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The Battle of the Huertgen Forest

Charles B. MacDonald
In Print
Jove (1963)

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This entry created 5 July 2023. Last revised on 5 July 2023.

370 hits since 5 Jul 2023
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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The Battle of the Huertgen Forest

215 pages. Note on sources, index. 2 maps.

I recently decided to read this one more time. I have the 1985 Jove edition, and the old paperback was disintegrating as I turned the pages.

Charles B. MacDonald is especially relevant as an author, as he served as a junior officer in WWII (receiving the Silver Star and a Purple Heart), and served as Deputy Chief Historian of the U.S. Army. He contributed to the official Army histories, and also wrote on his own – I believe this was his second book, after Company Commander.

The Allies should have bypassed the Huertgen Forest in late 1944. The terrain was forbidding, and there was no strategic necessity to enter the forest. But the Allies were worried about their flanks, and underestimated the difficulty, so they gradually drifted into this battle through bad decisions and no decisions at all.

Meanwhile, the Germans scraped together a hodge podge of units and tenaciously entrenched and defended. American units, used to victory, were reluctant to admit failure; and their commanders sent units in piecemeal and assigned overly optimistic objectives. American reinforcements weren't properly integrated with their units, and many lives were wasted.

Toward the end of the battle, the Allies belatedly realized there was strategic value in the forest – the crucial dams which could flood the river and complicate Allied advances further north.

And above all else, the Americans were stumped by the tactical challenges of the heavy forest and rough terrain, where airpower and armor had limited utility.

Can you game it? This book is an excellent introduction to the battle. It provides sufficient information for a high-level game or games, but more research would be needed for tactical scenarios. You would also need rules that adequately cover fighting in difficult terrain (and appropriate terrain for your gaming table).

Highly recommended. The only disappointment is that the reader is left to decide whose fault it all was. And the maps are barely adequate.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.