IT’S ALL ABOUT THE “WHO”
By Sam Garfield
May 30, 1955
(Huertgen Forest, Germany) –Sergeant Mack Morriss was there, amid the giant, thick firs and deep yellow mud, and mile after mile of German land mines. Morriss was there, along with 120,000 other Americans, in the frigid, wet hours of the long nights, too afraid to sleep in their miserable foxholes, covered because tree bursts were deadly. I’ve never met Sergeant Morriss, but on this special day, he’s on my mind.
Some ten years ago, from September of ’44 to February, American soldiers fought the longest single battle in Army history. U.S. casualties topped 30,000. A staff correspondent for YANK Magazine, Sergeant Morriss wrote:
“The firs are thick, and there are 50 square miles of them standing dismal and dripping at the approaches to the Cologne plain. The bodies of the firs begin close to the ground, so that each fir interlocks its body with another. At the height of a man standing, there is a solid mass of dark, impenetrable green. But at the height of a man crawling, there is room, and it is like a green cave, low-roofed and forbidding. And through this cave moved the infantry, to emerge cold and exhausted when the forest of Huertgen came to a sudden end before Grosshau.
“The infantry, free from the claustrophobia of the forest, went on, but behind them they left their dead, and the forest will stink with deadness long after the last body is removed. The forest will bear the scars of our advance long after our scars have healed, and the infantry has scars that will never heal.”
Why, you may ask, was this 50 square miles swatch of forest so important to the American cause? Why was it worth 30,000 casualties? The Army said its goal was to keep the Germans from reinforcing their front lines to the North.
But the “why” isn’t important in this story. It’s all about the “who.” Later today, after the cookout or the softball game, take a walk around your neighborhood, and think about the people you see most every day. Maybe it’s the grocer, or guy who cuts your hair, or the fella who always sits at the front of the bus. Maybe they were there with Sergeant Morris, at the green monument of war in the Huertgen Forest. Don’t let this Memorial Day get by you without thinking about the “who.”
Copyright © 2011. John Theodore — All Rights Reserved. Text may not be reproduced without permission.