1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

 

22nd Infantry Monument to a Fallen German Soldier

 

 

The plaque on the monument erected for
LT Friedrich Lengfeld.

The inscription (in both English and German) reads:

No man hath greater love than he who
layeth down his life for his enemy.

IN MEMORY
OF
LIEUTENANT FRIEDRICH LENGFELD

Here in Huertgen Forest on November 12, 1944,
Lt. Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life
while trying to save the life of an American
soldier lying severly wounded in the "Wilde
Sau" minefield and appealing for medical aid.

PLACED AT THIS SITE ON OCTOBER 7, 1994

THE
TWENTY SECOND UNITED STATES
INFANTRY
SOCIETY - WORLD WAR II

"Deeds Not Words"

 

On October 7, 1994 members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment Society dedicated a monument to a German Soldier
from the Second World War. The monument stands near the entrance to the military cemetery in Hürtgen, Germany,
the final resting place for over 2900 German Soldiers. It honors Leutnant Friedrich Lengfeld,
a Company Commander in the German Army, who lost his life trying to save a wounded American Soldier.
It may possibly be the only monument erected anywhere, by former US Soldiers, to honor an act
of bravery by a German Soldier, who at the time of the act, was an enemy at war with the United States.

 

Leutnant Friedrich Lengfeld

 

Friedrich Lengfeld (* 29. September 1921 in Grunwald, Kreis Glatz, Schlesien; † 12. November 1944 in Froitzheim) war ein Leutnant der Wehrmacht und Kompaniechef der zweiten Kompanie des Füsilierbataillons der 275. Infanteriedivision

Friedrich Lengfeld ( born September 29, 1921 in Grunwald, Kreis Glatz, Schlesien; died November 12, 1944 in Froitzheim) was a Lieutenant
in the Armed Forces and Company Commander of the Second Company of the Fusilier Battalion of the 275th Infantry Division

 

 

The Hürtgen Forest Monument

In the October 22, 1995 issue of "The Arizona Republic" newspaper, Steve Wilson wrote the following article:

One of the longest, bloodiest and least publicized battles of World War II was fought in the dense fir trees along the
German - Belgian border called the Hürtgen Forest.

Thirty thousand Americans were killed or wounded in six months of fighting that began in September 1944
and lasted far into the bitter winter. Thousands more were disabled by combat fatigue and exposure. An estimated
12,000 Germans were killed. "Whoever survived Hürtgenwald must have had a guardian angel on each of his shoulders, "
wrote Ernest Hemmingway, who covered the battle for Collier's magazine.

Colonel John F. Ruggles in his offical portrait as Commanding Officer of the 22nd Infantry Regiment.
As a retired Major General, Ruggles was the moving force behind the monument to LT Lengfeld.

Photo from the 22nd Infantry Regiment Yearbook 1947

 

One soldier who got out alive is retired Major Gen. John F. Ruggles of Phoenix, 86. He was then a Lieutenant Colonel
serving with the 22nd Infantry Regiment. Last year (1994) to mark the battle's 50th anniversary, Ruggles organized an effort
among veterans of the Regiment to place a monument in the forest. It's a very different monument. Unlike other World War II tributes,
this one doesn't honor our own soldiers. This one honors an unheralded act of humanity by a 23 year old German Infantry Lieutenant.
Ruggles wasn't interested in media attention last year, and the monuments dedication received no news coverage in this country.
But a friend recently convinced him that others would like to hear the story, so last week he talked about it.

On November 12, 1944, Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld was commanding a beleaguered German rifle company. Like most units on both sides,
he had suffered heavy casualties. Early that morning, a wounded American could be heard calling from the middle of a German minefield
in a no man's land separating the combatants. "Help me" the man cried. His unit had withdrawn , however, and no U.S. troops were
close enough to hear. Lengfeld ordered his men not to shoot if Americans came to rescue the man. But none came. The soldier's
weakening voice was heard for hours. "Help me" he called, again and again. At about 10:30 that morning, Lengfeld could bear
the cries no longer. He formed a rescue squad, complete with Red Cross vests and flags, and led his men toward the wounded American.

He never made it. Approaching the soldier, he stepped on a land mine, and the exploding metal fragments tore deeply into his body.
Eight hours later Lengfeld is dead. The fate of the American is unknown. Much of this story, unpublished in any American books
on the war, is based on the eyewitness account of Hubert Gees, who served as Lengfeld's communications runner.
Speaking at the monument's dedication in Germany last October, Gees said : " Lieutenant Lengfeld was one of the best soldiers
of the Hürtgen Forest. He was an exemplary company commander, who never asked us to do more than he himself was ready to give.
He possessed the complete confidence of his soldiers.

Ruggles said Lengfeld's sense of duty went far beyond the call. " You can't go to any greater extreme than to give your life
trying to rescue someone you are fighting as your enemy in war " he said. " Compare that to the indifference most people feel
about each other today." The bronze and concrete monument is believed to be the only one placed by Americans
in a German military cemetery.

To the young Lieutenant, the voice crying out that day did not come from an enemy. Nor from an American, nor a stranger.
It came from a human being in need. Something inside Lengfeld compelled him to act - a feeling so strong and enduring not even
the madness of war could block it. In the heavy silence of the German forest, where thousands upon thousands met death,
that glorious impulse for life is now honored.

 

**********************

 

Soldat Hubert Gees

From the Photobucket page Wilde Sau Stellung Hubert Gees

 

Hubert Gees from Salzkotten/Eastern Westphalia, Germany, was a soldier in the 2nd Company of the Füsiliers Battalion.
On October 7 1944 his Company Commander was wounded. A replacement Commander lasted only three days.
On about October 11, Leutnant Friedrich Lengfeld, at the young age of 23, became Gees' third and final
Company Commander. Many years after the war Gees remembered his Comander:

"With Lt. Lengefeld I lost the best superior I ever had. In the previous hard weeks he meant much to me and gave me
a lot of inner strength. He was an exemplary company leader and he claimed never more from us as he was willing to give by himself.
Led by him I was on patrol straight into the american forward outposts. When the american observation ammunition detonated
on trees with a flogging bang and we got the impression that the enemy broke into our positions he never said "Go and check"
but "Follow me".

On November 12, 1944 when the soldiers of the 12th US Infantry Regiment had re-taken the forester's house of Hürtgen
just to lose it again in the forenoon, our company suffered a severe loss. In the early forenoon an obviously heavy wounded G.I.
was crying for help in a beseeching way. He was lying in the middle of the minefield "Wilde Sau" at the edge of the embankment
of the eastern side of the road, in no man's land. My CO, Lt. Lengfeld, sent me to our MG position to deliver the order
"not to shoot if american corpsmen will show up to salvage the seriously injured". Since the heartrending cries for help lasted for hours
Lt. Lengfeld ordered our corpsmen to put together a rescue squad. This must have been around 10:30 am.

Lt. Lengfeld went on top of the resque squad on our side of the road. The road itself was secured with anti-tank mines
whose positions were relatively easy to locate. Just when the Lieutenant wanted to change the side of the road approaching the G.I.
he was taken down by an anti-personal mine. In a great hurry he was taken back to our command post to be given First Aid.
Two holes in his back with the size of a coin suggested severe internal injuries. Lt. Lengfeld moaned in great pain.
Led by a lightly wounded NCO he was brought back to casualty station "Lukasmühle". The same evening he died
from his severe injuries on the main casualty station at Froitzheim"

 

A photo taken in modern times, showing the location
where LT Lengfeld attempted to save the wounded American.

The yellow dashed line indicates the direction Lieutenant Lengfeld came out,
the arrow indicates the approximate location where he was wounded and
the blue "x" is at the position of the wounded American soldier.

The photographer was standing in front of the memorial looking south.

From the website:

www.faehrtensucher.com

 

The following is a rough translation of some more of Hubert Gees' wartime memories of the Hurtgen:

 

On the afternoon of 2 November we immediately shaped our position up to the minefield “Wild Boar” which had already been laid
on the westerly side of road. A machine gun protected the mine—free lane, which today leads to the cemetery. We held this position
until the 20th of November. Our troop leadership on 3 November threw the 116th Panzer “Windhund” ­Division into the torn up
front between Schmidt and Huertgen. On 4 November the grim counterattacks started. In the area from Vossenack to Schmidt
heavy fighting raged, accompanied by artillery duels and tank battles. The U.S. Army Air Corps joined in the ground fighting.

Here by Huertgen counterattacks had already commenced on 3 November against the curved front of the 109th Infantry.
On 7/8 November the lO9th’s sector of the front was taken over by the 12th Infantry Regiment of the 4th U.S. Infantry Division.
At midday on 10 November a heavy artillery barrage lasting a half hour opened up on the point of the forest and on the
American front line southwest of Huertgen. This was a new attempt to throw the Americans back. After back and forth attacks
lasting for days the forest point fell, and afterwards the forester’s house, which had changed possession several times;
and on 13/14 November for some 10 days was again in our hands.

Whoever would like better picture of the bitter fighting, might read the comments from the war diaries of the 116th Panzer division
which are published in the book “The last Year of the War in the West. Here are a few notes from the diary of 12 November 1944:

The battles swung in continual bitterness back and forth. It is raining, wet snatches of fog or snow clouds sweep over the
softened land beset with puddles. The fighting infantrymen wading , lying and fighting in mud are close to complete exhaustion.
The reported battle strenghts are sinking at an alarming rate. Continually the artillery battle rolls on.” ‘In the forest itself it looks
completely crazy. The trees are leaning on one another through continual fire. The infantrymen Look like swine. No rest for
over a week and not dry thread on their bodies; for it is raining continually and fog is always at hand. It is a bush war:
man against man with enormous efforts for the individual man. The infantry of the division are completely finished. There are only
staff officers there, and very few men. But men who cannot even be brought forward at the point of a pistol, are there.

On 12 November, after the soldiers of the U.S. 12th Infantry Regiment had again captured the Forester’s House in a night attack
and during the morning lost it again, our company received a heavy blow: During the early morning an obviously severely wounded
American soldier was crying pitifully for help. He lay in the middle of the minefield ‘Wilde Sau” at the edge of the embarkment
on the eastern side of the street, in No-Man’s Land. My company commander Lt. Lengfeld sent me with the order to the
machine gun that was guarding the mine-free road that in no case should it shoot if American medical aid men should come
to rescue the severely wounded soldier.

When the heart rending cries for help continued for hours Lt. Lengfeld ordered our medical aid men to form a rescue troop.
It may have been about 1O:30 am; Lt. Lengfeld went to the area of our rescue troop on our side of the street. The street itself
was secured with antitank mines, whose location was relatively easy to recognize. As Lt. Lengfeld was on the point of crossing
the street directly over to where the severely wounded American was lying, an exploding antipersonnel mine threw him to the ground.
In haste he was carried back to our company OP for first aid. Two deep holes in the back implied that there were severe internal
injuries. Lt. Lengfeld groaned under deep pain. Under the leadership of a lightly wounded NCO he was carried immediately
to the Medical Aid Station at Lukasmuhie. But during the evening he died of his severe wounds at the main First Aid Station
in Froitzheim. His last resting place is Grave No. 38 in Diiren-Rälsdorf.

With this cruel turn of events, I lost my best commander. He had meant much to me in the difficult weeks behind us and he had
given me much inner strength. He was an exemplary company commander, who never asked us to do more than he himself was ready
to give. He was in the lead of our reconnaissance patrol as we moved up to the American outpost line. When American infantry
ammunition exploded in the trees overhead and gave us the impression that the enemy had broken through, he did not order
“Go at once!”, but rather, “Come with me!”

Lt. Lengfeld was certainly one of the best soldiers of the Huertgen Forest. He possessed the complete confidence of his soldiers,
and had great human qualities. This was proven by his conduct toward the seriously wounded enemy. From the company grade
officers of his stature, essentially came the fighting strength of the troops. I was never able to determine the fate of the severely wounded
American. He may have saved himself by reaching the American lines before this part of the forest fell into German hands on 13/14 November.

The forward push of the U.S. 8th Infantry Division on 20./21 November paved the way for the downfall of Huertgen.
With the support of the U.S. Air Corps and the U.S. 5th Armored Division after days of heavy fighting they succeeded in pushing
our troops out of the forest on both sides of the main road and they succeeded in taking the village of Huertgen on 28 November 1944.
I was taken prisoner by the Americans along with three of my comrades in the cellar of the Forester’s House near the church.
On the evening of 28 November 1944 either fate or Divine Providence allowed seven soldiers, all that remained of the 2nd Company,
Fuesilie Battalion, to go amongst other prisoners into the valley as prisoners of war. We had the good luck to survive.

Story by Hubert Gees Translation by John J.O'Malley, Jr Fredricksburg, Texas

Presentation by Ernest A. Herr

 

from the website: Combat Stories of World War II

 

**********************

 

Though the monument to Friedrich Lengfeld is located at the cemetery at Hurtgen, LT Lengfeld is not buried there.
He is buried in the small cemetery in Düren-Rölsdorf, about 10 miles away.
His grave is number 38 of 69 graves in that cemetery.
His marker is unadorned, and consists of only his name, date of birth and date of death.

Friedrich Lengfeld

* 29. 9. 1921

+ 12. 11. 1944

 

Photo from the website WWII In Color

 

**********************

 

 

Standing behind the monument to LT Lengfeld
is Bob Babcock, veteran of
Company B 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry,
National 4th Infantry Division Historian,
past President 4th Infantry Division Association
and past President of the
22nd Infantry Regiment Society.

Photo taken 2010 and copyright
© Bob Babcock

 

 

 

**********************

 

 


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