Operation Battle of Crucifix Hill

The 'Battle of Crucifix Hill' was a small battle between US and German forces on Crucifix Hill (otherwise the Haarberg and Hill 239) outside village of Haaren near Aachen in north-western in Germany (8 October 1944).

The undertaking was part of Major General Clarence R. Huebner’s US 1st Division’s campaign to take Aachen within the context of the drive of Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges’s US 1st Army to reach the 'Siegfried-Linie'. The hill was named after a large crucifix mounted on its summit, and the object of its seizure by US forces was the completion of the encirclement of Aachen. The Germans were well aware of the importance of this hill, and had therefore strengthened its defences with a maze of pillboxes and bunkers manned by men of Oberst Gerhard Wilck’s 246th Volksgrenadierdivision, a formation of General Erich Brandenberger’s 7th Army's LXXXI Corps under the command of General Friedrich Köchling.

Colonel George A. Smith’s 18th Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division ordered Lieutenant Colonel Henry G. Leonard’s 1/18th Infantry to take the hill employing special pillbox assault teams equipped with flamethrowers, Bangalore torpedoes and demolition charges, and one battery of tank destroyers and self-propelled guns were allocated to provide direct supporting fire against the pillboxes. As the leading platoon of Company C assaulted the first pillbox, flanking fire from a nearby pillbox emplacement took the US infantrymen in crossfire. Pinned down in exposed positions, the US soldiers were also subjected to an intense artillery barrage. In the course of the attack on a neighby pillbox, Captain Bobbie E. Brown, Company C’s commander, seized a pole charge and ran 100 yards (90 m) under German fire to place the charge in the pillbox, which was destroyed in the resulting detonation. Brown did this twice more to take out another two pillboxes, but he was wounded during the third run by a mortar round. Although wounded, Brown refused medical attention and continued up the hill. After the hill had been taken, Brown went by himself on a reconnaissance mission to locate German troops beyond the hill. He deliberately drew German fire to establish the whereabouts of the German emplacements. While doing this, he was wounded twice more. The information he brought back about German positions allowed his company to repel two counterattacks. Only after the position was completely secure did he allow treatment of his wounds.

On 12 October, two German infantry regiments attempted to retake Crucifix Hill. In fierce fighting the Germans temporarily took control of the hill, but had been dislodged by the end of the day after both regiments had been all but destroyed.