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 fourth page of five pages...
The Adversary: Miscellaneous Units
They knew the are well and knew how dangerously close the enemy had come already. They were stationed in a bunker of the Westwall and had been under constant fire from tanks throughout the afternoon. In the front of the bunker shell hole lay next to shell hole and one could guess easily the mental strain on the troops inside of the fortification. We hurried down the last part of the way to the entrance. The mood that greeted me inside can only be called depressed. Certainly no surprise after the shelling of all loopholes and the entrance area. The men were pale and seemed disoriented especially because they did not know what the morning would bring. Gunpowder smoke still stood in the air and made breathing difficult. The young lieutenant openly showed his relief to see me as I was there to reinforce the defense as VB [VB seems to stand for "vorgeschobener Beobachter," forward observer] of the heavy guns. But he also showed his envy openly about the fact that I actually would have to leave the bunker to see the enemy at all. He reported my arrival to his platoon leader by phone and he explained to me how to get there. The main combat line in this area was a rural route that could only be very thinly covered by German troops.
I followed the course of that road with my body slightly bent forward until I reached the dugout of the platoon leader. The sergeant showed me the facilities and also allowed me to use his field phone. After I had transmitted my position, I decided to crawl across the road and to sneak into a nearby farmhouse in order to get a better idea about the enemy's intentions. Suddenly the phone rang in the dugout and somebody asked for me. It was my own platoon leader, First Sergeant Weber, who ordered me to retreat immediately. I was supposed to find new orders in the bunker that had just been vacated. The orders would be fixed to the table with a pistol. It was very urgent and I should not ask any questions. By pointing out the map of the area he explained how I would find the way to the command post and then he ended the conversation. Without hesitation I grabbed my utensils and left into the night with only my runner accompanying me. Before that I gave my best wishes for the next hours to the platoon leader. I navigated toward the railroad tracks, which I had already used before. Only this time I would follow the tracks backwards. I pressed on because I wanted to reach the command post before dawn at all cost. The night was full of crackling tension. I could hear engine noises from all sides, enemy tanks and motorized units that were moving into their intended positions. Dawn was already approaching on the horizon and the landscape looked very different. I began to have doubts whether we were on the right way or walking straight at the enemy. Suddenly, the shadow of a man appeared in the area just in front of me. Was it friend or foe? I had to know and so I called upon him, my gun in aiming position. Thank God, he was a friend! According to him we had indeed been walking straight at the enemy and thus we changed the direction. Soon we reached the part of the forest very close to the command post. Shots could be heard --- enemy artillery! I ordered to take full cover --- just a hunch --- and sure enough the shells howled closer around our heads. Now the shells hit right next to us and the sound made by the flying splinters is frightening and just then new salvoes follow. 
Is it possible that the enemy had guessed our exact position or is it just a barrage that is supposed to be close to the command post? Be that as it may! With long jumps we hurry toward the command post in order to get at least some protection from the artillery fire. But what a surprise! Corporal Schilling of my own company is just sitting there, all by himself. He had thought that he had lost all contact with out unit and that it was all over. Given that there was no German soldier in sight I had to agree with his assessment. The last straw he had held onto was the order he had found on the table, the very one that had been left for me. A foot injury seriously handicapped him and thus he had hoped that I would indeed come and take him with me or else he would have surrendered to the Ami (somewhat derogatory abbreviation of American). Now he was very grateful not to be alone any longer. We rested for just a while and then left, all three of us.
The written order was clear, I was supposed to report with the 13th Company in Weisweiler immediately. The sheet of paper was to be destroyed upon reading. Morning was near and I urged my comrades to leave. We aided Schilling and as silently as possible we moved across the wood paths toward Weisweiler. Suddenly all hell broke loose. To our right: enemy drum fire, a barrage heavier than any I had ever experienced. This had to be the beginning of the planned American offensive. Where this wheel of fire hit no stone remained unturned. For us it was important to get into Weisweiler before the low-level air attacks would make it near impossible to move along the roads. I knew an air-raid shelter in Weisweiler with a nice stock of preserves and pickles and I intended to pay it a visit before reporting with the company. After we had decided to march on we realized that the roads were dead empty. Only a young woman, crying, was moving in the opposite direction. Nothing could have stopped her. In the afternoon we reached Weisweiler and I reported with the company. Right away I was sent to the artillery position of the 2nd Platoon somewhere on the road to Jülich.
In the afternoon a typical November rain started pouring down and this could make it quite tough to be outdoors. The tent square that I wore like a poncho did not help much either. The wetness crept slowly to the bones. Due to this situation I ordered a two-man sentry to remain at the mortars and allowed the others to hide inside the stacks of straw that had been left on the harvested fields. Darkness had long since come and we had gotten used to the circumstances. But a new situation called for new orders and we were sent to Merode!
Both the mortars and the ammunition boxes are right there and off we are to the new sector, the new position. It will be a ghostly night for us. The rural route to Langerwehe is under fire. We have to get across this stretch running and we have to open up gaps for security purposes. As we turn off the road we reach an area that had been flooded when the Ruhr Valley dams had leaked. 
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:
Deployment of III./RJG Platoon: Hans Martens
Unidentified Report - Forward Observer
3rd PanzerGrenDiv in Combat Near Inden
The Fights at the Inde
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 11 August 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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