Trip to Bergstein, Hurtgen Forest November 2004
I had a business trip to Europe that, due to customer availability, extended over this past weekend. With the extra time I decided to drive from Frankfurt south to Darmstadt, my first “real” assignment in the Army, to see my old stomping/marching grounds. Found them all – along with the Burger Kings, Wal-marts, and sports complexes. Some of my memories though were still emblazoned with “US Army”, but there were some changes or progress dependent on your point of view. From there I drove over to Weert, Holland, for my customer meeting. On the way I decided to get off the autobahn (my diesel-powered Opel Vectra really did not want to be on the autobahn anyway!) to visit the Hurtgen Forest area – near Aachen through which I had to drive.
Finally found part of the area – a small town named Hurtgen, and as driving through the town I saw a parade of sorts – appeared to be soldiers, firemen, officials, young children all in uniforms and in formation walking back towards the town. Went a little further and came upon a large area with several Germans flags, and I assumed that this was a cemetery. Parked the car, and saw that it was…
It was really a different feeling being an American in a cemetery for WWII German soldiers with older Germans walking around looking/remembering fallen relatives and friends. This may sound strange to some but as a soldier you still respect those that have fallen in combat. I assume that the parade was possibly their Veterans Day, or it may have been a 60th anniversary memorial for the battle in and around Hurtgen Forest? I had one German husband and wife recognize me as an American (not hard – I seem to be the only natural red head in country!) and we tried to talk. I speak little-to-no German and they spoke no English. However, we soon had instant communication. It was not hard to make the sign of a tear – they understood and nodded…
There were many, many markers with “Unbekannter Soldat.” I assume that this means Unnamed Soldier. Some photos are attached. It seemed a very fitting way to spend a Sunday morning…
Then I went back to the town and saw a large church that had been destroyed during WWII. A few photos of the town of Hurtgen are also attached.
I may have seen “Hill 400” but I am not sure. I would rather have seen it than the German cemetery, but I could not find it on my Michelin guide, and it was very overcast. Plus there will lots of wind turbines on several of the hilltops. Considering the many casualties and loss of life, it seemed sort of sacrilegious and irreverent to me to be creating energy on ground that had taken so much.
For the record you have my permission to pass this email and photos on to any WWII Rangers or S&D on the mailing list as you see fit and appropriate.