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Download Follow Me and Die: The Destruction of an American Division in World War II epub

by Cecil B. Currey

Examines the defeat of the 28th Infantry Division by the German forces in the battle at the town of Schmidt
Download Follow Me and Die: The Destruction of an American Division in World War II epub
ISBN: 0812828925
ISBN13: 978-0812828924
Category: History
Subcategory: World
Author: Cecil B. Currey
Language: English
Publisher: Stein & Day Pub; First edition (February 1, 1984)
Pages: 320 pages
ePUB size: 1252 kb
FB2 size: 1684 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 290
Other Formats: lit lrf rtf azw

FOLLOW ME AND DIE is one of the best books written about the five month campaign in an area since known, at least in US military History, as the Huertgen Forest. After having read Charles B. MacDonald and Charles Whiting's books on the same subject, I was intrigued by the battle. Prior to my research into the subject, I incorrectly assessed the Huertgen campaign as an insignificant precursor to Ardennes Offensive. After reading FOLLOW ME AND DIE I came away with a greater appreciation for the battle and the devestation inflicted on American divisions that were fed into the bloody forest.

In military history the Huertgen Forest has been defined as 50 miles of woodland running from Monschau to the former Roman colony of Duren. Up until 1944 however, Huertgen Wald was technically nothing more than the woodlot adjacent to the minor crossroad village of Huertgen. As the Huertgen crossroads were an American intermediate objective, the whole forested zone, to the Americans, became the Huertgen Forest. Even today the area is studded with the remains of pillboxes, concrete anti-tank dragon's teeth obstacles, and hundreds of cuts and depressions in the forest floor of what used to be American and German foxholes.

FOLLOW ME AND DIE primarily focuses on the 28th Infantry Division's struggle to seize both sides of the Kall Gorge. In doing so the US 1st Army would gain a dominating position overlooking the Roer River and the Roer dams. At least that was the way the mission was portrayed after the war. As it turns out, discussion about the Roer as an objective -- of any sort -- was not mentioned or documented until well into the Huertgen battle. The battle for the Huertgen begins with a handful of scratch German units holding off superior American forces. After some particularly tough fighting the Americans slowly overwhelm the German positions on the Weisser Weh and fight their way into Vossenack. With initiative on their side, the 28th Division pushes elements, including tanks, down the the Kall trail and up the other side of the gorge. In briefly capturing Schmidt the US Army threw the German high command into panic as the Roer/Rur was threatened and a major roadway was cut. For the GIs their difficulties were only just beginning as much needed reinforcements to exploit and hold the Schmidt position arrived piecemeal. The Germans quickly reinforced the area and boxed in the Americans holding Schmidt and its neighboring town. Eventually the American postion became a hedgehog defense in a meadow just outside of town with several Sherman tanks and the surviving infantry staving off German attacks.

This was at a time when the 28th Division had actually passed through both belts of most of the formal Westwall defenses. The remainder of the German defenses were recently dug fighting positions, obstacles, and minefields. The greatest aid to the German defense was the rugged terrain.

The book highlights the fact that the Kall trail, the precarious US Army main supply route to Schmidt, and the surrounding forest was never cleared of enemy soldiers. As such a few American vehicles and soldiers could pass unmolested down the trail one minute and the path could be swarming with heavily armed Germans the next. The trail itself was so narrow that it barely constituted a decent footpath. Yet tanks and other vehicles were expected to maneuver down the dangerous route, across a stone bridge, and then climb an equally hazardous slope toward Schmidt. Many vehicles did not make it.

In the midst of this was an ad hoc American aid station set up in an abandoned German dugout astride the trail. The aid station was later regarded as sort of neutral territory with frequent German patrols simply checking to ensure that no weapons were kept there. Unfortunately when the 28th's battle subsided in the Kall the aid station was forgotten by both sides and many wounded GIs on stretchers were left to their fate and their remains not rediscovered until February 1945.

The Germans generally roamed the forested stretches of the Kall gorge with impunity and indeed at one time were able to counterattack and temporarily retake half of Vossenack. Meanwhile the American command got impatient with 28th Division Commander Norman "Dutch" Cota and could not fathom why division did not make any appreciable gains. On corps and army level mapboards the Kall trail was templated as if it was a major highway. Those sent to check on Cota's progress spent more time berating the general on his division's lack of progress rather than surveying the irregular and tough terrain on which it was deployed.

By December 1944 the battered 28th Division was withdrawn from the Huertgen front and moved to a rest and refit area in (what was thought to be) the quiet Ardennes. In reality the 28th never fully recovered from the beating it received in the Huertgen.

FOLLOW ME AND DIE is packed with information and is a very readable history of the battle. The terrain is described so well that I used notes from the book to tour the battlefield. Additionally Currey includes detailed accounts from the soldiers about the ominous triple canopy forest and mortar barrages to the horrible autumn weather endured by the GIs. If you were only going to read one book about the Huertgen, FOLLOW ME AND DIE should be that volume.
The tragedy of the Hurtgen Forest was a result of an overly optimistic Allied command convincing itself that the German Army's rout from France the previous summer was a harbinger of the end of the war similar to what had occurred in 1918. Believing that the Germans were nearly finished, the Allied commanders repeatedly underestimated German willingness to significantly resist the Allies as they advanced into Germany. The result was bloody nose after bloody nose for Allied efforts in Autumn 1944 as Allied commanders launched poorly supported, poorly supplied, and poorly thought-out operations against determined German resistance. The victims of this gross overconfidence were the ordinary Allied combat soldiers and those men are the subject of Cecil Currey's 1984 book, "Follow Me and Die: The Destruction of an American Division in World War II."

The division that is the subject of Currey's book is the U.S. 28th Infantry Division, a Pennsylvania National Guard outfit, nicknamed the "Keystone Division" due to its divisional insignia being a bright-red version of Pennsylvania's state emblem. Its horrific losses in the Hurtgen combined with its insignia's shape and color would earn the division a new nickname: the "Bloody Bucket." The 28th had fought in Normandy, paraded down Paris' Champs d'Elysee, and helped drive the Germans out of France. In early November 1944, it was tasked with clearing the Hurtgen Forest in order to protect the right flank of U.S. VII Corps as it drove towards the Rhine through the Stolberg corridor. The merits of attacking into the Hurtgen were always suspect. The rugged terrain and poor road net combined with miserable weather made it a very questionable place to launch any significant assault.

Yet, the 28th assaulted it. Currey describes the 28th's efforts to attack through minefields and barbwire covered by machine-guns in bunkers and pre-sighted artillery. The thick woods and weather nullified the US Army's biggest advantages: air support, artillery, and mobility. It seemed almost everywhere the 28th was stopped short of its objectives, but then it found a "soft spot" in the German line enabling it to seize three villages that controlled the region's few roads. Unfortunately, this "soft spot" was more akin to one sticking one's head in a noose. The 28th found itself grossly overextended relying on an easily interdicted forest track as its main supply route, under clear observation by German artillery spotters, and vulnerable to strong German armored counterattacks. The result was a disaster with the division suffering appalling losses and being driven-back in defeat.

Currey finds plenty of blame to go around. He sharply criticizes both 1st US Army commander, Courtney Hodges, and V Corps commander, Leonard Gerow. And he's very critical of the 28th's commander, Norman "Dutch" Cota. Cota's career was checkered. As the assistant division commander of the 29th Infantry Division, he had been one of the undoubted heroes of Omaha Beach. (Actor Robert Mitchum played him in "The Longest Day.") However, as commander of the 28th, he would preside over its near immolation in the Hurtgen and then its near annihilation during the Bugle. Cota comes across as a commander who didn't want to see and hear bad news. And there was nothing but bad news coming out of the Hurtgen.

Criticism of high command is nothing new in a military history book, but where Currey differs is that he doesn't hesitate to call-out ANYONE. Usually, most military history books avoid identifying low ranking soldiers and officers who don't perform well in combat. Not Currey. Using US Army interviews of Hurtgen survivors conducted shortly after the battle as his main source, he unhesitatingly names field and line grade officers, NCOs, and private soldiers who ran away, panicked, broke-down, or attempted to fortify their courage with alcohol. This book was published in 1984 and assumingly many of these men were still alive. Yet, Currey pulls no punches. It really is a bit shocking.

One example is Currey practically accusing the commander of a tank destroyer battalion attached to the 28th of cowardice and dereliction of duty for his repeated disobedience of orders sending his lightly-armored and open-topped vehicles (and their exposed crews) into situations in which he believed they were unsuited. Another example is the naming of an infantry company commander who apparently drank gasoline in order to get evacuated to the rear!

This is mostly the 28th's version of the battle. Currey does attempt to give a limited view "from the other side of the hill" with brief descriptions of how the Germans viewed the battle, but it's clear Currey's research into the German records wasn't very deep. These segments feel more like afterthoughts in comparison to the rest of the narrative.

Overall, this is a very good book. It's well-written. For the most part it succeeds in keeping the numerous names and unit IDs fairly clear even though there is some repetition. Plus, it's very good at describing the sheer misery and horror of fighting in the Hurtgen. Although Currey "names names" of soldiers who broke-down under the strain, upon reading what was causing that strain then it certainly becomes extremely understandable why so many (if not most) eventually broke-down both physically and mentally. In sum, one of the best books on the Hurtgen Forest.
I purchased this book for my Father for Christmas. Dad was with the 28th Division, 110th,. My Father, was one of the lucky (only 7% of men) within the 28 Division to walk out of the "Green Hell" untouched. Dad is still alive he is 86 years old. I being his only daughter have read this book. I am truly amazed that he being a young man of 18 yrs. was able to survive such a battle. We are blessed to still have Dad in our lives. He fought in 5 major battles throughout Europe. He had an angel watching over him... This is an excellent read...If you want to feel what our boy went through read this book.
Print is so small it is like reading the the Lord's prayer on the head of a pin. Can't really get into the story since so difficult to read.
great read
An excellent discourse reflecting on what the people doing the fighting were exposed to as constrasted by what the what the higher level staff were describing.and how many writers described the progress. Kinda confused writing, but the difference from how the lower levels and upper levels saw the action.
True story. My uncle was in this book. He had a copy and said everything in it is true to exactly what had happened under Patton. He liked Patton. My uncle drove a tank under his command. Uncle passed away and book was no longer anywhere, so I purchased my own from Amazon. Great reading.
didn't care for it