The sector of the Hürtgenwald that Lt. Col. Lindsay Elliott’s men attacked was the oldest and deepest part of the forest, one that had lain essentially untouched for centuries. The German defenders were dug in deep, though reports from prisoners indicated that they were deeply uneasy due to nativeHürtgenwalders telling them stories about a local legend.

They spoke of an inner sanctum of the wood called das Herzwald, “the Heartwood,” where the ancestral spirits of the boughs lay in quiet repose, unless disturbed. This had the effect of the German lines routing around the deep woods said to be so protected and creating a salient until General Model intervened and ordered the area to be occupied and fortified.

Lt. Col. Elliott’s men battered themselves against the defenses for a week, carving roads for their tanks through the deep brush. But on the seventh day, fire from the German lines snaking through das Herzwald stopped. Probing attacks found the positions deserted as if in great haste…but no bodies.

Elliott sent five patrols against the abandoned lines. Field communications were lost with four of them, and men refused to be sent in after them. His solution was as expedient as it was brutal: set the Herzwald alight with incendiary artillery strikes.

As it turns out, that was a major mistake.

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