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which had arrived on the Continent in November 1944 and been placed in this defensive sector to acquire experience. [4] The 99th Division front (left to right) extended from Monschau and Hofen to the railroad just north of Lanzerath, a distance of about nineteen miles. To the east lay the Germans in the West Wall pillbox line. The frontage assigned an untried division at first thought seems excessive, but the V Corps commander wished to free as much of his striking power as possible for use in the scheduled attack to seize the Roer dams; furthermore the nature of the terrain appeared little likely to attract a major German attack. (Map II)


In the extreme northern portion of the sector, around Hofen, the ground was studded with open hills, to the east of which lay a section of the Monschau Forest. Only a short distance to the south of Hofen the lines of the 99th entered this forest, continuing to run through a long timber belt until the boundary between the V and VII Corps was reached at the Losheim Gap. The thick woods in the sector were tangled with rock gorges, little streams, and sharp hills. The division supply lines began as fairly substantial all-weather roads, then dwindled, as they approached the forward positions, to muddy ruts following the firebreaks and logging trails. Except for the open area in the neighborhood of Hofen, visibility was limited and fields of fire restricted. Any clearing operation in the deep woods would only give away the American positions. Although terrain seemed equally difficult for offense or defense, this balance would exist only so long as the defender could retain control over his units in the woods and provide some sort of cordon to check infiltration. The nature of the ground and the length of the front made such a cordon impossible; the 99th could maintain no more than a series of strongpoints, with unoccupied and undefended gaps between.


Three roads were of primary importance in and east of the division area. In the north a main paved road led from Hofen through the Monschau Forest, then divided as it emerged on the eastern edge (this fork beyond the forest would have some tactical importance.) A second road ran laterally behind the division center and right wing, leaving the Hofen road at the tiny village of Wahlerscheid, continuing south through the twin hamlets of Rocherath and Krinkelt, then intersecting a main eastwest road at Bullingen. This paved highway entered the division zone from the east at Losheimergraben and ran west to Malmedy by way of Bullingen and Butgenbach. As a result, despite the poverty of roads inside the forest belt where the forward positions of the 99th Division lay, the division sector could be entered


[4] The records of the 99th Division, for the battle described in this chapter, are quite complete and detailed. Basic documents are: 99th Div AAR and G-3 Jnl; AAR's and Unit Jnls of the 393d, 394th, and 395th Inf Regts; 741st Tank Bn AAR; AAR's of 639th and 413th AAA Bns; 254th Engr Combat Bn AAR; 371st FA Bn AAR; and 799th Ord Co AAR. This operation was the subject of studies by participants while in Classes Nos. 1 and 2, Advanced Infantry Officers Course, Fort Benning, Ga. (see especially those of Majors Ben W. Legare, J. B. Kemp, and T. J. Gendron and Capt. Wesley J. Simmons). The then commander of the 99th Division has written the official division history; see Major General Walter E. Lauer, Battle Babies: The Story of the 99th Infantry Division in World War II (Baton Rouge: Military Press of Louisiana, Inc., 1951). American combat interviews are another useful source.