BATTLE OF HURTGEN FOREST
ACTION OF 12TH INFANTRY NOVEMBER 7 TO 21
Copy of Account Written for his Personal File by
COLONEL JAMES S. LUCKETT, INF.
(C. O. 12th Infantry June 15 to November 21, 1944)
CT12 received a warning order to prepare for immediate movement at 061430.The movement was to an area 40 miles away. I received orders to proceed at once with an advance party and report to the Commanding General, 28th Division, at his CP, at ROTT.
I issued the orders for the movement of CT 12, left my Executive Officer in charge of the move and with my battalion commanders and a small party from each battalion moved out to go to ROTT.
At Headquarters, 28th Division, I learned that CT 12 was to relieve CT 109 as soon as possible in darkness and without reconnaissance. I noted that CT 109 was in position in a salient into the enemy lines on a wooded plateau without any feasible route for supply and evacuation. CT 12 relieved CT 109 with the 3d and2d Battalions. The 1st Battalion was held in reserve in an assembly area to the left rear of the position. The day of the 7th was uneventful.
CT 12 received orders on the 8th to attack with the 1st Battalion to reduce the enemy salient just to the west of the position of the rest of the CT. This salient consisted of enemy positions on the reverse slope of both sides of a ravine which projected south into our lines. To the north, the line was lightly held by cavalry and engineer roadblocks and outposts which were not insufficient strength to be of any assistance or to secure the line against infiltration or counterattack.
The 1st Battalion attacked east to cut the salient at its base but after slight penetration of the enemy position ran into difficult from minefields booby-traps, wire, fire from automatic weapons from the front, left and right and heavy mortar and artillery fire. The terrain and road situation precluded the use of tanks or tank destroyers in support of this operation. Late in the afternoon, I gave the Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, orders to hold what he had for the night and to withdraw to the original assembly area at first light the following morning and to make preparation and reconnaissance to attack on the 10th along two spurs running in an easterly direction to cut off the nose of the enemy salient.
My reason for this decision was that I had not found the going good in the initial attack and I felt it was unwise to have the let Battalion operating in an isolated area where it could not be assisted by the rest of the regiment. I knew that the light cavalry and engineer screen to the north could be of little or no assistance. This later proved to be a sound bit of reasoning.
During the 9th, 1 received orders to attack on the 10th on both sides of the plateau position. On the west, l-was to reduce the valley salient and, on the east, I was to push across the GERMETER--HURTGEN road to gain contact with the109th Infantry at a point near VOSSENACK, on the east edge or the HURTGENFOREST.
At about 092100, I attended a conference at Headquarters,, 28th Division, at which I received an overlay indicating a line "A" west of the VII--V Corps boundary as one objective and an area "B", to the east of the boundary, as another objective. The VII Corps zone was to the west of the boundary. The notes handed out with the overlay stated that the new corps boundary, as shown on the overlay, would also be the boundary between the 12th and 109th Infantry regiments. This was changed verbally by the Commanding General, 28th Division, to conform to the plan for the 12th Infantry, made up on the basis of the old 12th--109th boundary. The Commanding General, 28thDivision, also ordered that the attack as planned be pushed at all costs.
Accordingly, the attack was made as originally planned on the basis of FO #27, Headquarters 28th Division, and without regard for the adjustment of the boundary covered in the notes on conference held by the Commanding General, V Corps, with Commanding General, 28th Division, and his staff. This resulted in the 12th Infantry having a final straight line frontage responsibility of 4,000yards. However, since the enemy position actually consisted of a salient on each side of the plateau, the line on which the enemy had to be met was much longer.
The sequence of events on the 10th was briefly this: I and K Companies extended the line to the east, crossing the GERMETER--HURTGEN road, attacking to the east and then pivoting to the northeast. They ran into an organized defensive position along a firebreak consisting of log hunkers and concertina wire well covered with FPL machine gun fire. They also received intense mortar and artillery fire. L and G Companies remained in position. F and E Companies attacked to take high ground just east of the base of the ravine salient. F Company ran into a large minefield and heavy artillery fire. The artillery setoff mines in addition to causing direct casualties. F Company withdrew to its original position while an attempt was made to clear paths through the minefield. This proved impossible due to the artillery and mortar fire. L Company had fair going for a short time but was repulsed by an enter counterattack, preceded by heavy mortar and artillery fire. L Company received three enemy attacks throughout the day; received heavy, losses and was driven back after the Company Commander was killed. This permitted the enemy to penetrate the plateau position between G and L Companies. The enemy also broke through with small number of troops between F and E Companies. Despite this, carrying parties reached F and G Companies on the night of the 10th with rations, water and ammunition. The lst Battalion attack was made some progress. 27 prisoners were taken. Eventually, the 1st Battalion`s progress was stopped by mines, booby-traps, machine gun fire along protective wire, small arms fire and intense mortar and artillery fire. At 101400, the Commanding Officer, let Battalion, called me and told me that because of the above situation, he was gaining no ground and that his losses were heavy and increasing. He stated that the fire was so heavy that all attempts to advance resulted only in more casualties. I informed the Commanding General, 28th Division, of this and requested further instructions. He said to use fire and movement (maneuver) and continue the attack at all costs. I informed the Commanding Officer, 1stBattalion, of this. He attempted to continue the attack, without success.
I received orders returning CT 12 to division control as of 101900. Accordingly, orders were issued for Companies I and K to return to their
old area in the VII Corps sector. Also, 1st Battalion was given the mission of containing the valley salient to the west of the plateau with the battalion, less one rifle company. This left one rifle company in regimental reserve. Companies I and K came under very heavy mortar and artillery fire while effecting the night movement to their old area, suffered heavy casualties and were somewhat disorganized. However, during the day of the 11th, Companies I and E were reorganized on their old positions. Company L was also reorganized on the position to which it had been forced back.
On the 11th, Companies F and G received a strong attack from both flanks. Six tanks were employed with about 150 infantry coming from the general direction of HURTGEN. Another infantry force of about 100 men attacked, coming up the draw to the west of the position. The force in rear of the position also harassed the rear of the companies F and G. Our artillery was effective in assisting to breakup the attack and although the tanks were not damaged materially, they were forced to withdraw with their infantry. This action lasted nearly all day of the11th.
It became apparent toward the end of the day that due to the depleted condition of the 1st and 3d Battalions, it would probably be necessary to revise the line in order to avoid continual infiltration by the enemy. Also, a route had to be cleared to Companies F and G for supply and evacuation.
Not wishing to give up ground unless it proved absolutely necessary, orders were issued in FO #88, relieving 1st Battalion by the 4th Reconnaissance Troop from its containing mission, returning Company C to battalion control and giving the battalion the mission of opening up contact between Companies E and F and then proceeding to the east to establish contact with Company L, which was moving up to its old position.
1st Battalion gained contact with Companies F and G about 121745. However, its losses were again heavy and it had been depleted in strength at the start. As a result, the enemy closed in behind again as darkness approached. Company L reached its old position with slight opposition but was at such low strength that it could hold only part of it and a gap of about 300 yards existed between it and Company G in which there were enemy patrols.
Since it seemed evident that the line must be shortened due to the depleted strength of the companies and the condition of the troops, orders were issued in FO #89 for the 2d battalion to withdraw to a new line covered by the 1stBattalion and for the 1st Battalion to withdraw to that line after covering, the withdrawal of the 2d.
On the 13th, the withdrawal was executed without serious opposition. However, all of the 2d Battalion stayed on the line until replacements could be rushed up to strengthen the 1st and 3d Battalions. On the 14th, the 2d Battalion withdraw to a rear assembly area where it reorganized and received replacements. The 1stand 3d Battalions were reorganized and received their replacements on line, in contact with the enemy and under mortar and artillery fire.
Later, CT 12 was relieved by the 121st Inf. to go into the line elsewhere.
In about four days of fighting, the greater part of three CTs and a Ranger Battalion were able to secure the objective formerly assigned to CT 12. However, it must be remembered that this was in conjunction with a push all along the front from the North Sea to Switzerland.
During the action, CT 12 sustained the following casualties:
Officers - 75
Enlisted Men - 1,887
It should be remembered that CT 12 cracked the enemy line at the CARENTAN-PERRIERS sector and repulsed the AVRANCHES push at MORTAIN. These actions caused heavy losses in leadership, including two battalion commanders.
SOURCE: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, Records of the U.S. Army Adjutant General, World War II Records, Combat Interviews, 4th Infantry Division, Hurtgen Forest Battle November 7 to December 3, 1944, Folder I, Narrative, Miscellaneous Supporting Papers, Box 24021.