March 11, 1920 – October 25, 1944
Paul Shaffer was a farmer from Stoystown, PA that was drafted to WWII in the spring of 1944.
Paul was shipped to Camp McClellan in Anniston Alabama in the spring of 1944 for induction and basic training. On August 16 1944 he was sent to Washington DC. On September 29 arrives in Europe. On or before Oct 7 1944 he arrived somewhere in Belgium. He was assigned to 1st Army, Company L, 3rd Battalion of the 60th Infantry Regiment. The 60th Infantry regiment, along with the 39th and 47th Infantry Regiments, composed the 9th Infantry Division.
On October 25 1944 Paul dies in the Hürtgen Forest Battle outside of Aachen. The night before he dies Tommy Zimmerman runs into Paul at the mess hall. Tommy is referred to in one of Paul’s last letters stating that he hoped to see him over there. There were about 1.3 million Allied soldiers that went through Belgium, amazingly Paul got to see his buddy one last time. Paul was taken the next day by a sniper’s bullet on his third day in Germany.
The battle at Hürtgen is “the longest battle on German ground during World War II, and the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought in its history.”.
The soldiers of the First Army were no strangers to the Hürtgen Forest. In late September, the 60th Infantry of Maj. Gen. Louis A. Craig’s 9th Infantry Division had tried to attack directly through the forest to capture the Hürtgen-Kleinhau road network. The regiment withdrew after a brief, but bloody encounter with the German defenders. From 6-16 October, the 9th Division again entered the Hürtgen with Schmidt its objective. The division’s two attacking regiments pushed some 3,000 yards into the forest at a cost of 4,500 casualties. As the soldiers of the 28th (Division – PA National Guard Division) replaced those of the 9th Division on 26 October, they were struck by the fact that the men they relieved were “tired, unshaven, dirty, and nervous” and “bore telltale signs of a tough fight.”
Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose, Pages 146-179
The Hürtgen Forest cost the U.S. First Army at least 33,000 killed and incapacitated, including both combat and noncombat losses; Germans casualties were between 12,000 and 16,000
The 9th Armored Division landed in Normandy late in September 1944, and first went into line, 23 October, on patrol duty in a quiet sector along the Luxembourg–German frontier. When the Germans launched their winter offensive, the 9th, with no real combat experience, suddenly found itself engaged in heavy fighting. The Division saw its severest action at St. Vith, Echternach, and Bastogne, its units fighting in widely separated areas. It is not surprising, therefore, that the GIs who endured that hell on earth would prefer to push such awful memories out of their minds and may explain why, in the years since, the story of the Hürtgen Forest battles remains a historical stepchild of more glorious encounters such as D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. What little has been done on Hürtgen has often focused on the November 1944 battles involving the 28th Infantry Division and has ignored the horrible prelude to the “Bloody Bucket’s”(the German name of the red Keystone on the shoulder patches of the Pennsylvania Division) mauling, which occurred over 10 days in October.
The two regiments of the 9th Division had fallen far short of the objective of Schmidt. Yet for some 3,000 yards in depth they had carved from the Hürtgen Forest, they had paid dearly with more than one casualty per yard. The division had lost about 4,500 men. The drive had enveloped about 1,300 prisoners and inflicted on the enemy an additional estimated 1,500-2,000 casualties25. On the basis of these statistics, neither side could claim undisputed victory in the October fighting. The real winner appeared to be the vast, undulating, blackish-green sea that virtually negated American superiority in air, artillery, and armor to reduce warfare to its lowest common denominator. The victor thus far was the Hürtgen Forest.
A column of GIs ascends a hill and enters the forest. Many of the men sent into the woods as replacements were unprepared for what they would face. National Archives ©