Winnipeg Trivia – Streets

One of just a few books on the subject, Mosaic of Winnipeg Street Names, by Jaroslav Bohdan Rudnyckyj, was published by the Canadian Institute of Onomastic Sciences (now the Canadian Society for the Study of Names) in 1974, as a way of marking Winnipeg’s centennial year. Rudnyckyj was a Canadian linguist whose speciality was etymology and onomastics (or onomatology; the study of names). While Mosaic of Winnipeg Street Names, which inspired this post, contains the history and explanations behind many street names in Winnipeg, this post will go beyond that; it will also consider statistical and geographical properties of streets.

In keeping with the previous Winnipeg Trivia post, some of the questions that have come to mind are the extremes – the shortest and longest street names, the shortest and longest streets, the most valuable street. Some questions depart from that theme, of course. There are any number of questions that can be considered, but I have again limited myself to a fairly standard ten items.

As with the previous post, one of the obstacles of determining these kinds of facts is having adequate data. Thankfully, again, the City of Winnipeg has created an Open Data Portal (data.winnipeg.ca) which provides sufficient data for producing answers.

The data used to arrive at the ten facts below is from the road network (City of Winnipeg, 2020a) and assessment parcel (City of Winnipeg, 2020b) datasets. Given that these datasets are updated every so often, it should be noted that the road network and assessment parcel datasets I used were downloaded on April 12, 2020.

 

Longest street name

Jean-Baptiste Lavoie Place, the longest street name in Winnipeg.

Jean-Baptiste Lavoie Place, the longest street name in Winnipeg.

The longest street name in Winnipeg is Jean-Baptiste Lavoie Place, in the Maginot neighbourhood, at 20 characters long excluding the street type. Dr. Michael K. Grace Way, in the Peguis neighbourhood, is also 20 characters long without the street type. However, including the street type in the length calculation allows for the tie to be broken (26 characters versus 24 characters, including spaces). According to the City of Winnipeg’s Planning, Property & Development document on street naming (2018a, para. 8): “street names should not generally exceed 20 characters in length, including spaces between words, but not including cardinal direction letters and abbreviations for street types.”

In contrast, the longest street name in the world is possibly Dwudziestego Pierwszego Praskiego Pułku Piechoty imienia Dzieci Warszawy, in Warsaw, Poland, at 72 characters long, including spaces (Mason, 2005; Portal Płock, 2017). The approximate translation from Polish is “Twenty First Prague Infantry Regiment named after Children of Warsaw.” That said, the street appears on Google Maps as “21 Pułku Piechoty Dzieci Warszawy”.

 

Shortest street name

Rh Way, the shortest street name in Winnipeg.

Rh Way, the shortest street name in Winnipeg.

The shortest street name in Winnipeg is Rh Way, at the University of Manitoba, at 2 characters long excluding the street type. It’s also the only street with two letters in its name. Rh Way is named for the research conducted by Bert Friesen, which was directed towards eliminating Rh disease, where blood Rh factors differ between a mother and her baby (Davies, 2019).

The shortest street name in the world is technically 0 characters, and belongs to any number of streets lacking official names. A good example of that would be streets in Arctic communities in Canada, such as Sanikiluaq (CBC News, 2015, para. 2). The next shortest would be a single character. There are a number of examples worldwide, but a notable one would be several streets in Washington, D.C., USA. Washington, D.C. uses an alphabet system (though, skipping some letters) for its east-west streets (Johnson, 2009) – for example, K Street.

 

Longest street

Waverley Street, the longest non-contiguous street in Winnipeg.

Waverley Street, the longest non-contiguous street in Winnipeg.

This depends on what is considered a street. Under consideration are streets that are entirely within city limits, maintained by the city, and without name changes (e.g. Grant Avenue to Roblin Boulevard).

The portion of the Perimeter Highway (Provincial Trunk Highways (PTH) 100 and 101) within city limits is the longest non-contiguous length of road in the dataset. However, it is not maintained by the City of Winnipeg, but rather Manitoba Infrastructure. It is also not entirely within city limits. The longest non-contiguous street maintained by the City, and entirely within city limits, is Waverly Street at 18,455 meters long. The longest contiguous street maintained by the City, and entirely within city limits, is Lagimodiere Boulevard at 18,279 meters long.

For several years, the Guinness Book of World Records listed Yonge Street, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, as being the longest street in the world, at 1,896,290 meters (Young, 1998, p. 81). In 1999, however, this record was removed (Perra, 2011, para. 3). In reality, the portion of Yonge Street within Toronto city limits is 17,811 meters long. Other claims as to the longest street in the world include Western Avenue, in Chicago, Illinois, USA, at 38,463 meters long (e.g. Leroux & Reardon, 2008).

 

Shortest street

Riverside Drive East, the shortest street in Winnipeg.

Riverside Drive East, the shortest street in Winnipeg.

This again depends on what is considered a street. The streets under consideration are entirely inside city limits and are maintained by the City. Streets that do not have an exit (i.e. only one inlet or outlet) are included. In the dataset, cul-de-sacs are represented by a single line (as opposed to a loop, particularly in the case of those with central ‘islands’). This tends to under-measure the length of the street. Streets that are cul-de-sacs (denoted by e.g. “Court”, “Place”, “Cove”) were re-measured as loops.

The shortest street is Riverside Drive East, in the Point Road neighbourhood (Fort Garry), at 36.06 meters. A close second is Habitat Place in the Lord Selkirk Park neighbourhood (Point Douglas), at 38 meters.

The shortest street without addresses is Wood Street, in the Osborne Village neighbourhood, at 41.55 meters. (The street signs for Bell Ave and Wood St appear to be switched, going by the dataset.) A close second is Behnke Road in the Worthington neighbourhood (St. Vital), at 41.8 meters. The dataset reports the length as 21.95 meters, though the paved area is quite a bit longer than that.

There is another short street in the dataset that lacks addresses: Moody Street. However, it does not, strictly speaking, exist. It was amongst a number of streets created in 1907, in preparation for a housing development but, as a City of Winnipeg Rights-of-Way Closing (DAC) application notes, the “rights-of-way have never been paved or used for any other public purpose” (City of Winnipeg, 2007, p. 7).

In comparison, the shortest street in the world is Ebenezer Place in Wick, Caithness, Scotland, UK, at 2.05 meters (Glenday, 2008, p. 83). Despite its length the street has one address, 1 Ebenezer Place, which is home to a restaurant called No 1 Bistro (BBC News, 2006, para. 2; Reincke, 2013, p. 532).

 

Single length of road with the most name changes

A map of the name changes along the road.

A map of the name changes along the road.

A continuous length of road not broken by any turns that also has the most name changes. Turns are departures from the flow of traffic requiring the use of a turn signal. Lane changes are not counted as turns, but merges are. A simple example of this is the transition from Grant Avenue to Roblin Boulevard. More substantial examples are Riddle Avenue to Denson Place to Wolever Avenue, or Brookside Boulevard to Oak Point Highway to King Edward Street to King Edward Street East to Century Street to Academy Road to Sherbrook Street. The most name changes for a single length of road is the sequence of: Dakota Street, Dunkirk Drive, Osborne Street, Osborne Street North, Memorial Boulevard, Colony Street, Balmoral Street, Isabel Street, Salter Street (for a total of nine names, excluding bridges).

 

Number of street types

The Glen, one of a number of streets in Winnipeg without a street type.

The Glen, one of a number of streets in Winnipeg without a street type.

The Statistics Canada Road Network File Reference Guide lists a total of 170 street types (2019a, pp. 10-14). There are quite a few street types that Winnipeg does not have, though some may be used in the future (e.g. knoll), while others are unlikely to ever be used (e.g. wharf). In total, there are 40 street types currently used in Winnipeg (though, the dataset lists 35). The most common are (unsurprisingly) Street (788), Avenue (758), and Place (528). The least common include Common (1), Freeway (1), Garden (1), Hill (1), Run (1), Cercle (1), Green (1), Meadow (1), Stroll (1), and Mews (1).

There are a number of streets in Winnipeg that do not have a street type. A notable example is Broadway. A webpage of the Manitoba Historical Society notes that Broadway was created in 1873 and was “named by the Hudson’s Bay Company as the primary east-west thoroughfare through its Reserve in Winnipeg” (Goldsborough & Kramer, 2020). Rudnyckyj seems to refer to Broadway as Broadway Avenue (1974, p. 42), as do several maps of Winnipeg in the first half of the 20th century, however, its official name is still simply Broadway. Other streets that do not have a street type include: Sturgeon Access, Wayfarer’s Haven, Blairmore Gardens, Kingsway, The Glen, The Promenade (denoted on signs as “Portage Place Promenade”), or the one-way streets Eastway and Westway. Despite their names, West Gate, Middle Gate, and East Gate (all in Armstrong Point) do not have a street type – both the dataset and the street signs indicate that “Gate” is part of the street name. On the other hand, Appleford Gate is an example of a street that does in fact have a street type of “Gate”.

There are a few streets that the dataset appears to incorrectly label as having no street type – that is, the street sign itself indicates a street type. For example: Cercle Moliere (the street type is “Cercle”), Kinsbourne Green (“Green”), Millwood Meadow (“Meadow”), Southlawn Stroll (“Stroll”), Ruines du Monastere (the street sign has “Rue Des Ruines du Monastere St”), and lastly both Craglea Corner and Crittenden Corner (“Corner”). Interestingly, “Corner” is not listed in the Road Network File Reference Guide (though, “Corners” is).

 

Total number of streets in Winnipeg

The number of streets in each Community Characterization Area (CCA) - some overlap in counts occurs.

The number of streets in each Community Characterization Area (CCA) – some overlap in counts occurs.

This question could be re-phrased as “how many unique street names are there?”, as an underlying assumption is that street names in Winnipeg are unique. Given that assumption, there are in total 4,729 streets in Winnipeg.

In comparison, New York City, New York, USA, has 10,522 streets (City of New York, 2020), Los Angeles, California, USA, has 11,096 streets (City of Los Angeles, 2020), Chicago, Illinois, USA, has 2,077 (City of Chicago, 2017), and Paris, France, has 6,513 (Ville de Paris – Direction de l’Urbanisme, 2020).

 

Total length of all roads in Winnipeg

The distance covered by the total length of Winnipeg roads.

The distance covered by the total length of Winnipeg roads.

There are few different ways this question could be answered.

A City of Winnipeg Public Works web page states that there are: “1720 lane-kilometers of Regional streets, 5030 lane-kilometers of Local and Collector streets, 900 lane-kilometers of alleys” (2020c, para. 1). (NB: A kilometer of road with two lanes is 2 lane-kilometers.) On the other hand, a City of Winnipeg infrastructure report stated that Winnipeg has 1,939 lane-kilometers of regional streets and 5,396 lane-kilometers of local streets, which excludes alleys (2018b, p. 6). This would indicate that the streets of Winnipeg have a total length of between 6,750,000 lane-meters and 7,335,000 lane-meters (excluding alleys).

Adding up the length of all streets in the dataset, which does not consider lanes, results in an answer of 3,164,107 meters. The mean street length is 669 meters and the median length is 345 meters. However, as an example, this does include streets that do not technically exist (e.g. Moody Street; see “Shortest street” above). Thus, the answer is not completely accurate.

As an approximate comparison, Canada as a whole has about 1,126,000,000 two–lane equivalent meters of public roads (Statistics Canada, 2019b, p. 99). Of that, Manitoba represents 7.8% (or 87,800,000 two–lane equivalent meters). Despite being 3.78% of the land area of Canada, Japan has 1,222,319,000 meters of public roads (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism – Road Bureau, 2018, p. 3).

 

Street with the highest mean value of residences

Kerslake Place, the street with the highest mean assessed value in Winnipeg.

Kerslake Place, the street with the highest mean assessed value (of residences) in Winnipeg.

The definition of a home used here is one whose property use code (PUC) was one of the following:

  • RESDU – DUPLEX
  • RESMC – MULTIFAMILY CONVERSION
  • RESRH – ROW HOUSING
  • RESSD – DETACHED SINGLE DWELLING
  • RESSS – SIDE BY SIDE
  • RESTR – TRIPLEX

As could be expected, streets vary in the number of homes associated with them. To balance out that effect, several thresholds were examined. The values used here are the assessed values, from the parcel dataset. The results were the following:

ThresholdStreetMeanCountMinimumMaximum
1Palk Road1,067,00011,067,0001,067,000
> 5Kerslake Place1,362,0006821,0003,174,000
> 10Rose Lake Court1,209,28521870,0001,417,000
> 25Handsart Boulevard1,121,56844420,0003,330,000
> 100Park Boulevard1,070,280139479,0004,753,000
> 200Wellington Crescent807,133233241,0002,800,000

*The values of several homes on Wellington Crescent are not available.

Though not a direct comparison, what may be the most exclusive street in the world is that of 57th Street, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, USA (Warren, 2020, para. 3). 57th Street, which is considered as part of a “mini-neighbourhood” called Billionaires’ Row, has seen an average real estate sale value of $38.5 million USD since 2015 (Warren, 2020, para. 4).

 

Street with the highest total value of property

Portage Ave, the street with the highest total assessed value.

Portage Ave, the street with the highest total combined assessed value.

The street for which the total combined assessed values of all addresses is the highest is Portage Avenue, at $2,691,032,000. The total number of addresses is 529. If the addresses from Portage Avenue East are excluded (removing 8 addresses), the total combined assessed values of all addresses on Portage Avenue is $2,666,321,000.

This sum is greatly increased by the presence of Polo Park shopping mall (CF [Cadillac Fairview] Polo Park) which, at an assessed value of $691,663,000, is the highest value property in Winnipeg. In comparison to other large malls, this is a relative bargain. As an example, West Edmonton Mall is currently assessed at a value of $1,266,911,500 (City of Edmonton, 2020).

Portage Avenue was named in 1880; Rudnyckyj writes of it: “According to Hislop, ‘Portage Avenue is said to be the longest street in the world, having a well defined tract of over 800 miles, being the oldest trail to Edmonton'” (Rudnyckyj, 1974, p. 245). According to the Manitoba Historical Society, however, Portage Avenue was named for the fact that “it was the road to the town of Portage la Prairie, west of Winnipeg” (Goldsborough & Kramer, 2020).

 

References

BBC News. (2006, November 1). Street measures up to new record. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/highlands_and_islands/6101968.stm

CBC News. (2015, March 4). No street names, but Street View for Sanikiluaq, Nunavut. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/no-street-names-but-street-view-for-sanikiluaq-nunavut-1.2981217

City of Chicago. (July 11, 2017). Street center lines [ESRI Shapefile]. Retrieved from https://data.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/Street-Center-Lines/6imu-meau

City of Edmonton. (2020). Property assessment data (current calendar year) [CSV]. Retrieved from https://data.edmonton.ca/City-Administration/Property-Assessment-Data-Current-Calendar-Year-/q7d6-ambg

City of New York. (September 3, 2020). NYC street centerline (CSCL) [ESRI Shapefile]. Retrieved from https://data.cityofnewyork.us/City-Government/NYC-Street-Centerline-CSCL-/exjm-f27b

City of Winnipeg. (2007, October 24). Council regular meeting minutes. Retrieved from http://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewPdf.asp?SectionId=196763

City of Winnipeg. (2018a, March 6). Street naming. Retrieved from https://www.winnipeg.ca/ppd/LandDevelopment/StreetNaming.stm

City of Winnipeg. (2018b). 2018 State of the infrastructure report. Retrieved from https://www.winnipeg.ca/infrastructure/pdfs/State-of-Infrastructure-Report-2018.pdf

City of Winnipeg. (2020a). Road network [ESRI Shapefile]. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://data.winnipeg.ca/City-Planning/Road-Network/2eba-wm4h

City of Winnipeg. (2020b). Map of assessment parcels [ESRI Shapefile]. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://data.winnipeg.ca/Assessment-Taxation-Corporate/Map-of-Assessment-Parcels/rt7t-3m4mOpens in new window.

City of Winnipeg. (2020c, February 7). Transportation. Retrieved from https://winnipeg.ca/publicworks/trafficControl/default.stm

City of Los Angeles. (September 4, 2020). Street centerline [ESRI Shapefile]. Retrieved from https://data.lacity.org/A-Livable-and-Sustainable-City/Street-Centerline/7j4e-nn4z

Davies, J. (2019, February 7). Meet biotechnological entrepreneur, Bert Friesen. Retrieved from https://www.sci.umanitoba.ca/chemistry/news-and-events/news/meet-biotechnological-entrepreneur-bert-friesen-bsc-hons-69-msc-71-phd-81-who-helped-eliminate-rh-disease

Glenday, C. (2008). Guinness world records 2008. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Goldsborough, G., & Kramer, N. (2020, May 5). History in Winnipeg streets. Retrieved from http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/winnipegstreets/index.shtml

Johnson, M. (2009, August 7). Washington’s systemic streets. Retrieved from https://ggwash.org/view/2530/washingtons-systemic-streets

Leroux, C., & Reardon, P. T. (2008, July 27). Taking city’s pulse on a 24-mile artery. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2008-07-27-0807260719-story.html.

Mason, C. (2005, November 24). The world’s longest street name. Retrieved from http://thelongestlistofthelongeststuffatthelongestdomainnameatlonglast.com/long187.html

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism – Road Bureau. (2018). Roads in Japan 2018. Retrieved from https://www.mlit.go.jp/road/road_e/pdf/ROAD2018web.pdf

Perra, M. (2011, April 14). The ‘myth’ of Yonge Street being the world’s longest road lives on. Retrieved from https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/myth-yonge-street-being-world-longest-road-lives-20110414-124435-380.html

Portal Płock. (2017, July 14). Radna: Mieszkańcy nie chcą nowej nazwy ulicy. Jest za długa. Retrieved from https://portalplock.pl/pl/11_wiadomosci/15989_radna-mieszkancy-nie-chca-nowej-nazwy-ulicy-jest-za-dluga.html

Reincke, M. (2013). Schottland. Germany: Baedeker.

Rudnyckyj, J. B. (1974). Mosaic of Winnipeg street names. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Canadian Institute of Onomastic Sciences.

Statistics Canada. (2019a, November 13). Road network file, reference guide, 2019. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/92-500-g/92-500-g2019001-eng.pdf

Statistics Canada. (2019b). Transportation in Canada 2019 – Statistical addendum. Ottawa, Canada: Statistics Canada.

Ville de Paris – Direction de l’Urbanisme. (September 6, 2020). Linéaires des voies [ESRI Shapefile]. Retrieved from https://opendata.paris.fr/explore/dataset/voie/information/

Warren, K. (2020, January 8). The 10 most expensive streets in the world, ranked. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/most-expensive-streets-in-the-world-2019-12

Young, M. C. (1998). Guinness book of world records 1998. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Bronica ETR Prism Finder Eyecup Replacement Part

The Bronica ETR series were 6×4.5 film SLR medium format cameras manufactured by Zenza Bronica in Japan from 1976 to 2004. The series consisted of the original ETR (January 1976), the ETRC (October 1977), the ETRS (January 1979), the ETR-C (January 1979), modified ETRS (July 1982), and the ETRSi (October 1989) (Gonzalez, 2016). Production of the ETRSi ended in December 2004; full technical support for the ETRSi ended seven years later, in December 2011.

The eyecup in place on a Bronica ETR Prism Finder E.

The eyecup in place on a Bronica ETR Prism Finder E.

As noted in a previous post dealing with a replacement battery cover for the ETRSi, it is often the case that parts of such a camera system go missing. Eyecups are another item where replacements are hard to find, and costly when they are found. This occasionally involves buying another prism finder solely for the eyecup. Though that is useful from a long-term repair perspective, it is not entirely feasible if just the eyecup is needed. The intent here was to create a 3D model of a Bronica eyecup, compatible with the Bronica ETR AE-II Prism Finder E and the ETR Prism Finder E. The corresponding original part number is #2720 (BE2720).

Oblique view of the eyecup in Autodesk Fusion 360.

Oblique view of the eyecup in Autodesk Fusion 360.

Using the original part as a guide, I constructed a 3D model using Autodesk Fusion 360. I endeavoured to keep it close to the original part in terms of design.

The part was printed on a Formlabs Form 2 SLA (stereolithography) printer using Formlabs Flexible Resin (FLFLGR02). The resin is fairly cost effective at $0.20 USD per ml (Formlabs, 2017).

In PreForm, supports were auto-generated using the following settings:

  • Raft Type: Full Raft
  • Density: 0.8
  • Touchpoint Size: 1.50 mm
  • Internal Supports: (unchecked)
  • Height Above Raft: 4.00 mm
  • Raft Thickness: 1.25 mm

Some touchpoints were manually moved or removed, to make post-processing simpler.

The layer height was 50 microns. The total print volume, including supports and raft, was 3.59 ml. In terms of resin, the cost to print is approximately $0.72 USD ($0.95 CAD; €0.61).

The time required to print was 4 hours and 48 minutes. The time required for washing (in Form Wash) was 10 minutes. Lastly, the part was cured (in Form Cure) for 45 minutes (at 60 degrees Celsius) then, after the supports were removed, cured for another 15 minutes (at 60 degrees Celsius).

While this part was printed using Formlabs Flexible Resin, a Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) or Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printer using thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) filament would also produce an adequate result.

Original and replacement eyecup.

Original (top) and replacement (bottom) eyecup.

Part Download

The part can be downloaded from Thingiverse.

References

Formlabs. (2017). Material data sheet: Flexible. Retrieved from https://formlabs-media.formlabs.com/datasheets/Flexible_Technical.pdf

Gonzalez, D. (2016). Bronica medium format cameras. Retrieved from http://bronica.org/start/bronica-medium-format-cameras.html

Condolence Letters – Lieutenant John W. Irvine, 4th Infantry Division (1944)

The Battle of Hurtgen Forest took place between September 19th and December 16th, 1944 in the Hurtgen Forest (German: Hürtgenwald), which is situated close to the western border of Germany. A number of notable army divisions took part in the battle, in particular the 1st Division (‘Big Red One’), the 4th Division (‘Ivy League’; which Lt. Irvine served in), the 8th Division (‘Golden Arrow’), and the 28th Division (‘Keystone’). As Caddick-Adams (2014, p. 173) points out, the 4th Infantry Division was “one of the most experienced in the US Army, having hit Utah Beach at H-Hour on 6 June.” The 4th Division subsequently pushed inland for 21 consecutive days after D-Day to Cherbourg, France, which it captured “at heavy cost,” and then continued on to help liberate Paris and eventually make its way into the Hurtgen Forest in November 1944 (Caddick-Adams, 2014, p. 173).

In light of the significant losses the 28th Infantry Division had sustained in and around the Hurtgen Forest, General Norman Cota (commander of the 28th Infantry Division) became concerned that if the Germans captured the town of Vossenack and moved west towards the town of Germeter, the 28th Infantry Division could become divided (Bradbeer, 2010, p. 33). As a result of this concern, General Leonard Gerow (commander of V Corps), on November 6th, 1944, ordered the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Ranger Battalion and the 12th Infantry Regiment to attach to General Cota’s 28th Infantry Division, in order to assume responsibility for the sector held by the 109th Infantry Regiment (Astor, 2000, p. 153). The 12th Infantry Regiment’s 2nd and 3rd Battalion moved to the Wilde Sau minefield, along the Weisser Wehe Valley (Astor, 2000, p. 153), a minefield which was, in retrospect, left out of maps (Astor, 2000, p. 178). The replacement process began the night of November 6th and continued for several days (Astor, 2000, p. 153). The 109th Infantry Regiment would subsequently move to Vossenack, to take over the positions abandoned by the 112th Infantry Regiment (Zaloga, 2011, p. 60). The 109th Infantry Regiment had been, for five days prior to being relieved, unable to advance any further than their positions south and west of the town of Hurtgen (Bradbeer, 2010, p. 27).

A day after their arrival, the 4th Infantry Division initiated an attack intended to eliminate a German salient (i.e. bulge) located in the Weisser Wehe Valley (Astor, 2000, p. 155). Pfc. Marcus Dillard, a mortar gunner with the 12th Infantry Regiment’s Company M, recalls: “as we started through a firebreak there was a minefield and barbed wire. The company commander stepped on a mine. […] We had never encountered terrain like this to fight in. We had done no prior recon of the Huertgen” (as quoted in Astor, 2000, p. 155). Bradbeer (2010, p. 25) argues that General Cota made three decisions “that would have far-reaching effects on his division’s assault into the Hürtgen,” in particular the decision that “neither he nor his staff would direct the division’s units to patrol into the forest.” As the 2nd Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Sibert, later wrote: “God, it was cold. We were hungry and thirsty. […] The supply line was littered with dead. The men that came out with me were so damned tired that they stepped on the bodies – they were too tired to step over them” (as quoted in Astor, 2000, p. 156). It was on this day, November 12th, 1944, in the process of withdrawing to a new line west of Germeter, that Lt. Irvine died (Johnson, 1948, p. 215). A week later, the Company H commander, Captain Earl W. Enroughty was killed (Johnson, 1948, p. 219). The weakened 12th Infantry Regiment had been reverted to the 4th Infantry Division on November 11th at 7:00PM (Miller, 2003, p. 156).

The battle was one of the costliest in American history, resulting in the forest being referred to as “the Death Factory” by US troops (Caddick-Adams, 2014, p. 173). Whiting (2000, p. xii) argues that “division after division was thrown into the perfectly useless battle, which served no tactical or strategic purpose” resulting in “nearly thirty thousand young American soldiers [who] died or were wounded there” (p. xi). Following the first fourteen days of the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, where most rifle companies had nearly 50% casualties, the 9th Infantry Division’s 60th Regiment and the 4th Division’s 22nd Regiment had experienced 100% casualties (Whiting, 2000, p. xi). Between November 7th and 16th, the 12th Infantry Regiment suffered 562 casualties in its rifle battalions, of its initial complement of 2,300 (Miller, 2003, p. 87). Miller (2003, p. 87) points out that “the attack failed to accomplish its intended goal, and the regiment lost about twice as much ground as it took in its furthest advance.” General James Gavin (1992, p. 298), of the 82nd Airborne, would later write: “the Huertgen was over, and I think it is fair to say that little was learned from it and less understood. It had been our Passchendaele.”

Below are letters of condolence, written by family friends in December 1944, to the parents of First Lieutenant John W. Irvine (O1289736), Harry and Myrtle Irvine, of Denver, Colorado, USA. Lt. Irvine was born on July 25th, 1915 in Finlayson, Minnesota, USA. He served as a platoon leader, and later company commander, in Company H, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, V Corps. Lt. Irvine was assigned to his regiment less than two weeks before D-Day. He served as a platoon leader in the assault landings at Utah Beach, and during the early stages of the Normandy campaign as both a platoon leader and as company executive officer. In early July 1944 he was appointed commander of Company H, 12th Infantry. In August 1944, Lt. Irvine was wounded in action, suffering a broken jaw and a piece of shrapnel through his hand during a German attack near Avranches. In October 1944, after a period of hospitalization, he returned to his regiment, which was stationed on the Siegfried Line. He did not immediately resume command of his company, but rather was initially assigned to Regimental Headquarters. A short time later the 4th Infantry Division moved into the Hurtgen Forest. At the age of 28, Lt. Irvine was killed in action by a German artillery shell on November 12th, 1944, during the Hurtgen Forest battle, while organizing a defence against a heavy German attack. Lt. Irvine was married shortly before he went overseas on leave in 1943, while still assigned to the 94th Infantry Division. In September 1944, his wife, Shirley, gave birth to their only child, a daughter named Sherry, while he was in a French hospital recovering from his Normandy wounds. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for valour in action. Lt. Irvine had also previously been awarded the Bronze Star, for valour in Normandy, and the Purple Heart, for wounds sustained near Cherbourg, France.

Lt. Irvine wrote home frequently, providing details on his health (given his combat injuries), his state of mind and perspective on the war, and the environment and locale he found himself in. For example, Lt. Irvine provided details in a September 6th, 1944 letter about how he was in hospital recovering from his Normandy wounds:

“They rewired my teeth this morning so I could eat soft food, but I can’t chew anything yet. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here, but probably not too long.”

He explains in a letter later in September 1944 that he had been re-admitted to hospital with an infection of the shrapnel wound on his hand (and that he preferred being in hospitals to living on the ground in the field):

“Well, I’m back in France again, and it’s a lot different than last time. At the moment I’m back in hospital for a few days with an infected hand. It’s nothing serious, but they have it bandaged, which accounts for poor penmanship. […] Seems like I’ve always got something wrong with me these days, but I will say I manage to keep more comfortable in hospitals than on the ground.”

And, on September 11th, 1944, he wrote:

“Well, I think I’m going to get out of this morgue tomorrow, but it will still be a while before I go back to France. My jaw is quite well now and I also had a small piece of shrapnel in the back of my hand, which has healed up.”

Lt. Irvine wrote a letter on October 24th 1944, detailing his living conditions and the desire that the current offensive would end the war:

“It has cleared up a little today but the mud is still pretty bad. I have made a stove for my tent and manage to keep fairly warm. […] Hope this new drive will end the war and we can get home soon.”

In a letter dated a week later, October 30th, 1944, Lt. Irvine states that he wished a battle would start so that they could feel that they were making some progress:

“Another day and not much accomplished – I wish somebody would start a battle around here so it would seem like we were getting some place.”

Macdonald (1963) has an anecdote about such a view, writing:

General Barton issued his orders. His subordinates passed them down the line. ‘Well, men,’ a sergeant said, ‘we can’t do a [*******] thing sitting still.’ He got out of his hole, took a few steps, and started shooting. His men went with him. That was how this weary division resumed the attack. (p. 471)

In the same letter of October 30th, Lt. Irvine also states that the German civilians he encounters are hostile, and that he never went out in the towns unless he was well-armed:

“The people are very hostile – many of them cross the street when they see us coming. I’m afraid it’s going to take a long time to get them in line. Personally I carry a tommy gun and two pistols – not that I don’t trust them or anything like that.”

Another condolence letter sent to Lt. Irvine’s parents around December 7th, 1944, contained the following passage:

“Sure was shocked to hear of Jack being killed. So this is just a line to let you know I am thinking of you. There is so little one can say or do at a time like these. Little did we dream when we were trying to raise them and give them their start there would be a war to end it.”

 

The newspaper clippings about Lt. Irvine’s death:

Jack Irvine's death notice, Denver Post

The newspaper clippings (possibly from the Denver Post) announcing the death of Lt. Irvine (the earlier one is on the left)

 

A transcript of the newspaper articles (lefthand article is first):

LIEUT. JACK IRVINE

Of Denver, who gave his life to help the Twelfth infantry, Fourth division, to victory in the Huertgen forest. With all but a single, dangerous route cut off, he volunteered to get supplies thru to embattled Twelfth troops. He fell after his second trip, but he had saved the units. The Silver Star was awarded posthumously.

First Lieut. Jack Irvine Is Awarded Silver Star Medal

First Lieut. Jack Irvine, 28, who was killed in action in Germany Nov. 12, 1944, has been awarded the Silver Start posthumously, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Irvine of 233 East Colfax avenue, have learned.

Lieutenant Irvine, a purchasing agent in Denver for the NYA before entering the army in July, 1941, was a platoon leader in the Twelfth infantry regiment in the Fourth division. He held the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for wounds suffered near Cherbourg, France. His wife, Shirley Irvine, and 9-months-old daughter, Sherry, whom he never saw, live in Salina, Kan.

He was killed in the Huertgen forest campaign. The citation presented with the Silver Star read in part: “Lieutenant Irvine volunteered to direct the delivery of desperately needed supplies to assault companies located in practically inaccessible terrain. The enemy, attacking on the flanks, had left only one possible supply route, which they constantly blasted with heavy fire. Reaching the front lines after traveling thru mined area and dense underbrush, Lieutenant Irvine delivered the supplies to each company, despite the fact that two of them were virtually cut off and isolated. Later in the day he again volunteered to organize a new line of defense. He moved from group to group, placing the men in the best possible position, despite murderous enemy fire. While on one of these missions he was fatally wounded by a bursting shell. The defense line and supply route pioneered by Lieutenant Irvine made possible the holding of the battalion’s position in the critical days that followed.”

 

The condolence letters:

The December 7th, 1944 letter.

The December 7th, 1944 letter.

 

The cover for the December 7th, 1944 letter.

The cover for the December 7th, 1944 letter.

 

The December 19th, 1944 letter.

The December 19th, 1944 letter.

 

The cover for the December 19th, 1944 letter.

The cover for the December 19th, 1944 letter.

 

Shigawake is a municipality in the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine region of the province of Quebec in Canada.

 

Transcript of the December 7th, 1944 letter.

Transcript of the December 7th, 1944 letter.

 

Transcript of the December 19th, 1944 letter.

Transcript of the December 19th, 1944 letter.

 

Transcriptions of the letters’ contents:

 

December 7th letter:

Muriel [?????] just called me. She had letters from home, telling about your Jack. I’m just stunned with grief about the darling And all my heart goes out to you in sympathy. Dear Folks – in this really sad news that has come to you. I had prayed – he could come thru this awful war – and come home to you all again. It’s hard to reconcile our-selves to this awful sacrifice of our men & boys, & we are so helpless to do anything about it. There is so little I can say to comfort you – but I know you know I’m grieving with you about your grand Boy. I do wish I could be near you Dear folks – just to take your hand so you could feel how I long to comfort you in any way I could in your deep sorrow. All I can do is pray – God Bless Jack – let his soul rest in Peace. And please God comfort you all in your Heart-Broken sorrow in this sad loss, of Son, Brother, Husband, & Dad.

 

December 19th letter:

Dearest Myrtle, Wouldn’t I love to put my arms around you and tell you how sorry we are for you and yours in the great tragedy that has come to sadden your home and hearts. But Myrtle dear, death is sometimes sweet… As I have just said to your Dad, Jack paid the supreme sacrifice, so all his sufferings are over, better, much better, than a prisoner of war, or in a military hospital for the end of his life, like our dear brother. For 30 years nearly we go to bed with the war of 1914, and we get up in the morning with it. It has saddened our lives, but yet we try to be brave and ‘carry on’. The hospitals (military) all over both our lands are filled with wrecks of the Great War who are going through each day a living death. Would you like your dear boy to be one of the inmates? I do not think so. Try to be brave dear, for the sake of the little wife and dear baby. You will derive much joy in looking and caring for their needs and helping them be brave. When I had my great sorrow years ago a friend of mine sent me a little poem which has been a great comfort to me, I will pass it on to you. “He dropped the shuttle, the loom stood still, The weaver slept in the twilight grey. Dear Heart! he will weave his beautiful web In the golden light of a longer day.” Dear Jack has left the twilight grey for the beautiful dawn and I know you would not wish him back. I wish you were near us Myrtle dear, so we could know each other better. Sorrow has seemed to bridge the thousands of miles between and to draw us closer together. Our deepest sympathy & love to you and all your dear ones.

 

 

References

Astor, G. (2000). The bloody forest: Battle for the Hurtgen: September 1944-January 1945. New York City, NY: Presidio Press.

Bradbeer, T. (2010). General Cota and the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest: A Failure of Battle Command? Army History, 2010(75), 18-41. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/26298911

Caddick-Adams, P. (2014). Snow and steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-45. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Chapman, C. S. (2017). Battle hardened: An infantry officer’s harrowing journey from D-Day to V-E Day. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Gavin, J. M. (1992). On to Berlin: Battles of an airborne commander. New York, NY: Random House.

Johnson, G. F. (1948). History of the Twelfth Infantry Regiment in World War II. Boston, MA: National Fourth (Ivy) Division Association.

MacDonald, C. B. (1963). United States Army in World War II: Vol. 3. The Siegfried Line campaign. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army.

Miller, E. G. (2003). A dark and bloody ground: The Hürtgen Forest and the Roer River dams, 1944-1945. College Station, TX: Texas A & M University Press.

Whiting, C. (2000). The West Wall series: Vol. 4. Battle Of Hurtgen Forest. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

United States War Department. (1946). World War II honor list of dead and missing Army and Army Air Forces personnel from Colorado, 1946. Washington, DC: War Department, Adjutant Generals Office. Retrieved from https://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww2/army-casualties/colorado.html.

Zaloga, S. J. (2011). Siegfried Line 1944–45: Battles on the German frontier. Bloomsbury Publishing.