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desperate mission, reinforcing the 112th infantry holding the village of schmidt. >> general cota had given our people orders to push those tanks off the side of the road and down in the gully. >> but eventually we got a total of eight tanks and seven tank destroyers. >> what he didn't know at the time and what no one knew was that the americans were in the process of getting hit so hard at schmidt they were losing the town. >> translator: we were ordered to advance in the direction of schmidt. >> irwin pressman's guns were blazing as the 116th panzer division stormed into the town. >> the tanks that you had weren't designed for this kind of terrain either, were they? >> translator: it's difficult to maneuver a tank and terrain like this. one is usually tied to a fixed position. >> model's panzers were able to bludgeon the americans.
>> translator: we knew the american sherman tank was excellent machinery but we learned quickly its weak spots and aimed our fire right there. >> the germans targeted the rear and belly of the u.s. tanks and had the advantage of key terrain. >> this is known as the germans as the birdberg. german observers had a clear picture of almost every move that the 112th and the tankers were making. >> and so any move that we or the infantry made, was perfectly visible to them. at one time there was as many as 30 rounds of artillery landed in one minute. it was quite intense. >> fighting for every inch, ray and his soldiers struggled to get to schmidt 800 yards from the village disaster struck. >> the germans simply threw everything they had at the forces in schmidt. it was simply overwhelming.
>> as the german counterattacks drove the americans out of schmidt they fell back on a village and fell on to ray flag's tanks. >> for two long days under heavy attack ray and the gis tried to hold their ground in kommerscheidt. >> i talked to cota on the radio and he said you know who i am. i said yes, sir, i know who you are. >> he said i want you to hold at all costs. that's what we tried to do. general cota decided that he was going to form a task force that would recapture schmidt. he had as many as 300 infantry men. >> 300 infantry troops, one tank, and one tank to spare. >> to take schmidt. >> against -- >> as far as i know, there were two german infantry divisions and one german panzer division. >> how could that happen, that those kinds of orders would be given, given the circumstances? >> i wish i had an answer to
that. >> well, i made my run. >> following ray and wearing his texas a&m class ring, lieutenant leonard ran into the open to draw the enemy out. >> he operated exposed and he was a driving force behind the defense and its ability to hold against the germans. >> at that time i saw lieutenant leonard bloody arm, i'm not sure if there was much arm left there.
>> still trying to get his guns, his tank destroyers. >> that was the last time i saw him. >> lieutenant leonard and others perished in the forest. 60 years later something that he loved would make its way home. more on that later. >> it would have been suicide simply to hold on. general cota gave the order for the withdraw to take place on the 8th of november. had they not done so almost every man there probably would have wound up as a prisoner or dead. >> it came by radio we had permission to withdraw and we were ordered to destroy any usable weapons or vehicles that we had. there's all kinds of debris on the forest floor and it's dark and rainy and snowy and cold. we were to place our hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us and follow him. we arrived to the friendly lines. >> you're back to where you were
when the whole thing started. >> zero, yes. >> the division itself suffered over 6,000 casualties in those six days it was engaged in the battle for schmidt. >> did your soldiers believe that they would be able to keep the americans from entering germany? >> translator: we not only believed it but we actually did it. >> despite their nearly 3,000 casualties, the germans came up with a bleak nickname for ray flag and the pennsylvania keystone boys using the divisions red patch. >> sort of looks like a bucket or a pale. they called it the glbloody bucket. they knew how much destruction and damage had been brought upon that division. even today, the germans and veterans of the 28th division still call it the bloody bucket. >> lieutenant leonard's bavry on the battlefield would be recognized in his citation for the medal of armor and the army sends in the 2nd ranger sends in the 2nd ranger battalion to taaaaa
the criminal looks old, bent, stooped shoulders and failing. sick physically, sick mentally. >> november 1944 with the allies closing in from the east and west, adolf hitler was facing his downfall. delusional and paranoid ignored his general's advice to negotiate a surrender. >> hitler ordered them to stay and fight and die where they stood. >> at huertgen, casualties mounted on both sides. almost 50,000 from combat and the worst weather conditions in decades. >> took the shoes off and i had no idea really what it was. i had heard the term. but the bottom of my feet were black. it was terrible. >> in early november generals eisenhower and bradley visited the battered troops in the forest. ike was in denial when he sent
this top secret letter to george marshal. morale is surprisingly high and the men have succeeded in making themselves comfortable. there are no signs of exhaustion and the sick rate is not nearly as high as we would have right to expect. >> it was horrifying what we saw there. >> 24-year-old lieutenant and the second rangers saw things differently than ike. >> i felt so sorry for the american soldiers i saw. they were bedraggled yet they went about doing their duty as they always do. >> but the condition of their troops wasn't the only thing lost on the american commanders. from the outset of the forest campaign, generals eisenhower, bradley and hodges failed to identify a key objective, critical for the drive into germany. >> this is the schwammenauel dam and reservoir where it controlled the level of the river which would dix cate when the americans could get across the river and enter the plain toward the ride. >> the americans initially did
not realize the significance of these dams and what would happen if they were to be destroyed. >> the germans through this dam could conceivably flood the ruhr behind the americans as they crossed. >> to take the dams the americans had to capture castle hill the commanding terrain that allowed the germans to unleash the deadly artillery barrage on ray flag and the 28th i.d. >> we have behind us the observation bunker on castle hill. whenever you see movement down there and you order your fire down there. they are precisely on the point. >> only when those observers were gone and the artillery threat was eliminated could the americans safely and successfully control the ridges that overlooked the dams. >> unfortunately the 8th infantry division had practically spent itself in the attacks in the other areas during the first week of december so that by the 6th of
december they no longer had the power to go that last 500 meters. >> but that didn't stop leonard and the rest of the 2nd rangers. >> we were told that 5,000 or 6,000 guys had failed just the week before. but that didn't bother us. >> the 2nd ranger battalion as reserve moved up late on the night of the 6th of december. after daybreak, around 8:00, the rangers were ready to go. >> so we're off in the charge. >> the rangers wisely chose a predawn assault as it crossed a field that was about 200, 300 meters wide in spots. >> here we are on the assault, across a flat, icy, snowy, plateau type of land to get at the base of this hill going up almost straight. >> the bullets hit the ground right in front of it. never got us, but it was right in the ground in front of us.
>> we slowed down a bit by the machine guns there in the base of the hill. sig will tell you in his own words how he rose to the occasion and wiped out a machine gun mess that was holding us up. >> the machine gunner was firing right straight at us. we were returning the fire. we went up to the house and the germans started coming out the front door. all of them surrendered. >> just the two companies of screaming rangers storming uphill. >> hard to climb because of slipperiness, ice and snow, and thick vines and thick growth. >> some of the german attackers fell within arm's length of the rangers in the foxholes. that's how close the fighting was. >> climbing over trees, falling down, shot at, artillery going off over their heads unprotected, no modern day body armor grappling and struggling for possession of this hill. >> by nightfall 7 december 12
knight's cross to whoever cap retake that hill. model knew how significant that was. >> there were four attacks because model threw in every unit he could. >> it go the worse and worse because what the germans would do was smother you with artillery barrages. they attacked several times trying to take it backp we held out and we had a lot of casualties. >> just about everything. you had to be very, very lucky not to get a direct hit. >> the american rangers only fewer than 100 defended and held the hill under repeated counter attacks. >> i knew we were understrengthened, we had a disadvantage and i'm so proud of my guys because they did it, but i got wounded and they finally took me off the hill that night about 9:00 p.m. >> in the fighting the rangers
sustained over 133 casualties and then the german casualties were enormous, in excess of several hundred. >> at that point, were the americans finally in a position after three months of constant fighting in the huertgen forest to control one of the last pieces of key terrain before the ruhr river and the plain. >> we had orders to attack on the 13th of december. and our ultimate objective was the dam. >> retired lieutenant general frank grew up an army brat and entered west point in 1939. >> i decided to go to the outfit my father was in, artillery man in the 78th division. >> captain cam led the 303rd battalion of the 78th i.d. general hodges ordered the division to take the dams and continue the attack into hitler's industrial ruhr river valley. >> we decided to go around
rather than go across those terrain compartments and in doing that, we in our first couple days, battled bolstered. >> bolstered by the success in the huertgen hitler thought he could defeat the allies. >> american troops in action on the western front. >> ike ordered patton into the bulge and by late january, the allies had restored their lines and could once again focus on smashing through the huertgenwald. >> the eyes of the allied command from eisenhower down to the platoon leader were on this dam. >> when the offensive resumes how do you get the word? >> i think about the 29th of january, we would clear the south side of our say leent to the ruhr river so we could turn north and go up and get the big dams. >> little did cam know he would see his father on the
battlefield. >> it was a heavy snowstorm. we'd taken all the germans whites from the houses and make ourselves invisible in the snow. in the meantime we had an enormous amount of. those are my father's. a stick of enemy mortar started coming in. i just jumped in the ditch to protect myself. well someone i hadn't known was there next to me and he jumped in the ditch ahead of me. i landed on top of him. when we got up, it was my father. i said you're supposed to be back with the artillery. he said i'm up here checking to see how my artillery is doing. some newsman asked him how he liked firing artillery over his son and he said i don't like firing my artillery over anybody's son. >> true to his habits hitler
forbayed withdrawing one foot. he would not allow the evacuation of a single bunker so the german commanders from field marshal model on down their hands were tied. >> but after suffering 14,000 casualties during the bulge the huertgen was a mere shadow of its former strength. 9 february soldiers of the 309th infantry regiment including reconnaissance elements from frank cam's company attacked german positions defending the dam. >> i received orders to provide a reconnaissance patrol to go down and examine the dam, go in it, once we got it, and see whether they had any explosives in it. >> the engineers with the rifle man supporting them slid down the face of the dam a couple hundred feet into an opening to go inside to look at the machinery. >> in the meantime the germans had blown the stocks that control the valves, about 20 to
30 feet in die yam ster, started pouring out of the dam. >> hit lore ordered the dam to be completely blown up. >> if the germans had actually blown the whole dam so all the water flowed down right away, the water flow would have held us up for a day or two. the way the germans did it held us up two weeks and once we got that dam, then we knew we could cross into the plain and get to the rhine river. >> there was nothing there to stop the americans. >> 56 years after lieutenant leonard made the ultimate sacrifice at huertgen, a beloved ring he wore made its
>> the destruction of a lot of men, equipment, that's it. >> the forest still holds the memory of 24,000 american and 28,000 german casualties. >> general hodges apologized after the war for the losses that were there. >> the huertgen continues to give up ghosts from the past. german army captain volker shared his story with us. >> my father-in-law found this ring in 1946 when he helped digging out the bury of some american soldiers, but he never sold it. >> the captain was shown the ring. >> and i looked at the ring on the front side it was a name of a school, never heard about that. texas a&m college and i looked
inside the ring and there was a name. leonard. >> in 2000, years after lieutenant leonard was awarded the medal of honor, the captain brought his class ring home to texas. >> it was just the day before veterans day and we went to texas a&m and i had a big celebration. >> i have come a long way to honor the memory of a brave son of this country. >> on behalf of my family, nephews, my wife, my children, grandchildren, and loved ones, we thank you dearly. >> big celebration. it was just amazing. >> there have been so many men that went forth voluntarily and risked their lives that we could live free. >> the objectives and strategic importance of the huertgen campaign will long be debated the extraordinary courage and
perseverance of the men who fought in this unforgiving forest is without question. theirs is a war story that deserves to be told. i'm oliver north. good night. tonight on "war stories" -- >> how do you spend people to war and then pull the rug out from under them? >> the rules of engagement made a dangerous job deadly. >> it was a frustrating thing. we knew we had to fight within these rules of engagement. >> still in the skies over vietnam, they did their duty. >> it was like a football game. send me in, coach. i'm ready. >> "operation rolling thunder," that's coming up on "war stories." the men who f