The US Army’s 9th Infantry Division distinguished itself in the European Theater of Operations during World War II because of its involvement in several key battles and campaigns. The 9th participated in the breakout from the Normandy invasion beachhead, were among the first infantry to cross the Siegfried Line in the fall of 1944, and was the first infantry division to cross the captured bridge at Remagen in March 1945.
They also fought in the Hurtgen Forest, the fifty square mile hilly wooded terrain just southeast of Aachen near the Belgian-German border.
The German army, after retreating steadily across France and Belgium following the Allied invasion of June 1944, prepared to defend its homeland from the well-fortified Siegfried Line positions along its own border. In the Hurtgen Forest fighting during the last months of 1944, casualties were so severe that American infantry companies were often ordered to attack the staunchly defended German positions with as few as fifty or so men remaining from their original strength of 180.
The men of the 9th Infantry Division initiated the attack into the Hurtgen in September and soon found the forest to be impenetrable. The rough terrain and well-entrenched enemy prevented advance through the forest and the division suffered greatly without much success. The attack was continued throughout the remainder of the year with a succession of infantry divisions, one after another, each meeting the same difficulties as initially by the 9th. The forest was not completely freed of enemy resistance until March of the following year.
Through Africa – the division’s 39th Infantry Regiment were the first troops ashore on that continent - , through Italy, through France, Belgium and into Germany to assist in the final victory against Hitler’s Third Reich, the men of the 9th Infantry Division earned their reputation as The Old Reliables.