I'm Andrew Cartwell!
My name is Andrew Cartwell and I was in the US Army during the second world war. I have decided to remind you of what happened in the battle of Hürtgen forest and about events during that time I wish I had never experienced.
I knew very well that we were fighting people of immense evil and I was about 19 years old at that time. I wanted to serve my country like my father since I was 7 years old and I did. It was September 1944 located in a forest within the Eifel, which the Germans called the “Hürtgenwald”. Our goal was to take control of the German dam and it was heavily protected by German troops. I was scared to go there, as it was an unknown territory and the terrain itself made it impossible for our tanks to get through. We cut down trees and made a path way when suddenly the first anti-tank mine went off and suddenly everything went black! I was unconscious for a few minutes and had a very loud ringing in my ear. I got up slowly and saw four bodies. The troops behind us were stopping the other tanks from passing and soon afterwards the medics came. We set camp to rest for the night, and everyone knew their chances of dying were high. We thought of our friends and families back in the United States waiting for us to return and that’s exactly what my goal was. I told myself “I am going to return”, “I am going to return!...”
This kept me motivated for the following days to come. We continued cutting down trees, checking for mines and working hard to get through the terrain. The eerie silence and constant whistling of the wind was frightening. We were asked to go on foot into the forest due to the inability of our vehicles to forge ahead in that terrain. We continued watching the ground for mines when we were ambushed. The Germans released a rapid fire and I got a flesh wound on my arm. I took cover behind a big tree log and pulled another soldier that was injured, but still breathing. Out of 20 soldiers, we were the last three! I didn’t know what to do, but then decided to look for where the shots were coming from. I spotted one bunker from where a Nazi was firing his MG42. My comrade saw a mine near the bunker and shot it as a distraction when I took out my grenade and successfully threw it in. We heard voices and knew more Germany troops were heading our way. We carried our unconscious soldier back to camp and reported the situation to our commanding officer. After two freezing nights, we continued working our way through the forest ready for an ambush at any time. We had lost hundreds, maybe even thousands of men in the last month.
It was the 26th of October and what I expected was very different to what I know now. It is full of tragedies and horrifying memories. My friends James and Sirious helped me get through - we were a great team, James sacrificed his life for ours. I became more motivated than ever to fight for him and his family, even pass on the favour if I had to.
We walked through the woods once more. There were no German troops, but the mines were placed throughout the place. One person walked too far and stepped on one. He froze. I slowly approached him holding a metal rod I carried to uncover mines. I lightly put my rod on the mine. There was absolute silence. I told him to take off his foot and jump towards the troops where it was safe should it explode. I was sweating profusely, then I counted, “3, 2, 1”, and he jumped as far as he could and the other soldiers caught him. I threw the mine as far as I could, crouching and covering my ears as the mine blew up ahead activating even more of them. He thanked me, introduced himself as Walter and said should he survive, he’d invite me to his house after the war is over.
We got a radio signal and heard that we had already won Aachen and it gave us encouragement. We heard a soldier suddenly shouting in panic in the middle of our camp. We rushed out anticipating an ambush, but the soldier was just panting and said ‘dam’. Walter, Sirious and I looked at each other and asked him what was wrong with the dam. He said we had still not won it, yet all our troops were in the direction of the dam. The fear was that the Germans would open it and flood us. At once there was a bit of chaos as everyone was all talking at once, till our commanding officer told us to keep quiet. We moved the next day and headed towards the dam, when we saw the first German soldiers. We moved in and a clash between both sides started! Without even realising it was too late, a powerful wave hit me and I was unconscious with the water from the dam flooding all of us and the military camps - everything. When I regained consciousness I realized that my arm was broken. I felt a searing pain, blood flooded my eyes and my head hurt. I didn’t remember anything after that.
I woke up in the hospital back in the United States. It was February 1946 and they told me we had won the war! I started to cry. It was finally over. “I’m home” I thought to myself. When I asked what happened they said that the Germans had opened the dam and that 33,000 US troops died and that I had been in a coma for 6 months. I felt happiness and relief just surge through my body! My friend Sirious, Walter and my entire brigade had perished, except me. I didn’t know how I survived, why wasn’t it me who had died and how I wish someone else could have taken my place. I closed my eyes and said “It’s over, this is what they wanted. They gave their lives for our country and we won!”. That thought gave me peace. I decided to retire and live out my days on my farm and will work helping war veterans for the rest of my years.
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