The Battle of Hürtgen Forest
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest started on 19 September 1944 and was interrupted/joined up with the 'Battle of the Bulge' which started on December 16 1944. It was not one battle but many smaller battles. The American objective was to cross the Roer River and advance on easier ground to the Rhine River and its major industrial cities. The Battle of the Bulge overlapped in place and time and involved many of the same American units involved in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. It was a horrible brutal battle, and many of the US high command preferred to focus on the heroics of the soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge rather than the 'mincing machine' of the Hürtgen Forest battle.
Overall, the whole area was swept up in a series of fierce battles fought in atrocious winter conditions between US and German forces, which became the longest battle on German ground during World War II, and the longest single battle the US Army has ever fought. The Battle of Hürtgen Forest took place from 19 September to 16 December 1944, over barely 50 square miles, and the 'Battle of the Bulge' from 16 December until 25 January 1945. .
The Hürtgen Forest action cost the US First Army at least 33,000 killed and incapacitated, including both combat and non-combat losses. German casualties were approximately 28,000. The US commanders' initial goal with the Battle of Hürtgen Forest was to pin down German forces in the area to keep them from reinforcing the front lines further north in the Battle of Aachen (2-21 October 1944) where the Allies were fighting a trench war between a network of fortified towns and villages connected with field fortifications, tank traps and minefields.
The ancient, picturesque city of Aachen had little military value in itself, as it was not a major centre of war production. It was however, an important symbol to both the Nazi regime and the German people; not only was it the first German city threatened by an enemy during World War II, it was also the historic capital of Charlemagne, founder of the "First Reich".
The 'Battle of the Bulge' (Ardennes Counteroffensive)
On December 16, 1944 under low cloud and over snow covered fields the German Army launched a counter attack that caught the Allies off their guard. Some 1,000 German tanks and assault guns and 250,000 troops of Army Group "B" emerged from the wooded hills of the Belgian Ardennes and crashed through an 85 mile wide front into the the US First Army. This became the 'Battle of the Bulge'. Nearly 9,000 US soldiers facing annihilation on the Schnee Eifel were forced to surrender and vehicles, weapons and equipment were abandoned But the Americans – sometimes isolated and surrounded, showed extraordinary courage and endurance and the assault was slowed and finally halted.
For the 'Battle of the Bulge', the overall key to the defence was the small Belgian town of Bastogne – for the Germans its capture would allow their men and vehicles to fan out from the road junctions at the core of the town. The only units that SHAEF held in reserve were the two American airborne divisions. The 101st Airborne Division, travelling by truck, reached Bastogne on 18 December, and McAuliffe had only one order, "Hold Bastogne."
The 101st Airborne Division's casualties from 19 December 1944 to 6 January 1945 were 341 killed, 1,691 wounded, and 516 missing. The men of the 101st Airborne Division – who had already seen action on D-Day and in Operation Market Garden - held it against repeated and incredibly determined German assaults.
The Ardennes that initially appeared to have the makings of a German victory became a costly defeat and by the close of the fighting the Germans had lost about 100,000 men – the Americans 19,000 killed and 47,000 wounded and the British 10,000. It would be the greatest pitched battle fought by the Americans in any war.