The Battle of the Huertgen Forestby Charles B. MacDonald
In September 1944, three months after the invasion of Normandy, the Allied armies prepared to push the German forces back into their homeland. Just south of the city of Aachen, elements of the U.S. First Army began an advance through the imposing Huertgen Forest. Instead of retreating, as the Allied command anticipated, the German troops prepared an elaborate defense of Huertgen, resulting in a struggle where tanks, infantry, and artillery dueled at close range. The battle for the forest ended abruptly in December, when a sudden German offensive through the Ardennes to the south forced the Allied armies to fall back, regroup, and start their attack again, this time culminating in the collapse of the Nazi regime in May 1945.
In The Battle of the Huertgen Forest, Charles B. MacDonald assesses this major American operation, discussing the opposing forces on the eve of the battle and offering a clearly written and well-documented history of the battle and the bitter consequences of the American move into the forest. Drawing on his own combat experience, MacDonald portrays both the American and the German troops with empathy and convincingly demonstrates the flaws in the American strategy. The book provides an insight into command decisions at both local and staff levels and the lessons that can be drawn from one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
- University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Meet the Author
Charles B. MacDonald was deputy chief historian of the Army Center of Military History. He commanded a rifle platoon in World War II, earning the Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and five battle stars. He recorded his wartime experiences in Company Commander, regarded as one of the finest World War II combat narratives.
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The maps are insufficient to support the narration. This is made worse because one map is at the beginning of the book and the second map is on p. 50. It makes it difficult to try to find a location on the map. This is appropiate because most of the men were lost too. Hill 232 isn't on the maps, although it was the object of a prolonged engagement. I was frustrated because I had difficulty in making sense of the terrain and logistics. About ten or fifteen pages later, in the next chapter, the author tells us that hill 232 was on Hamich Ridge. The book states that the maps aren't on a North-South-East-West grid, but they're skewered. This makes it difficult to follow the troop movements. The second problem is that the writer seems to be trying to be prosaic but he only succeeeds in having confused syntax with subject-verb-object out of order. 'Although replacements had begun what was to become a daily trek to the front lines, they never were to equal the fallen in numbers, and days and weeks would pass before they might approach the fallen in experience,' (p. 148). I'm not sure what experience the replacements were suppossed to approach because some of the fallen had fought in North Africa, and others fought in Normandy; that type of combat experience doesn't come about in days or weeks. That leaves the experience of dying, but who can tell? The author makes it incrediably clear how the men suffered and divisions were chewed up because of the lack of communication. When delegates from the high command questioned Lt. General Hodges and his command about the situation in the Huertgen Forest, Hodges and staff were overly optimistic. It didn't help that he kept receiving conflicting data. He should have sent people out to assess the situation, especially since the battle lasted 3 months. According to this book, people seldom took the initiative and there was chronic poor communication between the engineers and the other units. Because of the steep terrain and lack of roads, this battle depended heavily on the engineers. Nobody at headquarters was willing to request enough engineers and let them know what to do. Basically, the lines were too thin, the equipment and men were worn out, and the supply line was overextended. The author clearly points out that nobody on the Allied side realized or appreciated the value of two dams near the forest. If these dams had been taken, it's possible that the war could have ended sooner. The author says that during WW II, 10 per cent in casualities was considered high but in Huertgen Forest the caualities were over 25 per cent. The Huertgen Forest is twenty miles long and ten miles wide.