HURTGEN FOREST CAMPAIGN - Nov. 16th thru Dec. 3rd


DECLASSIFIED - Authority NND735017

Interview by Lt. Francis. H. Fife with:
Lt. George D. Wilson, C.O., Co. F, 22nd Inf.
1st Sgt. Edward Nagel, 1st Sgt. Co. F, 22nd Inf.


16 November 1944

F Co. with the remainder of the 2nd Bn. had remained in an assembly area at (993362) for around 5 days waiting for the preparation bombardment by the Air Corps. The 298th Engr. Bn. held the outpost line of resistance along a firebreak (003374) to (008373), and we were to pass through them. F. Co. moved up the road to point "X" (003373), a firebreak junction, where it was disposed to furnish flank security for the 2nd Bn's. attack to the east and to establish an LD for the 1st Bn's. attack to the northeast. G Co. then attacked between points B (009379) and C (010378), a very narrow gap. E Co. was supposed to attack abreast of G but by mistake swung up to the left of F Co. About dark F Co. was pulled out of its flank security position on the left and was brought up and placed on the right flank of the Bn.  

(I questioned Lt. Wilson with regard to his opinion about the effectiveness of a close-in bombing attack had it been made. He stated that he believed that had this been done it would have been of great assistance to our attack through the woods).

17 November 1944

The 2 Bn. attacked again in a column of companies in the order of F, G, and E, and advanced to the edge of the north-south road and then turned, to follow the west side of this road before crossing. The Germans threw a terrific barrage of arty under which the entire Bn. became rather badly disorganised and the situation became quite confused. Lt. Wilson went forward to G Co. to find out the situation and found out that F Co. commander had been killed, E.O. wounded, and the third ranking lieutenant was sick. Wilson took over with Lt. McCloud as his E.O., and only other officer In the company. E and G Companies were in much better shape. The Bn. staff had been knocked out almost completely. H Co. Commander had been wounded. Captain Newcomb, C.O. of E Co., went back to Bn. to assume command and began reorganisation. Lt. Clark who had formerly commanded G Co. but had been sent back to the Clearing Company because he was very sick came up and assumed command of F Co. Next day he was again evacuated.

18 November 1944

F Co. remained in the same position that it had held on the 17th. E and G Companies pushed across the road and took up positions on the high ground east of the road.

19 November 1944

A guide from G Co. came back to F to show F Co. the way up to G Company's position. F then moved up and took up a position on the right flank of G. During the day a new captain came up to take over the company (Wilson didn't remember his name). On the morning of the 20th this captain was sent back with battle fatigue and Lt.. Johnal assumed command of the company on Nov. 20th.

20 November 1944

E and G Companies attacked to secure the north-south road to the east. F Co. was to stage along on the right flank. When G had a almost reached the road, it was caught in a crossfire from two enemy tanks firing both HE and machine guns. G Co. received a very large number of casualties. The Co. Commander and two other officers were killed and the fourth officer wounded. Under this barrage G was forced to pull back. E Co. was hit by a lot of arty fire. F received only a moderate amount of arty on its right rear. Lt. Tolles went up and assumed command of Co. G with Lt. Pisarek as his assistant. He reorganised the 25 remaining riflemen and moved back to secure the positions which G Co. had left when it attacked.

21 November 1944

Companies remained in position.

22 November 1944

Companies E and F were to jump off with E on the left and F on the right, G was to tie in after following the two leading companies. The mission of the Bn. was to reach the edge of the woods, from which it was believed direct fire weapons could fire upon Kleinhau and Grosshau.

At 0830 Co. F received 16 brand-new replacements who were loaded down with full field equipment including extras in many articles of clothing especially shoes. In the ensuing half hour Lt. Wilson had to make a list of all these men's names, ranks, and serial numbers, had to decide where to place them, tell them what equipment to get rid of in order to be ready for the attack, and also dispose of what equipment they discarded.

This day's attack was the first that Lt. Wilson was to make as a Co. Commander and on previous night he had sent one of his officers out to reconnoiter for the road which he was to guide on in his attack. This road ran from (030378) to (036376) and was to serve as the boundary between E and F Companies. The officer returned and reported that he knew exactly where the road was. For this reason Lt. Wilson ordered this officer to lead off with his platoon. Both companies jumped off at 0905. After advancing about 300 yards, Lt. Wilson suddenly realized that he was in the wrong place and instead of being south of the road was actually attacking through E Co’s area north of the road. Immediately he swung the company to the southeast to get into his proper area and ran into stiff resistance as he attempted to cross the road. The company received a heavy mortar barrage at this time then suffered numerous casualties. The platoon leader who had led the attack became a casualty and the only other officer was killed. At this time Wilson had only one Platoon Sergeant and two of his Squad Leaders were leading the other two platoons. He took up his radio and called the Bn. Commander telling him of the situation. The Bn. Commander said that he understood but said that he must continue the attack, "I know that you can and I know that you will." Wilson immediately began reorganizing his company and continued the attack. F Co. ran into several dugouts on the southern side of the road, and was hit by flanking fire coming from its left. However, by 1600 F Co. had reached "Tarnip Road”. E Co., which had had one platoon very badly shot up, arrived at the same road about 1700 and both companies then dug in for the night.

23 November 1944

During the day we received 4 officers, 2 of whom had never been in combat before, one had received a battlefield promotion, the other, Lt. Greenlee of H Co., had never received any rifle company instruction. In addition that day 100 replacements came in giving us a total of 135 men.  

24 November 1944

Companies remained in position.

25 November 1944

At 0900 E and F Companies jumped off attacking abreast and using the same road which they had used before as a boundary between the two companies. They had to move through some very thick second growth pine in which the visibility was limited to between 10 and 15 yards. We had to walk right up on top of the Jerries before we could see them. When we started encircling a position the Krauts would pull out and move off to the flank where he could set up his machine gun and get flanking fire down a firebreak. By 1115 F Co. was on its objective "Onion Road", which was supposed to be right at the edge of the clearing. However, the woods extended beyond this road and F Co. pushed on up to the edge of the woods. At the same time one platoon of E Co. started setting up its positions on our left and we placed a section of heavy machine guns to protect our position. F Co. had set up its positions In somewhat of a horseshoe shape with its closed flank towards the south. To our right rear one of our platoons started digging in but due to the fact that it was under the command of a new officer no security was posted. A patrol of 7 Jerries attacked this platoon from the south and overran its positions. The officer was killed, the Platoon Sgt. wounded, two men killed, and several others wounded. This patrol was led by a German Lt. Lt. Wilson, hearing the firing, pulled as many men as he could out of the line facing to the east and rushed them over to stop the Germans. Then he went over to the platoon of E Co. and borrowed a squad consisting of 5 men with which he made a flanking attack against the German patrol. 3 Germans were killed and one captured. The other 3 got away. After stopping the counterattack Lt. Wilson personally checked to see that every man cut a field of fire, that each platoon posted an outpost, and that trip flares and booby traps were placed in the likely approaches that the Germans might use.  

During the night of the 25th some of our new men foolishly fired upon a group of 6 Germans when they saw approaching our lines about 150 yards away. All our older men new that this was a mistake and they would have waited until the Germans came within hand grenade range. The Jerries immediately hit the ground and started shooting up flares. Very quickly a "hellacious" barrage of arty hit E, F and G Companies. In this barrage the Weapons Platoon of E Co. suffered 8 casualties, one killed and 7 severely wounded. F Co. had 8 men and one officer killed.

26 November 1944

Our supply route was cut for about two days by a German patrol which had infiltrated back of E Co. Captain Eggleston from Bn. was killed by this patrol trying to bring up supplies. Even after mines had been removed from the road running up to our rear, we were unable to use this road because the tanks and TDs had cut it up. The wounded had to be evacuated a distance of a 1000 yards.

27 November 1944

E Co. was pulled up into the woods west of Grosshau in order to assist B Co's. attack. F Co. was therefore required to extend its lines over and fill the positions which E Co. had hold in addition to its own. We received some replacements that day which brought the company strength up to 140 men.

28 November 1944

E Co. alone attacked Grosshau. At about 1700, Lt. Wilson was ordered to report to Bn. and to alert his company for movement. At Bn. he received a hurried order that he should move up and assist E Co. in attacking Grosshau. He was told that E Co. had been badly cut up and had been able to advance only about 200 yards into the town. F Co. was to contact E Co. and pass around the southern end of the town, then attack north to clear it out. By the time that Wilson could return to his company and lead it up to where he contacted E Co. it was dark. E Co. had captured the entire town and had taken over 200 prisoners. F Co. moved on in and coordinated its defenses with E Co., F taking the right half of the town.

That night we spotted a good many Jerries on the hill east of Grosshau. It was estimated to be a Bn. Wilson immediately requested permission from Bn. and thru regiment to call for arty. This was refused and he was told that these were not Jerries but were friendly troops. The 46th Armored Infantry Bn. had reported that its men were on the hill. Bn. then ordered Lt. Wilson to send out a patrol to check up on this report. When this patrol returned and reported that the troops were definitely Germans, Wilson reported this to Bn. but he was still refused permission to fire upon them. F Co. then sent another patrol down the road from Grosshau to Kleinhau which contacted the 46th at (055376). These people insisted that the troops on the hill were theirs. When this was reported to Bn., F Co. was ordered to "go to sleep and forget about it".

29 November 1944

F Co. was ordered to attack to the east and move up to an objective along the east edge of the woods at (069389). F was to attack on the left-hand side of the road, G on the right. The LD was to be the near edge of the woods. Realizing that there were Germans between us and the LD we made our LD the Grosshau-Kleinhau road. After advancing about 300 yards we began receiving machine gun fire from both flanks. G Co. also received heavy machine gun fire. No arty or mortar shells had as yet come in, so being unable to locate the machine guns, we pushed on advancing by short rushes with two platoons abreast. After observing carefully we determined where the long range machine gun fire was coming from and placed our section of heavy machine guns so as to spray that general locality (059387).

Meantime the 3rd Bn. had been attacking around thru the woods to the northeast. These two things caused the Jerries to flee and thus eliminated this harassing fire. We captured one machine gun about 400 yards to the front. Arty and mortar fire began coming in; it was of all calibers 80 and 120mm, mortars, and 88 and 105 arty. The Krauts had two 88 AT guns right in the edge of the woods to our front, also one machine gun in the same position. The arty blew such large shell craters on the hill that our men were able to use them for cover, moving from shell hole to shell hole as they advanced. The German infantry meantime was firing at us from a series of trenches just west of the woods. The 105 shells that came in were of a different sort from the kind we had seen used before. There was only a slight whistle but by watching closely one could actually see the shell costing in and had sufficient time to duck down into a shell crater before the shell landed. From a lone house (Heidbüchel) a German sniper who had concealed himself in the remains of a chimney inflicted about a dozen casualties upon us. The rear half of the chimney, which had remained after the rest had been blown away by a shell, served as a background to camouflage him from our observation. This man used every opportunity to fire at what he believed to be our leaders. One of our acting platoon sergeants asked Lt. Wilson if we had any men in the house. The Lt. replied that we did not and that he believed there was a German sniper there and ordered the sergeant to have his men fire upon him. The sergeant returned to his platoon and ordered several of his men to fire upon the house. As he was returning to his foxhole the German sniper shot him thru the head. We discovered later that this same Jerry had been directing arty fire from his position. By 1000, two officers of the company had been evacuated for shock and wounds. Lt. Greenlee did a very excellent job in helping to keep the men going. There was one squad leader, Pfc Meisenheimer, who was leading a platoon and performed very well until he was severely wounded. He had not only led a platoon but assisted a great deal in leading the other platoons. (There was not a single platoon sergeant left). The Germans, seeing us approaching, blew up their two A T guns and destroyed the machine gun. We reached a position about 75 yards from the woods where we were ordered to stop for the night. Since there were only 50 men in the company Lt. Wilson decided that he was too vulnerable to attack and pulled back 300 yards to the rear to set up positions in a German communications trench. He tied in with G Co. which was on the right. (At this time G Co. had no officers and 40 men left).

30 November 1944

We received an officer who had been in a heavy weapons company and was unfamiliar with rifle company tactics. Lt. Greenlee took over G Co. with the Bn. S-2 becoming his Executive. We received word that we should remain in position that day and we were told that the 1st Bn. would make a flanking attack through the woods to the northeast to take our objective. It would then send one company back to clean out as far back as our front lines.

About 1100 G and F Companies were ordered to attack and seize the near edge of the woods. Due to the fact that we were being shelled it was impossible to give an attack order to the company. Lt. Fitzgerald (the new officer) was given the job of leading the attack. He was told to go to the edge of the woods and to hold there. Fitzgerald jumped up out of his foxhole and shouted "come on all you riflemen, let’s go". About 30 followed and he spread them out into a skirmish line and started off running down the hill towards the woods with all of the riflemen following him. Reaching the edge of the woods Fitzgerald continued on up the draw and into some thick pines. He had turned too far to the right and had gone past the edge of the woods. When he reached a place where he thought he was supposed to be, he started to dig in. Just at this time he was hit by a counterattack and was forced to withdraw. Only 4 men were left, some having been killed, some captured, and some wounded. A few had been wounded by arty and mortar fire as they attacked across the open ground. With 12 men left in tie company Lt. Wilson then built up a defense line on the edge of the woods. G Co. seeing that F had swung too far to the right crossed over and took up positions on the left where F Co. was supposed to have gone. Presently the Bn. Commander arrived and seeing the situation ordered E Co. to come up from Grosshau and tie in between G and F Companies. He set up his CP in a pillbox at (060378).

1 December 1944

The defence of the Bn. was changed by pulling F Co. back to the rear edge of the woods. G Co. was ordered to push forward and meet C Co. On the same day F Co. received as replacements two officers and 66 men. By this time Lt. Fitzgerald had been wounded and evacuated. All 3 companies received arty and mortar fire almost constantly while in the woods.

3 December 1944

F Co. was relieved by a company from the 330th Inf. In this relief the Company from the 330th suffered quite a number of casualties. F Co. however moved back to Grosshau under cover of darkness and lost not a men.

F Company, 22nd Infantry

  Officers Enlisted Men
Company Strength 11/15/44 6 171
Replacements received during campaign 10 276
TOTAL 16 447
Left area with 3 110
Lost in campaign 13 337
53 NBC's (non battle casualties)


Source: N.A.R.A. Archives

Many thanks to John R. Tomawski for providing me a bunch of documents from the National Archives.

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