Today is Veteran’s Day (armistice day). It would be remiss of Listverse if we didn’t publish a list in their memory. The best way – we thought – to do that is to remind us all of the brutality and depravity of war – the horrifying things they experiences that we can barely even begin to imagine. 71,000,000 people died because of World War II. Here is a brief glimpse into what it was like. Let this list be a reminder of how horrible human nature can be and let us pray that such a thing never happens again. This is an extra list to supplement our usual two lists (which will be published shortly after this). If you have a family member whose name should be remembered on this sombre occasion, please name him in the comments.
Hell in the Hürtgen Forest
The Hurtgen Forest spans 50 square miles of the Belgian-German border, an extremely rugged woodland with few roads or easily traversed ground. Field Marshal Walter Model commanded 80,000 Germans in its defense, against the American juggernaut of 120,000. From 19 September 1944 to late February 1945, the two armies met in a series of intricate, protracted battles and skirmishes that resulted in 23,000 battle casualties, both killed and wounded, for the Americans, in addition to 9,000 more from frostbite, trenchfoot, and pneumonia.
That winter was the coldest in a hundred years of Western Europe’s history, and the snow cover made the minefields and traps the Germans set impossible to discern. Very little American air cover was possible because of the thick woods. After an entire month of trying to sneak through interlocking fields of presighted artillery fire, the Americans had gained only 3,000 yards at a cost of 4,500 men killed or wounded.
The battle for the small town of Schmidt in the south resulted in more than twice the American casualties of Omaha Beach. Even with tanks, the daily advances never amounted to more than 600 yards until the start of the Ardennes Offensive, or Battle of the Bulge on 16 December. Schmidt wasn’t secured until 3 November. Model understood how to use the environment to aid his defense, and this battle remains the longest single engagement the U. S. Army has ever experienced.
Model’s goal was to slow the American advance long enough for the Ardennes Offensive to begin, then to flood the Rhine valley below via the Schwammenauel Dam. The Americans were unable to proceed in the entire area until 23 February. The Germans lost 12,000 dead and 95,000 taken alive. The U. S. military considers this a major strategic victory for the Germans.