is not just any European city. It is Aachen, Germany, home of the legendary Frank
conqueror of the Middle Ages, Charlemagne, and his Holy Roman Empire. Or, the
"First Reich," as Adolf Hitler called it. But now, in October 1944,
Hitler's Third Reich is under siege.
September, the 1st Division had entered Germany and broken through the Siegfried
Line, Hitler's defenses of land mines, fortified pillboxes and concrete "dragon's
teeth" tank traps. But that was a picnic compared to city that Hitler ordered
defended at all costs.
house-to-house, the 1st Infantry soldiers now battle their way one block at a
time. Working closely with tank support, their path is impeded by rubble and barricades.
Wehrmacht and SS troops await them in the ruins of apartments and tobacco shops,
in the rubble of bakeries and churches. The parks where families strolled on sunny
afternoons become small battlefields where the war of nations is fought by a handful
of men. Fast cars have been replaced by fast bullets. Stepping off the sidewalk
can get a man killed.
GIs sprint across the street under covering fire, trying to reach the safety of
the park walls. One of the soldiers already there reports on his "handy-talkie"
that a German Pak anti-tank gun is concealed by debris on the sidewalk between
two buildings, waiting for their chance to strike. Around the corner by the church,
another soldier relays the dire warning to the tank commander as his Sherman rolls
into the intersection. Will they stop in time?
the bakery, an SS radioman tries to contact headquarters of Kampfgruppe Diefenthal's
Battalion Rink, but they too are under heavy fire. Above him, on what's left of
the second floor, his comrade readies his MP44 as he spots a Yank in the doorway
of the city house across the street.
SS soldiers occupy the tobacco shop and the floor above, firing on the Americans
in the park. One emerges to quickly hurl a grenade. Next door, two GIs have flushed
out a trio of Wehrmacht soldiers from the basement of the city house, while a
third creeps up the steps to see if the enemy is there as well.
decade before, Hitler told his people, "Give me five years and you will not
recognize Germany again." This is what Hitler has given to his Germany, the
fruit of his Third Reich.
the Americans are taking Aachen.
The Battle for Aachen
of the Diorama