December 13th, 1944 - On this day in World War Two history, the US First Army exits the Hürtgen Forest and reaches the Roer River in Germany.
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest is often forgotten because it is overshadowed by the far better known Battle of the Bulge which occurred right after.
The US troops entered the Hürtgen in an attempt to flank and thus destroy the German forces fighting at the German city of Aachen to the north.
The Americans were not expecting such a fierce resistance. The Germans had dug in hard within the dense woodland, operating machine gun nests, mortar pits, hidden artillery positions, bunkers, pill-boxes, and fox hole, along with ambush locations. Walter Model, the German commander, had heavily prepared his defensive position, and was not about to give in easily. The dense terrain would also make it hard to hit the Germans with aerial units due to reduced visibility.
120,000 US troops would eventually take part in the battle against 80,000 Germans, and Model would also use the Siegfried Line defenses (West Wall) to the fullest capability.
The Germans defended the area so ferociously because it would act as the staging ground for the coming major German counter-offensive: Operation Watch the Rhine, better known as the Battle of the Bulge.
33,000 US troops were killed or wounded in the battle of Hürtgen Forest, compared to 28,000 German casualties, and it is considered a US defeat in the first magnitude, which specific credit given to Model and his defense. The German victory at Hürtgen is overshadowed by their immense defeat during the Battle of the Bulge, but it showed that they could still hold their ground, even with the war coming to a close. This picture shows a dead US soldier with medics surrounding him.