He was one of the best and brightest brigadier generals in the entire United States Army. His service as the chief of staff of the 1st Infantry Division in North Africa and his subsequent work with Commodore Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Combined Operations Headquarters in Britain had made him the Army’s expert on amphibious operations. His critical role in the planning for Operation OVERLORD (the Normandy assault) was a major reason for his selection to be the assistant commander of the 29th Infantry Division. He earned the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross and the British Distinguished Service Order for his decisive leadership at Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944. In consequence of his consistently superior performance, he was on 13 August 1944 assigned to command the 28th Infantry Division, which he would lead across France and Belgium to the German border and the Siegfried Line. On 4 September, he became a major general. He had justifiably earned the reputation as a “fighting general,” but, when the Germans destroyed his division in November 1944 during the battle of the Hürtgen Forest, they destroyed his reputation as well. For Maj. Gen. Norman D. Cota, what went wrong and how did it happen?
Begun in September 1944, the battle of the Hürtgen Forest culminated in mid-February 1945 with the capture of several critical dams on the Roer River and its tributaries. Over a period of five months, the battle in the Hürtgen cost the U.S. Army more than thirty-four thousand casualties.1 Largely unknown by Americans today, this battle was one of the bloodiest and most disastrous U.S. Army actions of the Second World War. Operation MARKET-GARDEN, with a final objective to capture a bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem, and the Germans’ surprise attack in mid-December through the Ardennes both eclipsed the battle of the Hürtgen Forest’s inauspicious beginning. The Battle of the Bulge interrupted the U.S. Army’s campaign to capture the German-controlled Hürtgen Forest. The “Bulge” was a hard fought and well-earned Allied victory that overshadowed the debacle that had occurred less than twenty miles north of the Ardennes. While Operation MARKET-GARDEN and the Battle of the Bulge are two of the most-documented battles in history, ensuring their remembrance by future generations, far fewer books and articles have been written about the Hürtgen Forest battle, and most of them have appeared in the last two decades... (read the full article)