Segment 11


For George Griffenhagen, seeing Trewick [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling. Captain Trewick was the chief medical officer of Griffenhagen’s battalion] dead and not being able to be buried summed up the horrors of the Hurtgen Forest. The battle was total confusion. They did not know where the Germans were and the Germans did not know where they were. To Griffenhagen, going into the Hurtgen was a total mistake. It was a waste. On 5 or 6 November they pulled the 20th [Annotators Note: the 20th Engineer Combat Regiment. Griffenhagen was actually assigned to the 1340th Engineer Combat Battalion that had been formed when the 20th Engineer Regiment was split up in England.] out. He had spent about a week in Liege [Annotators Note: in a combat fatigue hospital]. He rejoined his unit around 20 or 22 November back in Brussels, Belgium. The unit had suffered 72 percent casualties and had to wait for new troops to join them. There were many men suffering with frostbite in addition to the men who were killed or wounded. Griffenhagen’s unit was on the northern end of the Bulge [Annotators Note: the German Ardennes Offensive also referred to as the Battle of the Bulge].The weather was terrible and the air force could not get in there. They got messages that the Germans were dropping paratroopers dressed in American uniforms and were told to question people. One day, Griffenhagen picked up a guy in an American uniform. Griffenhagen told his buddy that he did not like the guy. The soldier knew the answers to all of the questions Griffenhagen asked him but Griffenhagen is convinced that the man was a German. On Christmas Eve the skies cleared. Griffenhagen has never seen as many planes in the air as he did that day. For the next week Griffenhagen’s unit spent their time clearing German vehicles from the road. At Elsenborn Griffenhagen was in charge of the motor pool and was responsible for making sure that their vehicles were properly maintained. This gave him the opportunity to do things on his own. One thing he did was set up a scheme to collect shoes from the GIs because the snow was coming down and the men in the 20th Engineers had not been issued new boots. That way he was able to outfit all of the men with boots.


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