by Robert Sterling Ruch
Lawrence, Ks.: University Press of Kansas, 2001. Pp. xx, 402.
Illus., maps, tables, append., gloss., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN:0-7006-1128-2
An extraordinary inquiry into the performance of the 22nd Infantry Regiment during the18-day Battle for Hürtgen Forest in November-December 1944. One of the most unnecessary, bloody, and heroic fights in American history, Hürtgen claimed 86-percent of the regiment’s strength, with casualties among officers approaching 300-percent.
Based on an enormous number of interviews with veterans of the battle and a detailed sifting of primary sources, Hell in Hürtgen is a superb mix of the “new” military history and the “old.” Of its 15 chapters, four are devoted to the background, history, training, and leadership of the American and German units and troops who took part in the battle, one examines organizational efficiency, another looks at the motivations of the individual fighting men, one provides a detailed examination of the terrain, and six provided a tactical examination of the fighting, within the framework of the war in late autumn of 1944.
Hell in Hürtgen is well provided with maps, and makes excellent use of charts and tables to help present information as varied as the effects of the replacement system on units at the front to comparisons of casualties at different periods in the war to changes in command personnel. And the notes are often immensely valuable in themselves. An important book for anyone interested in the American soldier.