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 third page of five pages...
Memories of Hubert Gees
As a soldier in Fusilier Battalion (Major Rider) of 275th InfDiv, I wasn't deployed to the Merode area directly in the fall of 1944. The following is my experience of the deployment in the D ren area.
Paramilitary camp Mariawald near Heimbach/Eifel.
Sept. 1943 - April 44
RAD (?) camp in Wassenberg/Myhl.
May 44 - 08/10/44
Assigned to 14th Company/Rifleman in tank unit of 275th InfDiv in the Lützow barracks in Aachen. Transfer to the Riemann barracks in Düren. That happened by foot march via Stolberg and Langerwehe. In Düren more and more vehicles columns passes through from France, mostly Luftwaffe.
Alarm, to the front.
Assigned with Cadet Werner Büttcher to stop enemy tanks with Battalion 464 in Eschweiler.
Werner Böttcher talked to his father in the barracks in Eschweiler and asked for my home address in case we lost touch.
We marched on foot with a group of maybe 20 men toward Maastricht, crossing the border in Herzogenrath - Kerkrade. West of Maastricht we took up our position at the Albert Canal. There we experienced the first American artillery assault. We had already experienced the mighty allied air forces in two bigger air raids at the Aachen Rothe Erde train station in late May 1944.
In the early afternoon advancing American tank troops broke up our unit near Bunde on the road from Maastricht to Sittard and I was assigned to Major Riedel's battalion. I never saw Werner Büttcher again. He fell there on 09/18/44 as his parents wrote to my parents in 1946. This letter as well as the first one sent to my parents on 12/04/44 show the sorrows and pain of people, especially people in a war zone.
American tanks, advancing from Waubach, drive us out of Scherpenseel. The bypass us to the right and set a few farms in Teveren on fire. They stop at the end of the village on the road to Geilenkirchen. We take up position at the southwestern edge of Geilenkirchen.
Our unit is taken out of the battle and we go to Gereonsweiler to rest. But as soon as we had fallen asleep in a farmhouse, under clovers of wheat, a new order arrives. 
Early in the morning we reach Derichsweiler. Line up, review of the situation, and conferring an order by the commander, are followed by immediate deployment to the hill near Schevenhütte. Our battalion set up positions to the left, i.e. south of the road from Gürzenich to Schevenhütte. The town itself was occupied by the Americans as was the bath south to it. Our battalion's and regimental command post was to trigonometric point 312. The medical orderlies were also in that neighborhood. We destroyed the observation tower that stood high above Point 312 because it could have made an excellent directional target for the enemy artillery. Since I was company runner I had to run in between combat post Schwarzenbroich in the middle of the forest and another combat post, Hardt Farm, quite often. I remember well that a dam had been built across the forest aisle. That dam led south of Schwarzenbroich, near Point 312 into the main road.
Compared to what I have experienced between October 7 and November 28, 1944 southwest of Huertgen, we had a rather quiet front-line here at Schevenhütte. Sure, there was artillery fire, but it remained palatable. Besides reconnaissance operations and unsuccessful minor assault troop missions we spent our time improving the dugouts.
Increasing combat could be heard, however, in the neighboring sector to the right, toward the Wenau foresterís district. At night artillery shells flew above our heads to Düren.
Our enemy at that time near Schevenhütte was the 47th regiment of 9th US InfDiv. That regiment had been part of the 3rd US Armored Div that had advanced to Schevenh tte in the Zweifall-Stolberg area.
It is of interest for me today that the 3rd US Armored Div led the southern pincer at the end of March 1945. Here in my home area they met the troops that advanced north of the RuhrValley and encircled the Valley on 04/01/45. General Rose, commander of 3rd US Armored Div died here, at Paderborn, on 03/30/44.
I remember how a company of our unit was deployed to the Eschweiler-Aachen area in late September/early October 1944.
On 10/03/44 I wrote to my parents that I was billeted for a few days of rest in the house of farmer Heinrich Schmitz, Schlageterstraße 92, Gürzenich. It is the same house number today but the name of the street has been changed. Even the small bedroom window to the street on the upper level of the house, at the side facing Schevenh tte is still there.
Our company troop leader, Corporal Zeppelfeld with whom I shared the room, fell on the first southwest of Hürtgen on October 7, 1944, in the counterattack against the Americans  who had achieved a breakthrough the day before.
The train of our fusilier battalion brought supplies from Düren-R lsdorf all the way to the "Seventeen Bends" way, southwest of Hüertgen. On Saturday/Sunday, 10/21+22/44, I was there for a brief stint to get new clothes. We fired a few salvoes in honor of a fallen comrade at his funeral in Gürzenich. I slept in the blacksmith's place in the middle of the village. Despite the new clothing I found 2 or 3 lice in the bed the next morning. I still felt embarrassed by that in those days. When I had to go to the train that had just been moved to Birkersdorf for a night, just before the big air-raid on Düren, the lice were the reason I declined the friendly offer of a family who had an extra bed and slept in the cow pen. Men of our company fell in the air raid at Düren.
My company leader, Lieutenant Friedrich Lengfeld has found eternal rest in grave No. 38 of the community cemetery in Düren-Rolsdorf. He was a company leader I could never forget; a true soldier, even in his dealings with the enemy. It is a tragedy that he had to die in the morning of 11/12/44. He was trying to help a severely wounded American soldier, who was crying for help after having been hit between the lines, when he himself stepped on a land mine.
The way to the Hüertgen Forest led me to his grave after a meeting with American veterans on 09/20/89. This was the first time that I dared to walk into that area that had been covered by mines, south of today's soldier cemetery in H rtgen. I found the sunken structures of our company command post rather quickly, at a narrow path south of the minefield "Wild Boar." This was the dugout I had last shared with Lieutenant Lengfeld.
I was very happy to receive a picture of Lengfeld after a prolonged search, last November. I had already received a picture of my comrade Alfons Bösl, also a runner, who had fallen prey to a mine on 11/17/44 at the combat post H rtgen. He had carried a dead soldier to the command post that we had recovered. His descendants sent me the photograph.
Selected from the history of 363rd InfDiv:
On November 16, 1944 the American 9th Army began the battle of the Rur. This started a fierce fight for every inch of ground. The Americans attacked with 120,000 soldiers that faced only 80,000 German defenders.
German battle planes attack Koslar, Kirchberg, and Inden on 12/5/44 at 9:35 p.m. and 1 a.m. After loud explosions various fires are reported. The enemy holds Altdorf, Lucherberg, and Inden. The front slowly grinds forward to the Rur. The main-combat line currently runs between Inden and Pier.
Light enemy artillery fire hits the towns close to the front during the night. Between 5:05 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. two units of the division fire obstruction shoots against Kirchberg, the paper factory in Koslar, the Waldeck Estate, and the Altdorf-Inden area. Since 11 a.m. there have been 15 fighter-bombers and 4 artillery observers above the area held by the division.
In the Inde sector the enemy attacks Pier and Schophoven with tank support. The attacks are repelled, 4 tanks are hit.
Own artillery shoots obstruction at the soccer field in Jülich and at the towns of Inden and Pier.
Both sides fire barrages during the night. During the day our artillery launches assaults on Pier, Altdorf, and Inden. Between 10 and 11 a.m., our main-combat line near Floßdorf is being shelled with smoke grenades. In the sector of 246th VGD the enemy breaks through in Schophoven. II./689 has to withdraw behind the Rur that night, with 10 wounded and all of the equipment. This means that the whole main-combat line of 246th VGD now runs on the eastern banks of the Rur. At 12:30 p.m. they blow up the Rur Bridge in Krauthausen, at 2:30 p.m. the two smaller bridges. 5 prisoners of 104th U.S. Inf Div are taken. After all units of 3rd ParaDiv have been shifted by midnight, 47th VGD has taken over the defense of the area between Selhausen and the Düren bridgehead. Heavy assaults on the bridgehead are expected. The Highway Bridge north of Birkesdorf is blown up.
The sector of the division is relatively quiet today. The neighboring sector to the left has also calmed after the retreat from the Schophoven-Vieh ven bridgehead. There is only little fighter-bomber activity due to the foggy weather conditions. After the skies clear in  the afternoon, enemy artillery planes are being fought off by a battery leFH. 18/40 of our divisional artillery. They have to turn around.
The division receives orders from LXXXI Army Corps to stake out the high-water mark of the Rur because a further rise of the water level is expected.
In the sector of 47th VGD, the Railroad Bridge Düren is blown up at 6:45 p.m., but it is only a partial success. Only a later detonation at 7:20 a.m. of the following day does the job and the bridge floats in the water. 10th SS panzer Div "Fundsberg" is assigned to LXXXI Army Corps as reserves from the OKW (High Command of the Wehrmacht).
The experiences made in the battles of LXXXI Army Corps are summed up by Major Nowak, a General Staffer:
"Enemy attempts locally limited attacks without artillery preparation. Assault positions under artificial fog cover."
At 5:30 a.m. the German offensive starts between Aachen and Luxembourg. It is called "Wacht am Rhein" and has been prepared since September. The Ardennes battle begins All existing reserves have been thrown into it. The attacking force is made up of 6th panzer Army, 5th panzer Army, and 7th Army in an area that is 140 kilometers wide. Some 250,000 men, 1,900 heavy guns, and about 1,000 tanks and assault guns. The High Commander West, General Field Marshall von Rundstedt gives out the following order of the day:
"Soldiers of the Westfront!"
"Your greatest hour has come!
Strong attacking forces have met the Anglo-American today. I don't have to say more than that. All of you can feel it:
This is the final stance for the ultimate prize! Carry with you the holy duty to give your all and to give a superhuman performance for OUR FATHERLAND AND OUR FÜHRER!
High Commander West
General Field Marshal
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 20 October 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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