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.
A Chronile: the Huertgen Forest Campaign
The Fights at the Inde
The Inde, right behind us, is a river that the enemy will have to cross in order to get to the Rur. It is about 8 meters wide, cold, the current is wild, it is very difficult to wade through it, tanks cannot drive through the riverbed. The river crossings in Altdorf, Inden, and Lamersdorf are prepared to be blown-up.
Our bridgehead is narrow and it is centered on the towns of Altdorf (II./8 and 3./PanzerJäger Unit 3), Inden (Assault Battalion AOK 5), and Lamersdorf (III./Panzer Unit 103). We also hold the heights west of the Inde Road. The last position is defended by bases only. I./ArtReg (motorized) 3 has its firing positions in Niederzier, II. Unit lies to its left, III. Unit on the eastern banks. The infantry has also crossed the Inde already thereby trying to prevent the enemy from advancing onto the eastern banks. North of us the right neighbor holds bridgeheads around Jülich, i.e. Koslar and Kirchberg. The enemy concentrates his forces on the right neighbor and takes Bourheim (1 1/24) and Koslar (1 1/25). He also attacks the left neighbor in order to advance along the Inde. Opposite us lies 30th US InfDiv, rather quietly.
Thus our division has three quiet days in the Inde positions after 11/24. Only artillery fire and fighter-bombers disturb the peace. Finally the soldiers can make up some sleep, fortify the positions, and mine the area. On 11/24 the artillery destroys two jump-off lines near Pattern. The next day (25th) the right neighbor tries to enlarge its bridgehead by recovering Bourheim but fails. The left neighbor records a defensive success at Weisweiler but then has to retreat to the line: Point 123.6 (1 km northwest of Frenz) western fringes of Frenz-Frenz Chateau-Merberich Estate. In order to keep the connection, the division takes the right back to Lamersdorf.
On 1 1/26 the enemy increases the artillery on the hinterland and also send more fighterbombers. Smaller assaults on Inden and especially Lamersdord are repulsed. The day brings some relief for the right neighbor because the bridgehead is enlarged due to the envelopment of Koslar.
The enemy plans to attack along the whole front of our corps on 11/27. This is supposed to pin down the bridgeheads and drive us across the Inde. To our right 29th US Division is supposed to take Kirchberg after overrunning Koslar. To the left 30th US Division will attack Inden. From the south 104th US Division intends to conquer Lamersdorf and then march on to Inden as well.
Simultaneously the enemy attacks with a battalion (111./i 19) from Pattern and Altdorf. Tanks cannot follow the infantry on the very loamy ground. The attack falters 750 meters away from our main-combat line. It dies in the ferocious defensive firepower that is enhanced by Jägern of 3./PanzerJäger Unit 3. Subsequently the enemy abandons his plans. Thus the assault on Inden does not occur although the enemy does attack the town with fighter-bombers quite frequently and directs a two-hour long barrage at it around noon. 
The enemy does, however, attack on the left, from Frenz to Lamersdorf, after a prolonged artillery preparation and with strong infantry forces. But the attack is repelled by III./ PanzerGrenReg 29 with support of three anti-tank vehicles and the enemy is forced back into his initial jump-off lines (104th US Div).
Thus, the division has been able to hold on to its position even though the front-line to the left has been pushed back and it has been enlarged to the right to Lamersdorf which has in turn stretched thin the defensive lines. This rejection at the Inde comes as a surprise to the American.
The relief of the division has been planned for the night 11/27-28 but cannot be followed through due to the heavy enemy pressure. Instead the GrenRegs receive support of a mobile reserve battalion. 200 men, most of them officers and NCOs of the Luftwafe. But this does not figure in as reinforcements because it is so difficult to integrate these troops during a battle. To our left, l2th VGD is relieved by 3rd ParaDiv while 246th VGD secures the Rur positions in our rear.
The American plan intends an attack before dawn on 11/28. A battalion is supposed to secure the heights west of Altdorf and a second battalion shall march through that area, take Altdorf itself, and clear more terrain to the north. 104th US Division plans to attack Inden from the west at the same time. The attack is prepared meticulously. The several groups and squads are briefed about their objectives with the help of aerial photographs. In order to surprise us, the attack is not preceded by artillery fire.
The enemy attacks and overruns the widespread bases between Altdorf and Inden. Still at dark, he advances to Altdorf in the north and Inden in the south, monitored by 12 tanks in a hollow west of Altdorf. Tow hours of bitter street fighting follow in Altdorf. When II./PanzerGrenReg can no longer withstand the pressure, Captain Dr. Schütze calls for a reduction of the bridgehead and shifts the bulk of his troops to the eastern banks of the Inde where they are positioned to the right of I. Battalion. This denies enemy reconnaissance across the river. Six tanks also retreat. The bridge, which had already been taken by the enemy is recovered. A bridgehead north of the Altdorf mill is held by 8./PanzerGrenReg 8 (First Lieutenant Stöhr) and three anti-tank guns of 3./PanzerJäger Unit 3 (Lieutenant Golkowski) until noon. Since the fuses of the explosive on the bridge are lit by the fire, only few of these men can save themselves. They have to wade through the cold water and fight their way to the German positions after the guns have been blown up. First Lieutenant Stöhr receives the Ehrenblattspange.
The enemy also infiltrates the north of Inden at dark, a full battalion advances to the Inde. They have good artillery support. An immediate counterattack recovers the western exit of the town, toward Pattern, but to the north only reached the church, due to strong enemy defense. A second counterattack, with tanks, scheduled for early afternoon, has to be canceled because the necessary infantry cannot be freed up for it. Only at night this attack can be conducted. Inside the town parts of Reg 29 (II./29 under Lieutenant Herford) and the subordinate assault battalion of 1 ./Panzer Unit 103 and 1 ./PanzerJäger Unit 3 attack near the northern bridge, supported by FEB 3. The attack advance well and  causes heavy enemy losses of men and materiel. We take 84 prisoners. But at midnight the attack bogs down short of the city limits because the enemy's close-range-combat means are very dangerous to our tanks. The grenadiers dig in for the moment and secure the area they have already taken, together with the assault guns.
During the day the defenders of Lamersdorf repel three attacks, even though these were supported by artillery and fighter-bombers. After dark, the enemy, attacking from the southwest, infiltrated a few houses on the southern fringes of town. Lieutenant Wilde, Lieutenant Schramm, and five corporals and privates immediately counterattack, accompanied by two assault guns and three tank-breakers. They clear the village and bring back 18 prisoners.
The enemy has thus only reached his goals in the right sector of the division, while we still hold two bridgeheads.
Our forces, advancing for a more thorough counterattack in the north of Inden, are stopped at 1 a.m. on the 29th by an enemy attack against Inden with newly arrived troops. Every house is contested. A counterattack advances all the way back to the church as soon as the enemy pressure decreased. In the afternoon the enemy brings in tanks and attacks from the northwest. The defenders manage to disable a few tanks, repel the attack, and keep possession of the town.
At about 9 a.m. the enemy breaks through into the southern part of Lamersdorf with mechanized infantry and ten tanks from Frenz. Lieutenant Seidel disables two tanks, another one is taken out by grenadiers in close-range action. The gap is sealed. Artillery helps a lot in that and it is based on the excellent spotting possibilities that the heights west of Lucherberg have to offer. Around noon the defenders are ordered to retreat to the neighborhood of the bridges, the tanks are ordered to shift to the other banks of the Inde. But the order cannot be followed up on before dark due to the enemy activities in the air and the constant combat the troops are in. At 1 p.m. a new attack starts, launched from the west. The enemy builds a wall of fog between Lamersdorf and Inden and then attacks the factory on the southern fringes of Inden. It is quickly taken. The enemy advances with 8 tanks to the western fringes of Lamersdorf but this attack is defeated when the assault guns hit three of the tanks. The enemy tries to take the town once again in the afternoon. 24 tanks are involved in an attack from northwest, west, and southwest. Tank-breakers and assault guns hit five tanks, grenadiers take out another one in close-range combat, but our assault guns and tank-breakers are also disabled, one of them is destroyed. The Combat Group now retreats across the Inde and destroys the bridge.
The bridgehead Inden is still safely in our possession and shall remain so until 12/6/44.
Our division is relieved in the night 11/29-30. Our sector is taken over by 246th VGD; 3rd ParaDiv takes over a small part of it to the left. Our division gathers with the train in Troßdorf. We are now reserves and have a chance to regroup briefly. The armored units are pulled out of the front in the following night. The assault guns help clearing out the north and south of the town on 11/30, in cooperation with PanzerJägerUnit 519.31  prisoners are taken. While defeating an enemy attack from the south in the afternoon, our assault guns are finally pulled out as well.
The Third Battle of Aachen rages on for another 14 days. On 12/3 9th US Army reaches the Rur between Linnich and Jülich. Inden and the heights near Lucherberg hold out until 12/6, Pier even until 12/13. Subsequently, the Rur remains the main-combat line for another two months.
In 14 days of defensive battle our division has destroyed 42 enemy tanks and made 174 prisoners, including 9 officers. Enemy combat casualties must have been high because the interrogations of the prisoners brought to light that there were more than 50% replacements in the enemy lines and 30th US Division even had to be pulled out on 11/30. The effort of our division in the Third Battle of Aachen is lauded in the Wehrmacht bulletin of 11/26:
"In the battle of Aachen so far, 3rd PanzerGrenDiv under the command of Major General Denkert and l2th VGD under Major General Engel have distinguished themselves with steadfastness and fierce resistance. It is mostly thanks to their laudable attitude and stamina that the enemy offensive has all but failed in that sector of the front."
In radio report, broadcast by all German stations on the following day, the divisional commander mentions several single heroics as well as the heroics of all the different outfits. The enemy s judgment concurs.
The casualties, however, are severe. The infantry has lost more than 75% and this cannot be made up for with replacements. 3rd Pioneer Battalion (Lieutenant Fischer), which is deployed outside of the sector of the division, in the Hürtgen Forest, is completely destroyed. The Panzer Unit has only seven assault guns left, the PanzerJägerUnit has three anti-tank guns and eight tank-breakers left. Flak Unit 312 loses eleven guns between 11/17 and 11/22 and I./ArtReg 3 has only one small field howitzer standing east of the Inde.
Although the heroic efforts of the grenadiers cannot be mentioned often enough, it also has to be admitted that the experiences made in Italy were further underlined. Eventually, the defensive capability of the division rested squarely on the shoulders of the artillery and flak, as well as on the effort made by armored vehicles. The significance of this resistance, which the allies have faced since the invasion, is elucidated by two letters. Montgomery assesses the battle as a strategic setback. Eisenhower writes that the fighting has not shown any signs of a moral collapse of the German people. After all, the enemy achieved his objective, the Rur, only after weeks of fierce combat and heavy casualties. And the effort of our division sets the conditions for the Ardennes offensive. This is so because there is no need to deploy the forces of 6th SS Panzer Army, which is trained in the rear. But it is also true that five divisions, ours included, which are scheduled to participate in the offensive have been seriously weakened. Furthermore, the enemy has reached the positions that two months later will serve as the jump-off line for the advance to the Rhine. 
Expert from a letter of First Lieutenant Stöhr to his father
"I have to say that I haven't lived through anything like the situations as in those days. I felt like being born again since I had already closed the books on my life. The days were November 18, 23, and 28, and I will never forget any of them even though men usually forget the bad things first. I vividly remember November 28, 1944. They had basically left me to command a Combat Group, which included my company and I had to command that one too, on the side if you want. This Combat Group Stöhr had to defend the town of Altdorf.
This town nearly claimed my life. It did cost me at least five years of my life as it is. Yes, this wretched Altdorf, barely five kilometers away from Jülich made me meet my fate on November 28, 1944 when the Americans managed to infiltrate the town in the morning of the 28th, before dawn. I retreated, with my flock of course, because there was no way back in. A damned little river, the Inde blocked the way because the bridge had been destroyed already. Thus I had to make my men dig in, the enemy coming at us from three sides, the river without a bridge in my back. No surprise that the enemy attacked. This pushed my soldiers off the hills immediately. Now the enemy sat on the hill and could look at us like we were small fry in a pan. Then he started a big funny hunt of the rabbits.
In this desperate situation I gave the order: "Retreat across the river!" Hell, that was quite a situation, a running retreat, then swimming through the river while already being exhausted. The river was only about 8 meters wide but the thick uniform, immediately soaking wet, pulled me down like tons of weights. Plus, I held machine gun and steel helmet in the hands and then there was the wild current that took me away. Yes, this creek almost took my life right there after the many shots fired at me beforehand had all missed. They had all missed but closely and I could hear them fly by my head. But then the miracle happened and I did get out of the water. A few days later everything was dried up and the crisis forgotten. I didn't even get a cold despite the sweaty body and the ice-cold water.
That was Altdorf, that was November 28. We have fought for every house and every tiny little road between Aachen, Eschweiler, and Jülich but it was all for naught. Now I am the oldest company CO in the regiment, me, such a young First Lieutenant."
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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