"Between Life and Death in the Hürtgen Forest"
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Danger increased with every step.

The 28th Infantry Division, known as the "Keystone Division" by its distinctive red insignia, entered the Hürtgen Forest on November 2, 1944. By the time they left the "The Green Hell" eleven days later, all officers in the 28th's rifle companies had been killed or wounded. The division suffered 6,184 combat casualties, 620 lost to battle fatigue and 738 disabled by trench foot. Nearly every soldier of the 28th who entered that forest became a battle casualty.

Heavy rains turned roads into rivers.The Hürtgen Forest, a dark, densely wooded area along the western border of Germany, gave the Germans excellent defensive positions, the thick cover of the woods concealing their trenches, bunkers, blockhouses and booby traps. Trails were mined --- one three-mile stretch had mines every four feet. Without any distinguishing landmarks, it was easy for soldiers to get confused and lost. Companies lining up for attacks missed their appointed positions, left gaps in the line, and were quickly outflanked by the enemy in seesaw firefights. The raw autumn weather, leading to the coldest winter in Northern Europe in a century, was cold and wet. Rain filled trenches and foxholes. The few trails and firebreaks in the area turned into rivers of mud. Most soldiers gave up on trying to keep either clean or dry. Many caught cold or developed infections, and the number of cases of painful trench foot skyrocketed. The fighting was brutal and increasingly senseless. At least one company commander broke down and was relieved.

The rough mountainous terrain slowed progress.

The 28th Infantry Division was virtually destroyed in less than two week's of combat - as hadthe two divisions that preceded it into the forest in September and October. Subsequent divisions didn't fare much better and by the time the Americans finally secured the Hürtgen Forest in February 1945, it had become the scene of one of the longest and costliest battles in US military history. In spite -- or because -- of that, it's been overshadowed by the Bulge. Even the official Army account of WWII gives it only cursory mention. Survivors and historians have long debated whether the Hürtgen Forest was even a worthy objective. The GIs sustained over 24,000 killed, wounded or missing. The Germans suffered 27,000 casualties.

Even the protection of a tank brought little comfort.When pulled from the front line, the 28th, now nicknamed "The Bloody Bucket" because its red keystone had become symbolic of the massive amount of blood it had shed, was sent to another heavily wooded sector along the German border to recover from its ordeal. After a couple quiet weeks, all hell broke loose in this other forest --- the Ardennes Forest. The 28th Infantry Division was right in the middle of a massive surprise attack of 500,000 German soldiers making their last desperate bid for victory.

"Between Life and Death..."
The Battle of the Hürtgen Forest
Evolution of the Diorama
M3A1 Halftrack
Dodge Ambulance and Beep
Willys Jeep, 2.5 Ton Cargo Truck, Trailers
The Figures


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter