Company A, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division
Battle of Hurtgen Forest – November 27 through December 7, 1944
The first day I was there on November 27 we had to load dead American soldiers into the back of a truck. It was a rude awakening to what it was really like. In the replacement camps we talked tough but we didn’t really know what war was like. Now we were staring directly at the reality of it.
Map courtesy of OpenStreetMap
We were attacking a hill (Hill 90) and crawling through the grass toward the base of the hill. From the town (Grosshau) a Royal Tiger tank rolled toward us shooting machine guns and shooting shells. It had the company pinned down. I was carrying a bazooka and knew I had to do something fast. The guy behind me got the bazooka ready to fire. The shells had a wire on the back that you had to break. We put it in the barrel, I took aim, pulled the trigger and …..nothing. We figured the shell was too cold, so we we pulled it back out and I rubbed it around in my hands for a few moments. We put it back in the barrel and I aimed again. I had to turn before it turned. I had a clean shot at its vertical side armor, which meant the shell had less of a chance of skipping off. I fired and the shell hit and penetrated, exploding. The tank was out of action. And we kept fighting.
Soldier with Bazooka M1
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
I still have my trench coat. I slept many a night in that coat as the only way to keep me warm.
When we came down the first day there were already foxholes dug that the Germans had left. Me and another guy walked toward two of them. I said “I’ll take the one on the left, you take the other.” During the night we got shelled. When morning cam and we got out of our foxholes, there was the other guy lying down in a pool of blood in front of his foxhole. I don’t know if he panicked and tried to run or what, but whatever happened, he didn’t make it very far.
Dug-out near Hill 90 (Renn Weg in the background)
I became friends with a guy about my age from West Virginia. I liked that guy. He couldn’t read or write so I read and wrote his letters home. One night he was on the far left side of the line. Suddenly he started shooting into the dark. In the morning he told the others he had seen movement down below us. Some of the guys went down and looked and came back and told him he had shot some dogs. He was upset and started bawling and bawling, then the guy told him he was kidding. There were actually four dead Germans down below. He was a hell of a shot and had hit them in the low light. He stopped bawling. He was relieved he hadn’t killed any dogs.
Companies B and C were up front of us a few hundred yards. The Germans were shelling the crap out of us. One day they were taking heavy casualties and they needed help littering wounded out. They would get the litters up to the Company A line, then we would take over. Me and another guy grabbed a litter and started up the muddy trail. It was tough, slippery going. Every step we slid in the mud. We were being shelled along the whole way. We had gone a hundred yards or so and we came across an American lying next to the trail. He was on his back and screaming. His guts had been ripped open like a giant claw had ripped him open. He was screaming “Mama. Mama!” While we were passing a shell landed nearby knocking me and the other litter bearer off our feet. I scrambled for cover. The other litter bearer was wounded in the leg. He couldn’t carry anymore so another soldier grabbed the other end of the litter and we continued forward. The American lying by the side of the trail screamed at us to not leave him, but if we stopped we’d all be dead. There were simply too many wounded. We had to keep going. When we got to the top we got food and a brief rest. When we went back down the man was still lying there though he was now dead.
When I got back down from the top, my feet ached so bad that every time they throbbed it felt like my boots would burst. My shoes had been soaked for days now and I knew if I took them off I wouldn’t be able to get them back on. So I took my knife and sliced several diagonal cuts along the sides to relieve the pressure. This helped a lot with the pain.
The artillery was horrible. The shells would burst in the trees, slowly working their way down. The trees looked like shaving brushes.
~~~ Norbert J Gubbels ~~~
Aug. 2, 1925 - † August 15, 2014
Many thanks to Randy Kaster for sending me the recollections of his late father-in-law. Scorpio