Paths of Armor - The 5th Armored Division in World War II

Timeframe:  11/24/1944 - 12/24/1945

Excerpt from the book "Paths of Armor: The 5th Armored Division in World War II" - Chapter XVII

Huertgen Forest to The Roer River

GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER General Dwight D. Eisenhower said that veterans who participated in the Battle of the Huertgen Forest, place that struggle at the top of their list of hard fighting. Without hesitation men of the Fifth Armored put that ordeal at the head of their list. The month in the Huertgen Forest was the darkest period in the division's combat history.

In this dense and somber forest of pine, men battled snow and mud and frigid weather as well as an entrenched and fiercely resolute enemy, were prevented from maneuvering or deploying by the trees, the mud, the ravines and the extensive mine fields. Advances, therefore, had to be made in bitter yard-by-yard struggles against the well-placed Germans who fought here with savage tenacity. The attackers were subjected to tremendous concentrations of artillery and mortar fire directed from observation posts on high ground, across the Roer River. Foxholes offered little protection since the shells burst in the tree tops and sprayed the ground below with their fragments.

After each long, miserable and sleepless night spent in the icy foxholes, men numb from the cold climbed out at dawn to begin another attack. As they pushed forward through the thickly sown mine fields, the bursting shells and sniper fire, they watched their numbers dwindle. Each gain of a few yards exacted a frightful price in dead and wounded. And to the collecting stations in the rear flowed the heartbreaking procession of the wounded, some walking and the others on litters.


While the Fifth Armored was fighting its way through the Huertgen Forest and across the approaches to the Roer River, the Germans on 16 December began their last desperate attempt to attain victory on the Western Front. Just a few miles south of the Fifth Armored's positions the enemy threw three armies, a total of 24 divisions, into a gigantic offensive through the Ardennes Forest. First of the Fifth Armored's combat commands to be committed in the Hurtgen struggle was CC R; it pushed toward the town of Hürtgen and then took Kleinhau, Brandenberg, and Bergstein. Near the end of November CC A entered the fray a little further to the north and nearer to the Roer River; it attacked through Gey, Horm and Kufferath to the banks of the river. CC B, which came into the fight in early December, also made for the river; it attacked through the towns of Langenbroich, Bergheim and Bilstein. After it completed its mission in the Huertgen Forest, the Fifth Armored was pulled back into Belgium to help block the Germans' drive toward Liege during the Battle of the Bulge.