The journey of a thousand miles begins with...the perfect pair of shoes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Living History: the Battle of the Bulge 64 years later.

This isn't really a holidya post, but I hope you read it anyway. Yesterday we did one of the most awesome things I've ever done. We went to Bastogne, Belgium and participated in the anniversary walk. This walk commemorates the Ardennes Offensive and Battle of the Bulge, which took place from 16 Dec 1944-25 Jan 1945. Bastogne was surrounded by the Germans but held by the US 101st Airborne and Combat Command B of the 10th mountain division. I hope this isn't boring you. Stick with me. Once the background is out of the way I'll show you the cool pictures. So, Bastogne was completely cut off from supplies and they had little in the way of food, medical supplies or even ammunition. The towns people shared what little they had with their protectors, including white sheets to camoflauge their uniforms in the snow. The German commander, von Luttwitz sent a telegram to General McAuliff, who was the acting commander of the 101st demaning that the city surrender. McAuliff sent back a one word reply "NUTS!" The city held out until Patton and the 3rd ID could reach them with much needed assistance. The Germans were bombed from the sky by the air force and bombarded from the ground by the 3rd ID. Of course we all know how the Battle of the Bulge turned out. The Germans were pushed back and the war would end in a few months. This historic battle was depicted in the Epic "Band of Brothers" (episode 6) if you saw that.
The walk has 4 different lengths, 6k, 12k, 20k and 40k that take you through the various battle sights and the town. We, of course, walked the short route, since Indy is only 6, but even the short route was amazing. Don't take my word for it though. Look at these photos:


Field surrounding Bastogne.

Indy with a reenactor.

Reenactors in the trenches.

Reenactors around a pot bellied stove.

Indy with a reeactor at McAuliff Square.

Army tents and hospital around the Church in Bastogne.

View from the top of the memorial.

It was so cold. When we started around 9am it was 25 degrees. When we ended our 6k around noon, it was 21 degrees. It was much colder the year the battle took place. We were so grateful to find a warm restaurant to grab a quick bite and something to drink. The soldiers who fought the battle did not have the same luxury. Many died of cold. They fought their way across the fields and through the surrounding forests for days on end. They fought not only the enemy, but the snow and bitter cold. They fought Christmas Day 1944. They fought New Year's Day 1945. These brave men helped turn the tide of the war. Hitler was never able to make such an assault again. If they had not endured what they did and fought as bravely as they did, our world could be a vastly different place today.
Most of the re-enactors out there were not American. They are almost entirely of European descent. The people of Bastogne have not forgotten what was sacrificed on their fields and in their woods 64 years ago. There were American flags proudly waving in the cold and welcoming smiles on every face. Every half hour (on the hour and the half), the Church bells in town tolled the first part of our national anthem "Oh say can you see?" It was touching. The monument built there was dedicated not long after the war ended. They have been doing the historical walk for 31 years. Every year they hold a parade and lay a wreath in honor of the Americans. These people have a long memory. They are, to this day, appreciative. As we celebrate this holiday season, we should remember to be grateful to those who have some before and sacrificed that we may enjoy today.


S said...

Great remembrance & reflection for all of us. The reenactors look so real. Can't imagine being out in those cold conditions without releif. The pictures are hauntingly beautiful. How's son doing with this huge change in living?

Happy Momma said...

How awesome!! What a perfect way to teach and experince history. I have been following you blog for a little while since it seems we have alot in common...military, homeschooling and a love for shoes!! Wish we could be stationed in Germany some time, everyone I talk to loves it. Well, I will just sit here and dream about it, and live vicariously through you! Thanks for sharing!

Michael said...

Beautiful. Well said.

Those boys, freezing in these tiny holes, thousands of miles from home, scared witless, staring into the dark, looking into the teeth of the mighty German war machine.

One of the things I constantly remind myself when I read history is that they DIDNT KNOW HOW IT WAS GOING TO COME OUT. We know, in 2008, the Germans couldn't last much longer. But in 1944, they didn't know that. They had to do whatever they had to, because they were locked in a struggle for their lives.

Baseball historian Bill James once wrote that we should be compassionate towards the mistakes of the past, in the hope that future generations will be compassionate towards ours.

Jessica said...

Wow! That is so neat and what an amazing learning experience for Indy. My boys would LOVE it.

Susancnw said...

64 years later and they still remember and honor it. We're barely 7 years past 9/11 and you hear constant whining!

Thank you.

adlibby said...

I have tears in my eyes as I type this. My grandfather, who died when my own father was only 3 years old, died in the Battle of the Bulge. Knowing that his sacrifice is still remembered and acknowledged today touches me deeply. Thank you.

Linda said...

I went there several years ago but it was in the summer. That looks seriously cold.

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