It was bitter cold with a foot of snow on the ground and no moonlight the night of January 24, 1945, as the green GIs of the 42nd ‘Rainbow Division’s 222nd Infantry Regiment strained to see the enemy. But a low ground fog covering the firebreak between their positions in the Ohlungen Forest and the Haguenau Forest before them made this an almost useless exercise. More chillingly, they could hear sounds from the woods beyond, sounds of tramping feet and loud talking. Water turned to ice in the bottoms of their foxholes. Anxiety built as they waited for the unseen enemy to come swarming out of the woods.
By January 1945, Adolf Hitler’s Ardennes offensive was faltering, and in a last-ditch effort to break through Allied lines, the Führer scraped together what forces he could to launch an offensive into Alsace. Earlier German attacks in the area had created two small salients above and below Strasbourg and had forced the U.S. Seventh Army back on an arm that pivoted on Bischwiller, not far from the Rhine River, and extended northwest along the Moder River.