Dark Forest

By Arthur "Dutch" Schultz

The Hurtgen Forest was the scene of some of the war’s most bitter fighting. Beginning in late September 1944, and lasting until February 1945, American and German forces savagely battled in the hilly and heavily wooded forest located southwest of Aachen, Germany. Throughout the campaign, entrenched, well-camouflaged Germans mauled scores of American units. In February 1945, the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) and 517th Parachute Combat Team (PCT) contributed immeasurably to bringing the bloody campaign to a close. Arthur "Dutch" Schultz of C Company of the 505 PIR, describes his experiences fighting in the Hurtgen Forest.(pko)
  Hurtgenmoon.jpg (24225 bytes)
  Photo taken in 1946 showing the
  devastated landscape  of the 
  Hurtgen Forest (U.S. Army).
In late January, my Regiment (505) was relieved by the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment and we were sent to a town near the Salm River for rest and recuperation. Four days later, we were sent to the Hurtgen Forest where I experienced some of the worst artillery fire ever. Those 88’s were a very convincing argument about whether or not there is such a person as an "atheist in a foxhole." It was during one of these 88 artillery barrages that I watched a fellow trooper, Bill Janke, tried to prove his theory that he was less of a target during an artillery barrage if he stood straight up rather than hugging the ground. When all of us were down on the ground, he would stand straight as an arrow, except that his upper body violently shook back and forth. We often kidded him that he was shaking too furiously for anything to hit him.
I saw much death and destruction from Normandy onward, but never anything even close to what I saw in the Kall River Valley. It looked like a scene out of "Dante’s Inferno." We were on a path that overlooked the entire valley. At the same time I was fighting fatigue and illness, and seeing this horrific picture did nothing but lower my morale. Much of the snow was beginning to melt and underneath were countless American bodies in all sorts of contorted positions. In some instances only an arm, or a head, or a portion of the lower body could be seen. There were vehicles, tanks, hand weapons, artillery pieces, and other equipment scattered all over the valley (the Germans had trapped a regiment of the 28th Division and destroyed it shortly before the snow came). What bothered me was that these dead Americans were abandoned without apparent recognition of their sacrifices. Seeing a sight like this helped me appreciate my outfit and its’ leadership. I could not imagine General Gavin ever allowing something like this to happen to his men.
Hurtgentrail.jpg (26932 bytes)
Kall Trail, in the Hurtgen Forest.  Note the tank
tracks on the right side of the trail. (U.S. Army)
This path that we were using had recently been cleared of mines by the engineers. However, there were still mines on both sides of the path so it became crucial not to stray too far from the center of the path. At some point, I became violently ill and fell to the ground. I lay there for a moment not caring whether I lived or died. A first lieutenant (I don’t remember his name) helped get me back to my feet.

He put my weapon over one of his shoulders and my arm over his other shoulder, and helped me keep up with the rest of the troops. He stayed right along side me until we stopped to set up a bivouac for the night. He prepared the foxhole and told me to rest for the night (I never got the chance to thank this man for helping me). Two days later, on February 10, 1945, I was medically evacuated to the 62nd General Hospital in a suburb of Paris, France.