A Dark and Bloody Ground
The Hürtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams, 1944-1945
Military History - World War II
6.125 x 9.25, 270 pp.
22 b&w photos., 7 maps.
Pub Date: 01/14/2003
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series
  paper
Price:        $22.95

978-1-58544-258-4

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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1996 Forrest C. Pogue Award, presented by the Eisenhower Center for American Studies

A Dark and Bloody Ground

The Hürtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams, 1944-1945

By Edward G. Miller

A victorious American army, having driven through Belgium almost unopposed, ran head-on into German soldiers on their own home ground, in some of the most rugged country in western Germany—and at the beginning of the worst fall and winter weather in decades.

In late 1944, American forces advanced into the hilly, heavily wooded Hürtgen Forest southeast of Aachen, Germany. For weeks, without a clear-cut reason for attacking through the forest, U.S. commanders nevertheless ordered units of as many as seven divisions into the woods to be chewed up by German infantry and artillery. Small units, cut off by the rugged terrain and trees, unable to employ tanks or artillery effectively, fought entrenched and camouflaged Germans in the woods and villages of the region. The troops were exposed to rain, sleet, and freezing temperatures without proper winter clothing. Many companies suffered huge numbers of casualties.

The Battle of the Bulge interrupted the Hürtgen Forest battles but did not end them. The Bulge provided a hiatus for the wartorn countryside around the forest and the Roer River dams. Then, beginning in January, 1945, American forces resumed their offensive and were finally able to break through after one of the bloodiest and, for the U.S. Army, most disastrous campaigns of World War II.

For many years after the war the full extent of the disaster was not well known outside army circles. Eventually the story of the campaign spread, but it remained overshadowed by the fame of the Bulge. Only in the last decade have military historians begun to look at the fighting in the Hürtgen Forest.

The book examines uncertainty of command at the army, corps, and division levels and emphasizes the confusion and fear of ground combat at the level of company and battalion—"where they do the dying." Its gripping description of the battle is based on government records, a rich selection of first-person accounts from veterans of both sides, and author Edward G. Miller's visits to the battlefield. The result is a compelling and comprehensive account of small-unit action set against the background of the larger command levels.

The book's foreword is by retired Maj. Gen. R. W. Hogan, who was a battalion commander in the forest.

Maj. Edward G. Miller is a retired army ordnance officer stationed in Germany. His most recent assignment was to the army's Command and General Staff College, where he completed most of this study in his off-duty hours. He earned the B.A. and M.P.A. degrees from Western Kentucky University and has completed several military training programs. His previous publications include articles in Armor and Ordnance magazines concerning development of U.S. armor doctrine.

What Readers Are Saying:

"A Dark and Bloody Ground is the best telling of the bloody Hürtgen Forest campaign I've read. It's gritty, hard-hitting, and explodes like a hand grenade. . . . This is a compelling and incredibly detailed account—a must read for professional soldiers, and a good, exciting read for anyone interested in one of the most costly blunders of World War II."--David H. Hackworth, author of About Face and Brave Men

"A Dark and Bloody Ground is the best telling of the bloody Hürtgen Forest campaign I've read. It's gritty, hard-hitting, and explodes like a hand grenade. . . . This is a compelling and incredibly detailed account—a must read for professional soldiers, and a good, exciting read for anyone interested in one of the most costly blunders of World War II." --David H. Hackworth, author of About Face and Brave Men

“A balanced assessment of a battle so horrible that it is easy to be carried away with anger over it." --Russell F. Weigley

“Well researched . . . " --Publishers Weekly

"A Dark and Bloody Ground is a tactician's book that passes the hardest test for the genre—one can take it to the ground and make sense of the battle. . . . a welcome, readable digest of a fascinating subject. A Dark and Bloody Ground deserves a place on every soldier's bookshelf." --Army

"Miller has done a superb job of research on the months of fighting. Offering views of both the German and American soldiers involved, A Dark and Bloody Ground is a valuable addition to the literature of World War II." --Patriot Ledger

“This book is well illustrated with clear, fully-described photographs that enhance the narrative. . . .this is a thorough, interesting study, which every student of World War II operations in northwest Europe should read. It is the best single book available on the Hürtgen Forest and should remain so for a long time.” --Army History

“Miller superbly gives the reader an awareness of the complexities of forest combat, following VII Corps’ entry into the forest, through the Battle of Schmidt and to the eventual capture of Hurtgen Forest and the Roer River dams. . . . This book is well documented, has ample maps and represents a major contribution to the history of the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.” --Military Review

“A closely detailed study . . . the gripping depictions of combat, terror, and the revelations of lethal blunders in A Dark and Bloody Ground make it a truly recommended resource.” --Wisconsin Bookwatch

“In a rich, dramatic narrative, Miller shows that the battle brought out the best and the worst in the American soldier. Miller’s book is a well-informed and meticulous examination of a major U.S. Army blunder of World War II.” --WWII History

“Miller does a good, detailed job with his version of the battle. . . this educational and informative book is worth reading by anyone wanting to know more about the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest.” --The Journal of America’s Military Past

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