17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 1999
My father was a combat engineer in World War II and served north of Aachen at the time of the Huertgen Forest battles. He has always wanted to go see the forest and, thus, this past father's day I invited him on a self-guided 'Normandy-to-the-Rhine' visit to europe. In preparation for the trip, we found plenty of information on Normandy, the Bulge, Remagen and many other better-known battles and battlegrounds, but found very little useful information on one of WWII's bloodiest battles: The Battle of the Huertgen Forest. That is, until I came across Edward Miller's, 'A Dark and Bloody Ground'. The book, while somewhat dry reading, is a must for anyone who really wants to know about the initiation, escalation and ultimate conclusion of this battle. While citing facts and figures which seem well authenticated and footnoted, Miller avoids editorializing for the most part. Where he does opine, it is seemingly not without sound military reasoning. From a personal standpoint, I used the book in order to pinpoint very specific locations within the forest. If you've ever visited there, you won't find many historical markers to guide you. You better come with some sort of roadmap and knowledge of the battle or your trip will be worthless! The maps that are contained in the book, and the anecdotal descriptions that are provided, gave us excellent references with which to locate places which were strategically important during the battle. In one instance, my father and I ventured down an old logging road (probably 'Road W' as Miller described it) and ventured by foot off the path toward the Wieser Weh creek. The east bank of this creek was the sight of numerous assaults by the americans in an effort to take the Duren-Simerath road and the town of Huertgen. My dad and I located foxhole after foxhole with some bunker remnants along this incline that were just as we imagined they would have been installed there by the germans. They had obviously been a bit weathered over the course of 55 years, but if you've ever seen this forest, the sight of so many ordered impressions in this otherwise dark, smooth ground definitely left you with the impression that something significant happened there. We visited Hill 400, the Wilde Sau minefield and the town of Schmidt. We saw remnants of the 'dragons teeth' associated with the Siegfried line. Almost all of this was due to having read Miller's account of this battle and the excellent detail provided therein. After reading this book, I have two recommendations for anyone interested in the subject of the Huertgen Forest battle: (1)read this book and dog-ear any pages which describe locations & events in detail and, (2)go visit the forest for yourself. You will get the feeling of accomplishment associated with the fact that you did your homework and saw something historic that few people have taken the time to see. For that, I salute the work that Mr. Miller has done on this bloody part of US military history.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2011
After two months of struggling to get out of Normandy, the Allies made a miraculous run in August to the Seine and then to the West Wall. Once there the German defenses stiffen plus having logistical problems, the Allied advance quickly stopped. General Eisenhower wanted to engage and destroy the German Army west of the Rhine River in order to ease the crossing of this historic river and saw the Roer River Campaign as the way to do it. While other units were involved, the 7th Corps and 5th Corps of 1st Army had primary responsibility in capturing the important ground between the West Wall and the Roer River, south of the Aachen-Duren line through the forest. The distance was only about 20 miles but it would take five months and thousands of casualties to gain control of the river and within this timeframe the 1st Army and others would also have to stop the Ardennes Offensive.
The Roer River Campaign is one of my favorites in the West. It was important and controversial and it was interconnected to the Ardennes Offensive. Though the Allies were unaware of the upcoming major counter-offensive, the Germans had to not only fight the important defense of the Roer River, they had to fight it with a partial force while the three main armies prepared for the Ardennes Offensive. The Germans did have the advantage of having well built defenses and knowing the rugged terrain of the huge forest and the Americans were fighting with false estimates of the German resistance and with insufficient forces or proper logistical backup. And with the thick huge forest and the many cloudy days, the ground troops did not have the level of artillery or air support they were accustom to. To make it worse the rugged terrain also limited the usefulness of tank support.
The author clearly shows the Americans were fighting with not enough men and the deeper into the forest they advanced, the worse their logistical problem got. He also shows the determination and craftiness of the Germans in their defenses and their numerous small counterattacks that would disrupt and set back the soldiers of 5th and 7th Corps.
Being a veteran, the author does an excellent job of describing the plans and motivations of both sides and then the executions of those plans. The story is easy to follow and the reader gets a real sense of not only the operational aspects of the campaign but also the personal with the inclusion of many anecdotal experiences of the soldiers trying to gain those twenty miles.
In the last chapter, the author summarizes and analyzes the forest campaign and includes the wisdom by such noted historians as Charles MacDonald and Martin Blumenson. Mr Miller's comments are excellent, showing an accurate, critical appraisal of the campaign from not only ground level but also Command level.
There were seven black and white maps to help the reader follow the action. The maps were very good and helpful, showing the necessary terrain features and the villages, towns and dams. These maps are good enough to be used when reading other books on the campaign. With action occurring everyday somewhere within the forest, I wished the author could have presented more maps that would clearly show the daily or weekly progress. There were also 22 photos of the fighting men and the trails, villages and towns that had to be cleared.
There is also an Appendix which is mandatory reading. It has an Order of Battle that will be indispenible in following the different regiments and battalions and also a Notes Section and Index.
There are a number of good books on the Hurtgen Forest Campaign and this is one of the them. If you have an interest in this fighting on the western border of Germany in the closing months of the war that also had secondary ramifications with the Ardennes Offensive, you should consider this book. Its highly recommended.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 1999
My comments on DARK AND BLOODY GROUND by LTC Edward Miller are lifted from a five page letter sent to then Major Miller 3.5 years ago.
Tom Clancy wrote in DEBT OF HONOR, "If it isn't written down, it never happened." Now with his book, we know the battle(s) in the Hürtgen Forest occurred. However, after battle reports etc. may be incomplete, inaccurate, and 'sanitize and/or fictionalized' by rear echelon scribes. In some respect, reading this book is like reading about a war on another planet, and as in all the others I've read, hindsight is 20/20. This book is a monumental work, and Colonel David H. Hackworth (Ret) is right, he wrote; "***- a must for professional soldiers [members of Congress] and a good, exciting read for anyone interested [and survivors] in one of the most costly blunders of WW II." Those high echelon generals responsible for this debacle, unlike Robert McNamara, did not confess to their errors or say they were sorry. This book, and Colonel Hackworth's observation were too late for those 55,000 plus names listed on the Vietnam Memorial. LTC Miller indicted generals for their misdeeds like Colonel Hackworth indicted generals in his book ABOUT FACE for their misdeed in Vietnam.
I survived eight campaigns with the 45th Infntry Division in Europe.