The battle of Aachen was a major engagement of the western front of World War 2. The battle was fought in and around the city of Aachen between American and German forces. After the Wehrmacht’s retreat to the German border the city had been made a part of the German Siegfried Line defences, also known as the Westwall. Although the Allies had hoped that the city would fall quickly the Germans put up a tenacious defence which disrupted American plans for that period. The battle of Aachen was one of the largest urban battles fought by the US Army during the war.
Hitler issued a Fuhrer directive. There was no room for strategic maneuver now that the enemy had reached German soil: every man was to "stand fast or die at his post." The city was defended by the 81st Corps.
The main objective of the VII Corps was to push up the Stolberg corridor with the aim of reaching the River Roer. The Combat Command B (CCB) of the 3rd Armored Division began moving forward, gradually battering its way up the Stolberg corridor. Closest to the city, the 16th Infantry stalled in the Aachen municipal forest. The penetrations accelerated over the next few days. The 1st Infantry Division pushed through the bunkers in the Aachen municipal forest, with two of its regiments reaching the southern outskirts of the city. Meanwhile the 16th Infantry furthest east reached Ellendorf at the edge of the Schill Line.
The arrival critical German reinforcements permitted counterattacks all along the American lines, including determined attacks against the US 9th Infantry Division near Schevenhiitte by Grenadier Regiment (GR) 48. With his own troops overextended and short of ammunition, Collins ordered his troops to consolidate their positions, except for the 9th Infantry Division still fighting in the Hurtgen forest. The Wehrmacht succeeded in halting the advance, but at a heavy cost in infantry.
With the launch of Operation Market Garden further north in the Netherlands by the 21st Army Group, US operations against the Westwall came to a halt for a short period. Low on supplies, out of fuel, overextended by the vagaries of the summer advance, and now facing a much more vigorous defense, it was time to recuperate and take stock. General Hodges made this official, with instructions to shut down the remaining offensive operations in the VII Corps and XIX Corps sectors.
To push to the River Roer, XIX Corps needed to breach the Westwall north of Aachen to come in line with VII Corps. By now, the Wehrmacht was alerted to the threat, and Gen Corlett expected the defenses to be fully prepared. As a result, an effort was made to breach the Scharnhorst Line more methodically. In preparation, the XIX Corps artillery set about trying to eliminate as many bunkers as possible. The new German 81st Corps commander, Gen Kochling, mistakenly believed that the renewed American offensive would again take place in the Stolberg corridor He viewed the preparations north of Aachen as a feint.
The first obstacle facing the 117th and 119th Infantry was the River Wurm, but they found that it was far less formidable than feared. Palenberg and Marienberg were captured, but the 119th Infantry was stalled by a disguised bunker reinforced by strong points near the medieval Rimburg castle. The 117th Infantry pushed into Ubach, but the 119th Infantry again became stalled after encircling and clearing the Rimburg castle. The capture of Ubach prompted General Charles Corlett to commit a combat command of the 2nd Armored Division into the bridgehead earlier than expected in spite of the congestion.
The American attacks had proven so worrisome that both Rundstedt and Brandenberger personally visited the 8Ist Corps headquarters and pledged to send Kochling as many reinforcements as they could muster to stamp out the American bridgehead. Kochling himself was able to rearrange his corps in order to squeeze out a few more battalions for a counterattack. The counterattack was delayed by the usual problems of moving the troops into place. Many of the reinforcements were committed piecemeal to resist the renewed US attacks. The counterattack but was a pale shadow of the intended attack and the Americans managed to enlarge their bridgehead and reach Alsdorf.
In less than a week, XIX Corps had punched a considerable hole in the Westwall north of Aachen and threatened to link up with VII Corps somewhere north of Stolberg. Kochling's 81st Corps at the time had four understrength divisions including the 49th and 183rd divisions that had been battered in the Palenberg-Rimburg fighting. The 246th VGD replaced the 116th Panzer Division in Aachen to permit its refitting. The 12th Infantry Division was still in position southeast of Aachen to block any further advances by VII Corps.
To preempt the link-up of the American XIX and VII Corps, Model proposed launching a counteroffensive using the partly reequipped 116th Panzer Division and 3rd Panzergrenadier Division through the open terrain northeast of Aachen towards Julich. The US First Army planned to close the gap using the overstretched 1st Infantry Division. The attack started using combined tank-infantry tactics to bust open the bunkers in the Schill Line defenses. The initial objectives were a series of hills with commanding views of the area north of the city at Verlautenheide, Crucifix Hill and Ravels Hill.
With the German counteroffensive petering out, Hodges put more and more pressure on the 30th Division to finish the task by sealing the gap with the 1st Division. Since Wurselen had proven impossible to take, Hobbs redirected the focus of the attack by the 119th Infantry west through Kohlscheid. Meanwhile diversionary attacks were staged further east by the 117th and 120th Infantry. The plan worked and American forces linked up at Ravels Hill. Aachen was now encircled.
The US Army sent a delegation into Aachen with a surrender ultimatum. Based on Hitler's orders, it was rejected. Defending Aachen under the command of Colonel Gerhard Wilck was the 246th Division, which had three infantry battalions, two fortress battalions, some Luftwaffe troops, and about 125 city policemen. The 1st Infantry Division was so tied down defending the northern salient against attack that only two battalions of the 26th Infantry could be spared to assault the city center. The 2/26th Infantry was assigned the task of clearing the center of the old city while 3/26th Infantry took on the northern sector, which had a mixture of industrial, park and urban areas.
As 3/26th Infantry approached the Quellenhof hotel, SS-Battalion Rink attacked and drove the US infantry back. After a two-day lull, the US attack resumed. They regained the lost ground, and assaulted Hotel Quellenhof. To conduct this final clearing operation, 3/26th Infantry was reinforced by Task Force Hogan from the 3rd Armored Division with an armored infantry battalion and parts of a tank battalion. About 1,600 German troops surrendered at the end, bringing the total number of German prisoners of war to 3,473 out of the original garrison of about 5,000.
During the battle both sides suffered significant casualties. The determined German resistance forced the Americans to delay their advance eastwards into Germany. After the battle was over the Americans were forced to battle the Germans at Hurtgen Forest. This battle would prove to be evan more costly that the one at Aachen.