For Bradley's 12th Army Group, the plan was to employ all three armies in a concerted attack with the final objective being a bridgehead over the Rhine south of Cologne. Hodges' First Army was scheduled to launch its attack, Operation Queen, with the focus being in the center with Collins' VII Corps. What would prove to be the most controversial element of the plan was in fact one of its secondary efforts - a preliminary operation to push through the towns in the center of the Hurtgen forest.
The Hurtgen operation was scheduled to be launched three days before the main assault, so that once the mission was completed, another attack could be launched through the town of Hurtgen, and then northward to Duren. Since the 9th Infantry Division was spent, the corps boundaries were shifted, with Gerow's V Corps taking over the Hurtgen sector and substituting the 28th Division for the 9th Infantry Division.
In the meantime, the Germans were reconfiguring their dispositions near the Hurtgen forest, expecting an American attack at any time. The 5th Panzer Army was brought in to take over 7th Army's left flank from Geilenkirchen to Duren, including the western edge of the Hurtgen forest. This created some tactical issues, since the boundary between the two armies ran along the 81st and 74th Corps boundaries through the forest. As a result, the staffs of both armies along with key commanders were brought together by Walter Model at Castle Schlenderhan to conduct a command-post exercise to game possible responses to a US attack near the corps boundaries.
The German tactical approach to combat in the Hurtgen forest was also different from the American appreciation. Based on the previous fighting between the 89th Infantry Division and the US 9th Infantry Division, the German commanders believed that it was most prudent to defend from the forest not the towns. This denied the US Army two of its most potent weapons - air support and artillery.
The 28th Division began its assault, but the attacks on either wing progressed poorly from the outset. The 109th Infantry was immediately halted in the Wilde Sau minefield and counterattacked through the woods by the German engineers. On the southern wing, the 110th Infantry immediately encountered the defensive bunkers of the Schill Line around Raffelsbrand, and soon became caught up in the barbed-wire entanglements under intense machine-gun fire from the German bunkers and dugouts. The central American thrust by the 112th Infantry encountered little opposition at first.
With the German staffs conferring with Model at the time, the Wehrmacht response was unusually swift. With news of the attack towards Schmidt rather than Hurtgen, Model presumed that the Americans were heading for the dams and so had to be stopped. The 89th Division was ordered to turn around and recapture Schmidt. The German counterattack began in force and managed to take back the town.
General Cota ordered a counterattack to retake Schmidt, a remarkably unrealistic order in the circumstances. The 1/112th Infantry was entirely exposed in Kommerscheidt, connected to the rest of the division by the thin muddy trail up the Kall ravine. The 116th Panzer Division made numerous attempts to cut this link. The trail and the nearby river bridge at the Mestrenger Mill changed hands several times during the fighting. After prolonged fighting with US engineer units in the ravine, the Mestrenger Mill was finally secured.
The 2/112th Infantry in Vossenack remained under assault. But the terrain made it much more difficult for the Germans to mass forces, and US artillery was able to break up some of the attempts. Nevertheless the US forces in town were under heavy attack, and suffered from combat fatigue. The germans attacked in force and managed to take the town but a US counterattack managed to dislodge the Germans from the town. Both sides suffered heavy losses.
The reasons for the debacle were many. To begin with, the attack plan dispersed the 28th Division on three separate and uncoordinated missions leaving each regiment isolated. With two of the regiments tied down in the German defenses on the shoulders, this left the 112th Infantry exposed to the full force of two German divisions. The isolation of the battalions of the 112th Infantry due to the terrain allowed the Germans to destroy the 112th Infantry piecemeal, a battalion at a time. The dispositions of the 2/112th Infantry in Vossenack were poor, and Kommerscheidt's isolation due to the Kall trail made it unusually vulnerable. Both sides suffered heavy casualties.