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...
The following is the second page of five pages...
September 1, 1939
War breaks out. German invasion of Poland. Soldiers billeted in the castle. The farmers are forced to donate their horses, they are needed for the war effort. Men of older age groups and veterans of 1914-1918 are called up.
September 3, 1939
England and France declare war on Germany. The World War I veterans who had been called up two days earlier are sent to the Hellenthal area to protect the western border. They are billeted in what is today the youth hostel. Other soldiers are billeted near Dreiborn.
After the conclusion of the Poland campaign, the units in the castle are replaced by younger troops. The winter is very cold, a lot of snow and frost.
May 10, 1940
Beginning of the campaign in the West against Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. Numerous planes fly toward the West. A German plane is hit and crashes near the dynamo generator house. Troop movements on railroad tracks and ReichsRoute 264.
June 25, 1940
After only six weeks the campaign in the West is over, a complete success. Among the casualties there are soldiers from the county.
August 13, 1940
Battle of Britain begins.
June 22, 1941
Beginning of the campaign in the East.
May 30, 1942
English air raid at night against Cologne with more than 1,000 planes. Between the western border and Cologne alone, 46 English bombers are downed. A Flying Fortress crashes at the Schlicher Heide. The local citizens curiously investigate the debris.
Easter Thursday 44
The first bombs fall in the D'horn-Merode area, but they only hit open field and cause no structural damage. Apparently they must have been dropped in a difficult situation out of necessity.
Spring & Summer 44
War is being felt mostly through the call up of many young men. We mourn about 2 dead every month now at an average. Almost no night goes by without air-raid alarm. Concerned citizens begin to build shelters in their gardens. There isn't enough construction material though. The basement of Merode castle is opened as public air-raid shelter.
June 6, 1944
Allied invasion in Normandy begins. Paris will be liberated, the troops cross the Seine and reach the Franco-Belgian border near Mons.
End of August 44
Situation declined day by day. Every day soldiers streaming back form the West are billeted. Large parts of the Wehrmacht move across ReichRoute 264 toward Düren. An ammunition train that stopped on the railroad Düren & Langerwehe, is targeted by American fighter-bombers and goes up in flames near the Schlichen tunnel. The tunnel and the nearby railroad flat of Barth are destroyed.
September 3, 1944
The boys and girls of the county are assigned to work at the entrenchment of the Westwall.
September 12, 1944
1st American Army reaches the German border near Roetgen.
September 13, 1944
The political leaders leave the county by bike while American tank units have advanced all the way to the south of Schevenh tte and have reached the Krichelsm hle to the north. The population ignores an order to evacuate Merode, Schlich, and D'horn. The order is later revoked. Only very few people leave their home. The American advance stops because of a lack of supplies.
September 14, 1944
American long-range artillery fires at main intersections west of the Rur, ReichsRoute 264 and the railroad tracks are targets. They also fire at the villages in the county because reconnaissance planes have reported movements.
12th VolksGrenDiv under command of Colonel Engel fortifies the front-line near Schevenhütte and Stolberg.
September 16, 1944
The schools are closed due to increasing barrages and fighter-bomber activity.
September 23, 1944
First pointed artillery assault on Merode. A shell explodes in the village (between Hamacher and Bartz) and several in the courtyard of the castle. Windows and walls are damaged. Beforehand, an aid station had been set up in the school in Schlichen and a tank unit had been billeted to the forester's house in Schlich, where they set up a repair shop.
September 27, 1944
Again artillery fire at Merode. The shells hit the meadow near the house of farmer Ignatz Hourtz. A wooden shack is destroyed and a window has burst.
September 28, 1944
The first civilians die. Six boys, age between 15 and 16 from Merode and Schlich die in a camp in Nörvenich where they had been sent to do earth-works. They are buried at the D'horn Cemetery under the roaring noise of low altitude planes.
October 6, 1944
The military situation comes to a head. Weary troops reach their supposed resting quarters in Schlich from the Hüertgen Forest. At Schwarzenbroich and in the curater's house in Schlich aid stations have been set up.
November 16, 1944
Operation "Queen," the American assault on the ground and in the air begins with the heavy bombardment of the villages in the county. Farmers, busy harvesting beets, are caught by surprise as is the rest of the civilian population. Bombs and artillery fire kill 52 civilians in Merode, Schlich, and D'horn.
Large parts of Schlich and Merode have been destroyed or severely damaged. The church in D'horn has also been hit, as has the one in Schlich. People try to bury the dead in a mass grave at D'horn Cemetery. Fighter-bombers and artillery fire call for speed. Only a part of the dead can be buried in the grave that had been dug up after the return from the evacuation. A number of the dead had to be left unburied in the destroyed church in D'horn. Nobody knows what happened to them later.
After these events most of the civilians flee to the more central parts of Germany via the train station in Buir. Only a few want to hold out until the front has overrun the area.
Tanks in Merode. Canadian fighter-bombers that attack them are being targeted by AAA and infantry guns. A German officer of a AAA unit downs two of the attacking planes with his MG 42. One of the planes crashes into the barn of the Schieren family at the Hahndorn; the barn burns down. The second plane crashes into Merode Forest, left of the Karlsweg in the direction of Schlichener Heide. The pilots are taken prisoner by the Wehrmacht. Other planes bombard Merode Castle. The tower and the chapel below are destroyed. The dead of the preceding day that had been put on the bier in there are buried under rubble.
Heavy artillery fire. Electricity and water supply are cut. The GrenReg of 47th VolksGrenDiv is engaged in fighting in the woods.
Gun nests are in the gardens at the western city limits of Merode. Regimental command post is the curater's house and the Schmitz-Schunken house is the new aid station.
Heavy air raids at Merode and Schlich in the morning. A German artillery spotter, in the big tower of the Laufenburg, destroys two  American tanks with a grenade launcher. Subsequently, the tower is targeted by artillery and set afire. The Americans think they have silenced the enemy. At night, however, the soldier manages to escape in a spectacular action. He reaches German lines near the Erbsweg at dawn. There were still civilians in the Laufenburg.
Artillery fire at Merode and Schlich.
November 21, 1944
Engagements in the forest. It is impossible to prepare hot meals because the smoke gives away one's location and leads to immediate artillery fire. Constant artillery fire.
November 22, 1944
Again artillery fire. Severe damages in Merode.
November 24, 1944
3rd ParaDiv, coming form Holland and actually penciled in for the Ardennes offensive, is led down the Inden-Gey line to relieve 47th VolksGrenDiv.
November 27, 1944
Langerwehe has been taken by the Americans. Jüngersdorf falls the same day.
November 28, 1944
III. Battalion, 5th ParaReg unsuccessfully tries to recover Jüngersdorf. Heavy casualties among the paratroopers. This evening the Americans also reach the edge of the forest near Merode. A forward artillery spotter of the Americans is already in house Gouwkens. The main-combat line now leads through Merode. The tank barrier at house Johnen has been taken. There are still civilians in the village.
November 29, 1944
Shortly after noon, two American companies of 26th InfReg, 1st US Division, attack Merode. The advance stops, however, when a tank that leads the assault falls over in the Hohlweg and blocks the route for the troops behind. Heavy casualties among the attacking force that had reached parts of the tracks.
The units that penetrate Merode find civilians in the houses Lürken and Vitzer. A counterattack cuts off the Americans from their own lines. The paratroopers, supported by one tank, launch their counterattack in the evening. The houses held by the Americans are completely destroyed. More than 200 dead are counted. More than 120 are captured including 10 officers. The civilians are being ordered to evacuate now.
November 30, 1944
Continuation of the attack of the paratroopers in order to recover all of Merode.
December 1, 1944
Merode cleared. The attacking forces are pushed back behind the Tannenkopf.
December 5, 1944
Every day attacks and counterattacks, combat for Merode and in the woods and Meadows behind it. On December 5, 1st US InfDiv is replaced by 9th Division.
December 10, 1944
Obergeich, Geich, Echtz, and D'horn fall to the Americans. Tank advance troops overrun Rothaus Farm and advance to the Palmshof.
December 11, 1944
39th US Regiment conquers Merode with support from tanks and air force. The fight is fierce, especially for Merode Castle. Only after bitter close-range combat the attacking force manages to occupy the castle.
The paratroopers to the west of Merode in the woods retreat to Derichsweiler/Gürzenich and regroup at Monzenborn arm. Schlich also falls to the Americans that day.
December 13, 1944
Derichsweiler and Mariaweiler can no longer be defended. The day before there had been hard-fought combat at the Palmshof.
December 14, 1944
Americans take Gürzenich and Birgel. Combat in Düren.
December 15, 1944
47th VolksGrenDiv relieves 3rd ParaDiv in this sector.
December 16, 1944
Ardennes offensive begins. The Rur Plains are in American possession.
The 104th US Division and 8th US Division are stationed in the Düren until February 1945 Düren area as occupation forces. The Ardennes offensive is now the most important battle scenario on the western front.
February 23, 1945
Operation "Alligator." The allied attack at Cologne, across the Rur. Several bridgeheads between Linnich and Düren. Arnoldsweiler and Merzenich are lost.
March 6, 1945
The Americans reach Cologne and the city falls the same day.
March 7, 1945
The Americans cross the Rhine at Remagen.
Early April 1945
The first evacuated civilians return to the county.
May 8, 1945
The war in Europe is over.
August 15, 1945
The population of Merode begins to bury the bodies of the soldiers who have died in the woods and meadows at the Marienbildchen.
Added on 20 October 2003
Below are the LINKS to the experiences of individual soldiers, units and civilians that were included in the report A Chronicle above:
A German Account: Unknown Author
Experiences of Johann Trostorf in the War of 1939-1945
Selected from the Experiences of Wilhelm Bürenich, Düren
Report About the Second World War West of Düren
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 9 August 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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