Lee Storm Ferris Killed in Action

Lee was one of the many, many Westchester County, New York, Ferrises. Born in 1915, he would be killed in action in the Hurtgen Forest of far-western Germany in December 1944. This was before the Battle of the Bulge but the fighting was no less intense.

Lee Storm Ferris was a private first-class, serving with the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He is buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belguim, and a memorial exists in the Hillside Cemetery, Cortlandt Manor, Westchester County, New York, United States of America.

An after-action report of his unit’s situation exists for December, 1944. Most jarring is the December 1 entry, that Companies “E” and “F”, and two heavy weapons platoons from Company “H”, appeared to have been rolled over by the Germans and either killed or captured.

Dec. 2, Lee’s date of death, shows six officers and 85 men lost. The Regiment lost a total of 10 officers and 221 enlisted men in the four day period December 1-4, while engaged in the unit engaged in clearing the enemy out of the Gressenicher Forest. This was very nearly 10 percent of its strength. While I have not yet determined which company he served with, it seems reasonable that he was lost in this battle.

1944-45 was one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record in the region. American troops were poorly prepared and ill-equipped for the conditions in which they were fighting. The regiment’s rest and rehabilitation was interrupted by the German attack in the Ardennes, and the 26th went back into battle.

The record on Lee shows that he was awarded a Purple Heart with two clusters. That means he had been wounded three times in combat, including his fatal wounds.

The battle for the Hurtgen Forest was characterized by one historian as a “debacle.” In the five months of fighting, the American Army suffered more than 34,000 casualties. It was among the bloodiest battles of the European war for the U.S. Remember that this parcel of land was but twenty miles long by ten miles wide.

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