The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Friday, June 5, 2015

German Officer honored by his American adversaries during the Hurtgen Forest battles.

     I saw this article from my friend *Shelldude*'s facebook post.  I make occasional forays into the land of facebook, and I saw this.  My friend has a love of history like I do, we both spent time in Germany in the 80's.   I walked in the Hurtgen forest when I would tour Germany.  I would have a map of Western Germany on the back of my door in the barracks and on Friday afternoon, I would close my eyes and throw a dart and where ever it landed...I would go.  I quickly figured out that to hang around the barracks was an invitation to get "volunteered" for extra duty if the SDO or the CQ needs somebody for a last minute tasking......And don't even get me going on how a mid 25 year old senior enlisted SINGLE soldier is treated, vs a 18 year old married soldier that brings his wife with him.  the difference is startling....but I digress.
     Well one of my darts landed in the area near Belgium and I drove there in my car and I saw the signs and stopped there.  I had remembered the battle in one of my history books and that the Germans really bloodied the Americans there before the United Stated was victorious.  Even my division the famous Big Red One was battered there fighting the dug in Germans.
Ist Infantry Division

   I walked around the forest for a bit...and it was still dark and foreboding...I kept expecting to see either the Teutonic Knights show up or the Brother's Grimm.

    If you remember the Big Red One Movie with Lee Marvin,
I couldn't find the clip....but if you remembered the movie...there was a scene where they were in a forest toward the end of the movie...before the concentration camp scenes....They were looking for one of their soldiers that had disappeared and were calling him and he seemed to be in the trees...   That scene was kinda what it was like...the forboding forest and the  enemy could come out of anywhere.....That was the backdrop of this story.
     What I liked was the "Warrior Code"   You battle the able bodied....but you care for the injured...it was part of the Western code of battle...Only the Warriors of the West will show mercy upon an enemy....In other places in the world, they would cheerfully bayonet the wounded and desecrate the bodies.  

   This reminds us what people with Honor would do, and even though they may be the enemy, you still honor them because to do less will demean you and the only thing you will take when you cross over the river..is your name and honor...I have posted stuff about it here...the Chivalry Post and the Honor Post's.  Some of my earlier brain squeezings.  

The Hürtgen forest (also: Huertgen Forest; German: Hürtgenwald) is located along the border between Belgium and Germany in the southwest corner of the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Scarcely 50 square miles (130 km2) in area, the forest lies within a triangle outlined by the German towns of Aachen, Monschau, and Düren. The Rur River runs along the eastern edge of the forest.
The Hürtgen Forest lies at the northern edge of the Eifel mountains; its terrain is characterized by plunging valleys that carve through broad plateaus. Unlike many areas of Germany in which the valleys are farmed and hilltops are wooded, the Hürtgen Forest's deep valleys are thickly wooded and the hilltop plateaus have been cleared for agriculture. The forest's rough terrain starkly contrasts with that of the adjoining Rhine Valley. Roads in the forest are few, winding, and narrow.
The rugged terrain of this area was the scene of a long, bloody, drawn-out battle during World War II, often referred to as the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, which took place over three months during a very cold winter from 19 September 1944 to 10 February 1945. Along a road that rises from the Kall River Valley to the town of Schmidt, there is still a length of tank track that melted into the road after a U.S. armored vehicle was hit and burned there.

My company leader, Lieutenant Friedrich Lengfeld has found eternal rest in grave No. 38 of the community cemetery in Düren-Rölsdorf. He was a company leader I could never forget; a true soldier, even in his dealings with the enemy. It is a tragedy that he had to die in the morning of 11/12/44. He was trying to help a severely wounded American soldier, who was crying for help after having been hit between the lines, when he himself stepped on a land mine.

On October 7, 1994 members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment Society dedicated a monument to a German Soldier from the Second World War. The monument stands near the entrance to the military cemetery in Hürtgen, Germany, the final resting place for over 2900 German Soldiers. It honors Leutnant Friedrich Lengfeld, a Company Commander in the German Army, who lost his life trying to save a wounded American Soldier.
It may possibly be the only monument erected anywhere, by former US Soldiers, to honor an act of bravery by a German Soldier, who at the time of the act, was an enemy at war with the United States.

One soldier who got out alive is retired Major Gen. John F. Ruggles of Phoenix, 86. He was then a Lieutenant Colonel serving with the 22nd Infantry Regiment. To mark the battle’s 50th anniversary in 1994, Ruggles organized an effort among veterans of the Regiment to place a monument in the forest. It’s a very different monument. Unlike other World War II tributes, this one doesn’t honor our own soldiers. This one honors an unheralded act of humanity by a 23-year-old German Infantry Lieutenant.

Ruggles wasn’t interested in media attention, and the monument’s dedication received no news coverage in the US. But a friend convinced him that others would like to hear the story.

The plaque on the monument erected for LT Friedrich Lengfeld.The inscription (in both English and German) reads:
No man hath greater love than he who
layeth down his life for his enemy.
Here in Huertgen Forest on November 12, 1944,
Lt. Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life
while trying to save the life of an American
soldier lying severly wounded in the “Wilde
Sau” minefield and appealing for medical aid.

On November 12, 1944, Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld was commanding a beleaguered German rifle company. Like most units on both sides, he had suffered heavy casualties. Early that morning, a wounded American could be heard calling from the middle of a German minefield in a no man’s land separating the combatants.
“Help me,” the man cried. His unit had withdrawn, however, and no U.S. troops were close enough to hear. Lengfeld ordered his men not to shoot if Americans came to rescue the man. But none came. The soldier’s weakening voice was heard for hours. “Help me,” he called, again and again. At about 10:30 that morning, Lengfeld could bear the cries no longer. He formed a rescue squad, complete with Red Cross vests and flags, and led his men toward the wounded American.

He never made it. Approaching the soldier, he stepped on a land mine, and the exploding metal fragments tore deeply into his body.
Eight hours later Lengfeld was dead. The fate of the American remains unknown. Much of this story, unpublished in any American books on the war, is based on the eyewitness account of Hubert Gees, who served as Lengfeld’s communications runner.
Speaking at the monument’s dedication in Germany last October, Gees said : “Lieutenant Lengfeld was one of the best soldiers of the Hürtgen Forest. He was an exemplary company commander, who never asked us to do more than he himself was ready to give. He possessed the complete confidence of his soldiers.”

Ruggles said Lengfeld’s sense of duty went far beyond the call. “You can’t go to any greater extreme than to give your life trying to rescue someone you are fighting as your enemy in war,” he said. “Compare that to the indifference most people feel about each other today.” The bronze and concrete monument is believed to be the only one placed by Americans in a German military cemetery.
To the young Lieutenant, the voice crying out that day did not come from an enemy. Nor from an American, nor a stranger. It came from a human being in need. Something inside Lengfeld compelled him to act – a feeling so strong and enduring not even the madness of war could block it. In the heavy silence of the German forest, where thousands upon thousands met death, that glorious impulse for life is now honored.


  1. Rest in Peace, Leutnant, you earned it

  2. RIP is right, and a fitting tribute!