THE BATTLE OF HURTGEN FOREST by Charles Whiling

THE BATTLE OF HURTGEN FOREST

The Untold Story of
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hurtgen Forest does not rank high in the annals of US military history. Indeed, the murderous WW II clash in which nearly 30,000 American GIs were killed or wounded is remembered mainly if at all for the monitory execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik, a sad sack who refused to fight. Whiting (Death of a Division, Massacre at Malmedy, Hitler's Werewolves, etc.) bridges the gap in official narratives with a harrowingly detailed account of the six-month struggle that ultimately served no useful purpose for the Allied cause. From September of 1944 through February of 1945, eight infantry and two armored divisions were thrown into the "green hell" of Hurtgenwald, 50 square miles of rugged, hilly woods on the Belgian/German border. Originally, the intent was simply to protect the flank of General "Lightning Joe" Collins, who planned an assault into the Reich. When dug-in Wehrmacht defenders proved unyielding, however, the battle became a matter of prestige for a high command that lacked firsthand knowledge of the treacherous terrain, let alone the grim realities of what foot soldiers called "the death factory." Eventually, the bloody-minded brass rationalized the slaughter as a means to the end of capturing strategically important dams on the Roer River beyond the forest. By almost any objective standard, though, the sideshow campaign was a stunning defeat for American forces: casualty rolls inflated by trenchfoot, combat fatigue, and desertions, plus foul weather, exacerbated the needless suffering of participants, and manpower reserves dipped so low that the rigidly segregated Army recruited black troops (mainly employed as truck drivers or laborers) for front-line duty in integrated units. An assured, painstakingly documented audit of a largely overlooked but costly setback on the road to V-E Day, whose lessons, Whiting points out, were lost on the US commanders who conducted the Vietnam War. The grueling text has 21 photographs and three maps (not seen).

ISBN: 517-56675-3
Publisher: Crown
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