By Frank Chadwick In November 1944, an American infantry division underwent its baptism of fire in the worst conditions imaginable and acquitted itself with honor beyond anyone’s expectation. The final outcome of the campaign, however, was determined by the heroic action of only 100 men who found themselves in a hopeless situation and simply would not give up. The men of the 84th Division—the Railsplitters—were, to use the GIs’ own language, “green as grass,” fresh off the boat from the States, and they were not going to a quiet sector to get combat experience on the cheap. Their first combat mission was to assault and reduce the Geilenkirchen Salient, a chunk of the German Siegfried Line that featured dragon’s teeth, minefields, and layer after layer of concrete pillboxes surrounded by trenches, foxholes, and barbed wire, which Lt. Gen. Brian Horrocks, commander of British XXX Corps, described as the most formidable fortifications on the entire German front. Operation Clipper If the GIs had been expecting their first sight of Germany to be picturesque, they were disappointed. The area around Geilenkirchen, the flood plain of the Wurm and Roer Rivers, was depressingly drab, worn, and ugly. Nondescript shabby little villages and gray industrial towns dotted a landscape unbroken by any terrain features likely to catch the eye. There were a few scattered woods and orchards, but the ground was mostly cabbage and sugar beet fields now turned to sticky brown mud b


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