The Vosges Mountain range constituted the toughest terrain on the Western Front of WWII. In the south the High Vosges rise to peaks of four thousand feet or more. Combined with the Low Vosges to the north the mountain chain runs parallel to the Rhine River along the broad, flat Alsatian Plain for about ninety miles, becoming ever more rugged as they descend to the northern terminus near the Lauter River.
The Low Vosges where Bill fought combined with the Rhine River created a highly defensible natural barrier for the German forces arrayed against the Allied invaders. The mountain peaks afforded outstanding long-range fields of fire in all directions. Thick vegetation also compounded the American’s difficulties. The vast forests provided concealment to the Germans. Since they were ensconced on the commanding high ground and the Americans were advancing from the low areas the vegetation clearly favored the defender in infantry combat.
Adding to the misery of Bill and his fellow infantrymen was the physical demands of mountainous terrain on the human body. The typical G.I carried about forty-two pounds of equipment. With this load, maneuver up the 15 to 30 percent slopes of the Vosges range induced physical stress that was literally hundreds of times greater than that created by fighting in the relatively flat terrain of Normandy, Belgium or central France. Such a situation clearly favored the sedentary and sheltered conditions of the defenders.
Despite the many obstacles Bill and his fellow soldiers faced in three months of savage fighting, the U.S. Seventh Army did what no army in the history of modern warfare had ever done before—conquer an enemy defending the Vosges Mountains.