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pipefitter
04-30-2007, 11:56 PM
I studied quite a bit on the subject in school, as one of the more interesting topics of history class and figured the major battles that were depicted to be the biggest and most significant and that to be pretty much it in a nutshell. I had the whole collection of American Heritage collection of books etc. and they pretty much covered the same as the history books in school with a bit more detail,possibly. My old buddy Mr.Whillock,A WW2 veteran and survivor of the Battle of the Bulge used to talk at great lengths of his times overseas. Wasn't until recently that I had heard talk of the Hurtgen Forest or Hill 400. Was this such a widely known battle? I didn't find any topics or mention of it in the forum search, figuring you guys have possibly touched on every topic of the world by now for sure. If nothing else, to know that this battle was fought primarily by highschool kids with little technical combat training,the casualty numbers speaking for itself and other than the embarrassment factor of bad command calls,I can't imagine why this is not as well known as the other major European battles of WW2.

http://www.5ad.org/hurtgen_joe.htm

I would have liked to have known about this as it seems to be one point that left out some perspective as to how I viewed the war growing up.

The Bigfella
05-01-2007, 01:30 AM
We have a distorted view of what the big battles were. The big ones actually occured on the Eastern Front.

stevebaby
05-01-2007, 05:55 AM
The Battle of Kursk, check out the number of tanks and casualties.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kursk
Battle of Kursk - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

IIRC, 50%+ of the Japanese Army was tied up in China throughout the Pacific War.
But nobody made movies about it, so they are unknown in the West.

The Bigfella
05-01-2007, 06:01 AM
IIRC, 50%+ of the Japanese Army was tied up in China throughout the Pacific War.
But nobody made movies about it, so they are unknown in the West.


The Rape of Nanjing is perhaps the best known. IIRC over 300,000 civilians raped and butchered

Kursk was a much bigger battle than D Day

GregW
05-01-2007, 06:08 AM
You guys bring up some good points. From the point of view of the Russians, who in all honesty won WWII, there were no major battles in western Europe to speak of, even D-Day is seen pretty much as a side show.

ishmael
05-01-2007, 06:25 AM
That's what the grunts called Patton, with the added proviso, "Yeah, our blood, his guts." But if you look at his casualty rates they were the lowest in European theater. One of the few western front generals the German command actually feared. A minor genius.

Bigfella is surely correct about the Eastern Front. Russian command had a lot of people, and weren't chary of using them as cannon fodder. It led to horrific casualty rates, and also pushed the Germans back.

Brother, a historian always fascinated by WWII, is working on a small book tentatively titled "Who Won WWII?" It's a complex question without easy answers. The Germans were in sight of the Kremlin when they were turned back. But how would the Soviets have faired without US industrial support? And where would any of us be without Churchill and Britain? If Britain had fallen, or surrendered due to a fifth column, and Hitler could have put his full force to the East? If Hitler hadn't focused at all on Britain after Dunkirk. Silly island nation, why put my energy there? But Hitler's chessboard was classically European and he HAD to give the Brits a run.

Questions like that. Hope he keeps working it.

The Bigfella
05-01-2007, 06:42 AM
Geez mate - everyone knows we won WW2. We (along with a couple of poms with big guns) were the first to defeat Rommel in a battle - and we were the first to defeat the Japs in a battle on land since the mid 30's (which really pissed off Macarthur).

stevebaby
05-01-2007, 06:44 AM
I forget where I read it, but IIRC Rommel visited the Eastern Front and saw Russian prisoners being marched rearward. They found a dead and decaying horse rotting in a ditch, ripped it pieces with their bare hands, drank the water it had been lying in...and marched on refreshed.
At that moment, he realised that the Nazis were doomed.

stevebaby
05-01-2007, 06:49 AM
Geez mate - everyone knows we won WW2. We (along with a couple of poms with big guns) were the first to defeat Rommel in a battle - and we were the first to defeat the Japs in a battle on land since the mid 30's (which really pissed off Macarthur).Australian troops were the first to turn back the japanese in WW2 as you say, but the Russians (commanded by Zhukov) gave them a flogging in 1938 or '39 I believe.
Yet another battle ignored in the West.

http://zhukov.mitsi.com/Russo.htm
Russo-Japanese War

The Bigfella
05-01-2007, 06:49 AM
Fitzy's book on Tobruk is a good read

The Bigfella
05-01-2007, 06:54 AM
OK - since the late 30's. Interesting read that site - thanks

JimD
05-01-2007, 06:54 AM
I forget where I read it, but IIRC Rommel visited the Eastern Front and saw Russian prisoners being marched rearward. They found a dead and decaying horse rotting in a ditch, ripped it pieces with their bare hands, drank the water it had been lying in...and marched on refreshed.
At that moment, he realised that the Nazis were doomed.

Good story. :eek:

stevebaby
05-01-2007, 07:02 AM
I forgot to add...the Russian prisoners ate the horse raw.

The Bigfella
05-01-2007, 07:04 AM
Three million of the five million of them died in captivity. Dad said that they didn't get very good treatment from the Germans (Dad was a POW from the Crete debacle)

stevebaby
05-01-2007, 07:06 AM
Fitzy's book on Tobruk is a good readIt was indeed. Until I read it, I didn't realise how pivotal Tobruk was to both the Middle East campaign and the war generally.
Did you see that the Rats of Tobruk auctioned off their hall in Melbourne? The buyer immediately donated it back to them, a fine gesture.
It went for well over a mill, I think.

JimD
05-01-2007, 07:09 AM
I forgot to add...the Russian prisoners ate the horse raw.

I sorta gathered they didn't happen across a cooked horse.

stevebaby
05-01-2007, 07:15 AM
Three million of the five million of them died in captivity. Dad said that they didn't get very good treatment from the Germans (Dad was a POW from the Crete debacle)Anthony Beevor has written a good history of what you correctly called the Crete debacle.
His later books on Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin are excellent. Office staff in Hitler's bunker fornicating openly on the floor, on the stairs, everybody blind drunk.
I spent more than a few nights drinking apfelschnapps with an old German lady who trudged across Germany with her mother and her three kids, always just a few miles ahead of the Russians. Her husband was in the Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front...he told her what to expect from the Russians. He knew what the Nazis had done there.

ishmael
05-01-2007, 07:39 AM
Dad was in the Asian theater, midshipman aboard an LST.

What were these people thinking? That's what I'm most interested in. Until Hiroshima dad was training, day in day out, for an invasion of Japan. I've talked to the Skip, and that's what they were doing. Dad got to the war late, when the Japanese were already hard pressed, and didn't get shot at more than you'd expect. But what it looked like from dad's perspective was we're fresh, and we're going in on the first wave. A lot of my shipmates, and maybe me, are going to die.

How it worked out wasn't very pleasant, but without it I likely wouldn't be here.

I'd like to hear more Aussie stories. Dad developed real affection for his Aussie comrades, and I assume it was because they were like he was: straight shooters, honest, not a lot of hidden agenda.

brad9798
05-01-2007, 08:26 AM
If Hitler would not have vascillated so much on making his new jet a fighter/bomber/fighter/bomber ... things might be different now too.

Popeye
05-01-2007, 08:50 AM
dad used to say , intelligence did not win the war , it was shear brute strength

Cuyahoga Chuck
05-01-2007, 09:16 AM
The Hurtgen Forest is a modest sized European woodland on the outskirts of Aachen. It is not a "forest"in the North American sense.
But the battle that occured there was extremely costly in terms of lives. Hurtgen probably would be better known if the Bulge had not occured.
WWII was the greatest war in history by a large margin. Many of it's less well remembered battles would have been historically significant in any other war.

John E Hardiman
05-01-2007, 10:11 AM
Hurtgen Forest was like The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, a dense cover protected the end of a fortified line astride the route of advance and on the flank of the by-pass movement. Germany had to hold it to prevent the path to Berlin being opened (and the marshaling area for the Ardennes Offensive), the Allies needed it to roll up the Sigfried Line.

The position negated any material advantage the attacker brought. It was necessary to attack it to pin the enemy and also to bleed him, as the smaller force could not make up the casualties. The only way to clear it was shoulder to shoulder in line, blundering into hardpoints, as engagement distances were very close. The hard frozen ground made temporary entrenchment difficult and airbursts was an effective artillery tactic. A very bloody place where, like The Wilderness, they are still recovering the casulaties.

Edit to add: Most histories roll it up into The Bulge battles, because in a way, the Hurtgen sat on the right flank of the German advance and was the piviot that the sweep to Antwerp rotated about. It was the setup to the counter attack.

WX
05-01-2007, 10:08 PM
One of the things that made Hurtgen so bad was the lower branches of the trees, there were so low it made it difficult to walk upright apparently. Of course 88's exploding in the tree tops didn't help either.

pipefitter
05-01-2007, 11:10 PM
One of the things that made Hurtgen so bad was the lower branches of the trees, there were so low it made it difficult to walk upright apparently. Of course 88's exploding in the tree tops didn't help either.

The story kind of reminded me of the story about Hamburger Hill in Viet Nam. The same type of scenario over a mound of dirt with no significant value after the fact.I know it's a vague comparison but it seems that the same lesson could have applied to subsequent high ground battles.

I don't think that if things had played out differently, with key battles seemingly being the turning(I want to say timing) point of the war,with one country basically against the world,Hitler's Germany would have succumbed eventually. It isn't like they had anywhere else to go and with Russia having nothing left to lose.

WX
05-01-2007, 11:15 PM
The name Hamburger Hill was apt.