One exit

“All soldiers wanted to get the war over without being killed or wounded too seriously, but in the infantry this goal was especially difficult. Most quickly realized that once on the front line, the only way to leave while the war lasted was by stretcher.” – Robert Sterling Rush, Hell in Hürtgen Forest

Dog-tired dogfaces

“Soldiers became so tired that they drifted into sleep at the slightest slackening of effort, and leaders, themselves exhausted, found one of their greatest problems was keeping them awake. Soldiers could not remember what happened the previous day and found events blurring into one another. Even with their well-being dependent upon remaining alert, the soldiers became sluggish. They tired and lost the instinct for self-preservation as they failed to follow even the basic fundamentals of their combat training. Fatigue caused casualties. Soldiers walked instead of ran across open fields that were being shelled because they were too tired to run and had passed the point of caring whether they were hit or not.” – Robert Sterling Rush, Hell in Hürtgen Forest

There was that

“The soldiers of the regiment had been in the forest for twelve days. Their miserable existence consisted of dripping rain through the trees, endless mud, staying in wet clothes, never getting warm, no hot food, not enough sleep, and laying awake at night shivering, wrapped in raincoats in foxholes filled with cold water. Then, of course, other men were trying to kill them.” – Robert Sterling Rush, Hell in Hürtgen Forest

Not one step backwards

“German division commanders in the Hürtgen sector issued emphatic orders to their soldiers not to retreat. Many of their soldiers followed the letter, if not the spirit, of the orders by surrendering at the first opportunity.” – Robert Sterling Rush, Hell in Hürtgen Forest

A modern meat market

“Groups of civilians scheduled for induction gathered in their towns and, at least in 1941 and early 1942, typically received a sendoff from town dignitaries and boarded the bus or train to the induction station. Here they joined others from surrounding communities in qualifying for induction into the military. After being read the Articles of War, they were lined up alphabetically, given a cardboard tag to hang around their neck, and began processing. High school graduates took tests to identify psychoses and neuroses and then began their medical processing, while the others took a general literacy test. About fourth grade level was considered passing. Those who passed then formed the line behind the high school graduates, while those who failed were given the ‘Group Target Test’ to determine if they could follow instructions. If they passed, they fell in the medical line behind those who passed the literacy test. Those failing the literacy and Group Target Tests were individually interviewed and if not found malingering were sent home.” – Robert Sterling Rush, Hell in Hürtgen Forest

Busted flat

“The U.S. soldiers who fought in World War II had the great Depression as their defining experience. Men aged twenty-one in 1941 were nine when the depression began and, regardless of locale, had been through a soul-searching experience along with their families. This period was marked by a dramatic fall in the value of stocks; hundreds of thousands of businesses failed; millions of savings accounts were lost; wages fell an average of 60 percent; and unemployment rose from 9 to 25 percent, which left fifteen million people without jobs. Professional people often took laboring jobs in mills, if they could find them. Or they went door to door trying to sell life insurance for which the insured paid twenty-five cents a week, provided the agent came to the door every week to collect the twenty-five cents. Medical doctors and lawyers were scrounging for ‘nickels and dimes,’ the majority of them barely making a living. Engineers could not find jobs. Occasionally they would be hired, work a few months, then be laid off. Farmers were ‘dirt-poor.’ Salespeople in department stores waited all day for customers who often did not show up. One store had only Ph.D.’s as salespersons. They often worked on commission and frequently had to ask the boss for an advance so they could eat. For those unskilled and undereducated, it was a disaster, as they found the labor-intensive positions they once had filled by those more knowledgeable. Many breadwinners lost faith in themselves and in their government. Because of the widespread poverty, many of those coming of age had dropped out of school to help feed their families. Those who had finished high school and even those who went on to college scrabbled for any work. Many of those who could not find jobs enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps for a dollar a day plus room and board or received jobs through the Works Progress Administration, both products of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.” – Robert Sterling Rush, Hell in Hürtgen Forest