WWII Vet Hero Remembers 'Battle of Hurtgen Forest'
by U.S. Army Sgt. Clara Harty
March 30, 2023
In 1939, the world entered World War II, the
deadliest war in history sparked by an international conflict
between the Axis and Allied powers. The 4th Infantry Division joined
the fight in 1944 with Allied forces in WWII and participated in one
of the bloodiest battles in the war, the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.
One 98 year old WWII veteran, Mr. Jacob (Jake) Ruser, a combat
medic from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, assigned to 12th Infantry
Regiment, 4th Inf. Div., who deployed to Europe in 1944, has
first-hand experience of the deadly battle.
Jacob (Jake) Ruser, a
98 year old retired WWII combat medic assigned to 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, stands with active duty Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Inf. Div., in front of a 4th Inf. Div. Memorial plaque at Vossenack, Germany
on March 27, 2023. Ruser landed with the Ivy Division on Utah Beach in June 1944 and continued on with his unit to fight at the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, saving hundreds of lives in the process. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Clara Harty.)
“Hurtgen Forest, in my opinion, was the
worst battle the U.S. Army fought in WWII in the European theater of
operations,” said Ruser. “It was hell on Earth.”
of Hurtgen Forest spanned over three months during a cold winter
from September 19 to December 16, 1944.
Soldiers like Ruser
were fighting through a man-made forest preserve with dense woods,
deep ravines, and high ridges. Ruser said the earth and men were so
torn up it was like going into a meat grinder.
Ruser went on
to explain how during the battle, the Americans and Germans would
call a truce to gather their dead.
“They stopped the war,”
said Ruser. “You could see Americans and Germans who were bringing
casualties to the aid stations on either side.”
that all the Soldiers on both sides were treated with dignity and
“It was something I’ve never seen,” said Ruser. “I
traveled from Utah Beach all the way to Hurtgen Forest and I never
saw anything like it.”
Ruser entered Europe during D-Day with
his unit at Utah Beach in June 1944. He said one thing people hardly
ever talk about is what happened to some Soldiers before they made
it off the ships.
“The worst part was coming down from the
ship onto the landing craft,” said Ruser. "One would come up and the
other would go down. If you slipped and didn’t make it into the boat
in time you landed between the two ships and got crushed.”
Although there were a ton of casualties in the battles to follow
Utah Beach, medics like Ruser saved hundreds of lives. Ruser said
they tried to treat every casualty the same, giving each one the
respect and courtesy they deserved.
Ruser’s job was to treat
and evacuate the wounded as fast as possible to get them to a
hospital where they could get full medical treatment. He said the
hardest part for him was evacuating the casualties through the
ravine and gun fire that stood between the Soldiers and much needed
“In order to get from the aid station to the front line
was about 1,300 to 1,500 feet,” said Ruser. “You had to go down the
steep ravine, go across the creek and climb up the other side.”
Regardless of the distance, Ruser would never leave a fallen
After 78 years, with the help of the Hurtgenwald
Historical Society, a volunteer-led organization, and the Hurtgen
Forest Memorial Museum located in Vosseneck, Germany, Ruser got the
opportunity to walk through that same ravine, where he saved
hundreds of lives decades prior.
Jacob (Jake) Ruser,
98 year old retired WWII combat medic assigned to 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, stands in an old medical foxhole in Hurtgen Forest, Germany
on March 27, 2023. For the first time in 78 years, Ruser had the chance to return to the site where he saved hundreds of lives in WWII.
(Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Clara Harty.)
As Ruser walked around the
forest’s remnants of fox holes and medical-aid bunkers he remembered
what it was like to run up and down the hills carrying wounded
Soldiers on litters and over his back.
“The area has changed
so much it’s surprising, but I’m glad,” said Ruser. “It’s for the
good, I hope.”
After the tour through the forest, the Hurtgen
Forest Memorial Museum presented Ruser with a 4th Inf. Div. plaque
in dedication to his selfless service and sacrifice.
really a special moment,” said Tobias Kreuzmann, the team leader for
the Hurtgen Forest Memorial Museum. “I don’t have to tell you that
there are not many veterans left and you have a veteran here that
actually fought in the Hurtgen Forest. It’s amazing.”
Kreuzmann said that this was the first real ceremony the museum had
conducted that wasn’t solely about a Soldier who had died in the
The plaque dedication was a complete surprise to
Ruser and he was speechless.
“I am very pleased with the
division and all they have been doing since these wars,” said Ruser.
“I believe everyone should get a few years in the military to get
some background. It makes you think different and it’s beneficial to
the whole Nation.”
Ruser served in the military for 26 months
and ended his time as a private first class, but he continued his
service and legacy to the division as a department of defense
civilian for 32 more years.
Jake Ruser's Awards:
Bronze Star Medal
with “V” device (valor), 2 Oak Leaf Clusters to Bronze Medal, Purple
Heart Medal, Combat Medical Badge, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal,
Europe-Africa-Middle East Medal with 5 Campaign Stars (Battle
Stars), WWII Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, The
Chevalier-French Legion of Honor Medal, Normandy Jubilee of Liberty
Medal, Belgian Fourragère.
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