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
Selected from the Experiences of
Wilhelm Bürvenich, Düren
After the assault on Düren and the complete destruction of downtown Düren on 11/16/44, it was impossible for father and me to reach our offices and go about our business from 11/17/44 onward. Additionally, there is the massive artillery fire that is a constant now, the bombs dropped on Merode, and the ever approaching front-line. All that makes it impossible to leave the town at that point.
We are forced to stay in the basement at all times. The basement in grandmother's had been converted into an air-raid shelter some time ago. Wooden planks stabilize the ceiling. Iron doors protect Windows and doorway. Any stay in the damaged house could lead to life-threatening situations. Since October 1944 many townspeople have already spent the nights in their basements. The cellar rooms of the castle, known for its solid build, are also frequented by civilians at night to get some sleep. The cellar rooms of the castle have been opened up for that purpose.
Neighbors (Fußberger family) and relatives (aunt Luise, Uncle Johann, and Cousin Magda Lich) have come to stay with us. It is no longer possible to live a normal, civilized life. Since 11/16/44 there has been no electricity or water in the pipes. Food is still plentiful. Meat of pigs that have been illegally slaughtered, potatoes, bread, and many jars of preserves have been taken down to the basement. In the stables that are still partially existing, there are still cows that are being cared for and milked at the risk of one's life. Thus there is milk. Water is pumped form a well in the courtyard of the castle and it is rationed. Every one of us takes turns to fetch the water because there is always the danger of artillery fire or air raids. More than once we have had to take cover because of artillery fire while we were carrying buckets of water and when we arrived at home the buckets were empty. The constant movement of throwing one's body on the ground to evade the shells emptied the buckets out. Once things are quiet there is another attempt at getting the valuable commodity. On one of these walks to the well I observe how soldiers and civilians cut out chunks of meat from dead horses and cows. There are dead animals everywhere. For many a civilian and even some soldiers, food is getting scarce.
Soldiers, mostly the wounded, or groups that bring the wounded to the make-shift military hospital in the basement of the castle, or groups that take the dead, wrapped in tent squares, to the courtyard of the castle, knock on doors wherever they expect to be find civilians. They beg for food and drink. Whoever knocks at our door gets plenty. Over and over again the soldiers tell us to hold out for a little way longer. All of them are convinced that the American will come any minute now and this would be our redemption. Since 11/19/44 we can clearly hear machine-gun fire. The front-line has to be close now.
Our ability to live together on such a small space is exemplary. Everyone understands and helps were they could. One for all, all for one. This willingness to help is a matter of course. How shared need tied people together! But when will the Americans be here? 
In the morning of 11/22/44, an overcast, rainy day, father decides it is time to leave Merode. He says: "It is pointless to stay, there is no end to this."
In great hurry we pack a few small bags and a suitcase and tie them on the bicycles. We have to wait for a quiet moment and then we have to leave. At that time there is no direct artillery fire. We (father, mother, my sister Luise, and I) leave Merode. We push the bikes to the center of the town, always alertly watching the area and listening. The Mayor, Peter Hourtz and his family also leave town, on a horse-drawn carriage. He will try to get away on the roads that have been severely damaged by now. We put some of our luggage on the carriage and leave together. It is indeed not that easy to evade all the shell-holes with the carriage. Even with the bikes we have a hard time moving. We get to Birkersdorf, via Díhorn, Konzendorf, and Merken. They haven't shot at us. From a distance we hear the rumbling of guns. There aren't any civilians around, only a few soldiers on military vehicles.
In Birkersdorf, close to the ramp to the sanitarium, we take our luggage off the carriage and leave the Hourtz's. We want to get to our flat in Joachimstraße 9.
Life slowly normalizes amidst the rubble. We contact our relatives in Merode. They have returned very soon. They have taken up quarters in an old stable that has been mostly left undamaged. They have taken livestock, food, and seeds with them when they returned from evacuation. They help us with food as best they can. They also begin to work the land, as much as that is possible. Since it is late in the year not much can be done in terms of seeding and the gardens and fields are full of mines and shell-holes.
A Hitler Youth camp had been set up in house Hardt near N rvenich. This camp was attacked on 09/18/44 by enemy planes. Six 15 and 16 year olds were killed in that raid, among them were friends of mine from Schlich and Merode.
The following are a few diary entries:
First artillery fire, 09/23/44
A shell explodes in the village between the houses of Hamacher and Bartz, several shells in the courtyard of the castle. Windows and walls damaged.
Artillery fire on 09/27 & 09-28/44
Shells hit a meadow at the city limits near Ignatz Hourtzí. Windows and a small wooden shack are destroyed.
Artillery fire on 10/7/44 into the nearby fields
Aunt Traudchen (Gertrude) was out there with her horse to work on the fields. The women had to work there along with the Polish forced laborers because all because all capable men have been called up for the Wehrmacht. The horse balked and bolted because of the  artillery fire. Aunt Traudchen was run over by a wheel of the carriage. She suffered inner bleedings that were so heavy that she died only little later.
Artillery fire and bombs on 11/16/44
Direct artillery fire and bombs are dropped on Merode and the surrounding villages. Distastrous damage. Dead and wounded among the civilians. Severe damage also among the livestock.
Artillery fire on 11/16 - 11/17/44
Hits in the village and the castle.
Artillery fire on 11/17/44
Hits in the village. A plane crashes into the house Schiren. The debris of the house keeps burning for days.
Artillery fire on 11/17 - 11/18/44
Hits in the courtyard of the castle. Trees and grandmother's house are damaged by shells.
Bombardment on 11/18/44
Three bombs dropped right at the castle. Basement, crowded with soldiers and civilians, holds! Damage: Parts of the castle completely destroyed, including the chapel. The dead of 11/16/44 who had been bier up in there are completely buried under the rubble.
Artillery fire on 11/18 - 11/20/44
Hits in the village.
Artillery fire on 11/20 - 11/21/44
Hits in the village, houses destroyed.
Artillery fire on 11/21 - 11/22/44
First time that artillery keeps pounding us for a long time. Hits in the village.
Uncle Willi from Dusseldorf wrote us 1 January 1945 that grandmother, 86 years old, left Merode together with Aunt Maria, the relatives, and the neighbors (Fubßerger family) on 12/1/44 on a horse-drawn wagon. They found shelter in Uckerath/Sieg. In letters addressed to the parents in sibling in Bösinghoven Near Neuß, Aunt Maria tells the story of the horrible events in Merode until 12/1/44.
A grenade splinter kills Aunt Maria in March 1945 in Knippgierscheid. It was the first shot the advancing Americans had fired! 
In 1947 a typhus epidemic erupts in the Düren lands. Among others aunt Luise is stricken by it. She dies of that disease in the Duren hospital on 10/7/47.
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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