.
Additional outfits of 3rd ParaDiv are brought to the front in the night of November 29-30.
ParaRegs 5 and 9 are assigned to Group Engel. They are sent to the sector of 47th Division between Jungersdorf and Merode since 47th VGD has reached its limits and has to be supported. In the Frenzerburg neighborhood of l2th InfDiv the front is calm for 
now. The enemies face each other, dug in only half-ways in the flat meadows, often not further away from each other than the distance that a hand grenade can be thrown. But the American has lost a few tanks here and he has decided not to attack with tanks across the open field any more, for now at least.
On 12/1 even more outfits of 3rd ParaDiv are brought into the sector of 12th InfDiv. It is now possible to pull out the first outfits of FusReg 27, including 12th FusBtl. The day itself brings heavy fighting around the Frenzerburg, which is defended by parts of GrenReg 89 and companies of ParaReg 9 that have been transferred under the former's authority. The Frenzerburg can be held that day. In the outhouses the enemies are as close to each other as 20 meters.
On 12/2 the heavy fighting near Inden in the sector of 3rd panzer GrenDiv also increases the pressure on our sector from Lamersdorf to Lucherberg. The sector is officially transferred to 3rd ParaDiv at 8 p.m. GrenReg 89, which has been shifted to the D Line at Lucherberg after the loss of the Frenzerburg, and an artillery unit of ArtReg 12 have to remain in position until the 3rd regiment of 3rd ParaDiv, which hasn't arrived yet, can spell relief
But even that regiment arrived on time, definitely defying our expectations. Now we could pull out GrenReg 89 in the night 12/2-3 and lead it back to the division.
The Third Battle of Aachen had now reached its climax but an end was not in sight. At that point 12th InfDiv was ordered to pull all its outfits from the front no matter how dangerous the situation, no matter how difficult to bring in replacements. The division should regroup and get ready for other tasks. The division, now battle-hardened, was supposed to be deployed in the Ardennes offensive to man a center of gravity for the German attack. But even without this new objective the division would have had to be pulled out of the front after 17 days in major battle because it had used up all its strength. All regiments were completely burnt out, especially the infantry. There had be no replacements during the battle, the fighting strength of the companies had melted away to about 15 to 20 men at best. The total strength of the infantry regiments, including the heavy guns, was between 200 and 300. The casualties of the division since November 16 amounted to roughly 2,500 men.
The number of MIAs was noticeably low. Despite all the materiel the enemy had used, and we can't even guess how much superior he was, the German troops won the Third Battle of Aachen from a defensive standpoint. Such a success had certainly not been expected given that we knew about the enemy superiority in weapons and ammunition. Therefore, the symptom of the battle wasn't the infantry. We had to fight a battle of attrition, even with much inferior means. Thus the Third Battle of Aachen was an artillery battle of the highest degree and our defensive success depended on the artillery. This is not to reject the heroic fight of our infantry.
The enemy didn't achieve its objectives in the battle, i.e. the breakthrough to the Rhine. In a careful analysis of the situation and with help of our understanding of the enemy  formation, we had successfully detected the centers of gravity of the enemy attack in advance. In the sector of 12th InfDiv the direction of the assault was as expected: an attack along the Autobahn from the south toward Eschweiler. We had also predicted the attack that was the most dangerous of the battle, from Gressenich-Schevenhutte to Langerwehe-Merode. This was the shortest way to descend into the valley and to continue the assault on the Rur between Julich and Duren. The enemy had not achieved these objectives by the time the division was pulled out. The division itself was transported to the Blankenheim area in the northern Eifel in order to regroup and get ready for the Ardennes offensive. 
Adversaries of the 8th Infantry Division
Some Stories and View Points from the German Side
Following the receipt of the letter above, Mr. Salzano offered to allow us the use of the following information. The next segments portray images of the adversary -- the German side of the bloody battles that the 8th Infantry Division took part in.
Joe Salzano, 8th Infantry Division, 13th Regiment
47th Volks Grenadier Division at the Western Front
Experiences of Johann Trostorf & Wilhelm Brvenich
Memories of Hubert Gees
Selections from the History of 363rd Infantry Division
Miscellaneous German Units
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
8th Infantry Division
Combat Chronicle: 8th Infantry Division
Combat History of the 8th Infantry Division in WWII
Personal Stories from the 8th Infantry Division
Chronology of the 8th Infantry Division
Divisional Information: 8th Infantry Division
Historiography of the Huertgen Forest Campaign 1944-1945
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
Information and photographs were generously provided to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Mr. Joseph Salzano of Rockville, Maryland. Our sincerest THANKS for allowing us to share this stories!
Original Story submitted on 9 August 2003.
Story added to website on 30 September 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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