Battle of Hürtgen Forest: Temporary Cease-Fires Allowed Assistance for the Wounded Soldiers

Joris Nieuwint

Germans and Americans slugged it out for six months in the Hürtgen Forest beginning in September 1944, with both sides suffering enormous casualties. Given the ferocity of the seesaw struggle, it is difficult to believe that at the height of the battle the two sides paused for humanitarian reasons. But three times over the course of five days in November 1944 the opponents put aside their enmity so that wounded soldiers could be taken safely to the rear for treatment.

The Hürtgen Forest is a region of the Ardennes near Aix-la-Chapelle, Belgium, a terrain interspersed with areas of heavy forest, plains and ravines, beyond which lie the Roer River dams. Allied commanders feared that the dams, which supplied hydroelectric power to the Ruhr, the industrial heart of Germany, might be opened by the Germans to prevent or delay an Allied advance across the German frontier. Attacking through the Hürtgen and seizing the dams, the Allies believed, would surely hasten the end of the war.

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