Road Trip ~ October 2017~ Day 4~Bastogne

The battle of the Bulge was a German offensive intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers’ favor. It was planned by the German forces with utmost secrecy, with minimal radio traffic and movements of troops and equipment under cover of darkness. Intercepted German communications indicating a substantial German offensive preparation were not acted upon by the Allies. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces, and they were largely unable to replace them. German personnel and, later, Luftwaffe aircraft (in the concluding stages of the engagement) also sustained heavy losses.
By 21 December the Germans had surrounded Bastogne, which was defended by the 101st Airborne Division, the all African American 969th Artillery Battalion, and Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division. Conditions inside the perimeter were tough—most of the medical supplies and medical personnel had been captured. Food was scarce, and by 22 December artillery ammunition was restricted to 10 rounds per gun per day. The weather cleared the next day, however, and supplies (primarily ammunition) were dropped over four of the next five days.

Despite determined German attacks, however, the perimeter held. The German commander, Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz, requested Bastogne’s surrender. When Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st, was told of the Nazi demand to surrender, in frustration he responded, “Nuts!” After turning to other pressing issues, his staff reminded him that they should reply to the German demand. One officer, Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard, noted that McAuliffe’s initial reply would be “tough to beat.” Thus McAuliffe wrote on the paper, which was typed up and delivered to the Germans, the line he made famous and a morale booster to his troops: “NUTS!” That reply had to be explained, both to the Germans and to non-American Allies.

Both 2nd Panzer and Panzer-Lehrdivision moved forward from Bastogne after 21 December, leaving only Panzer-Lehrdivision’s 901st Regiment to assist the 26th Volksgrenadier-Division in attempting to capture the crossroads. The 26th VG received one Panzergrenadier Regiment from the 15th Panzergrenadier Division on Christmas Eve for its main assault the next day. Because it lacked sufficient troops and those of the 26th VG Division were near exhaustion, the XLVII Panzerkorps concentrated its assault on several individual locations on the west side of the perimeter in sequence rather than launching one simultaneous attack on all sides. The assault, despite initial success by its tanks in penetrating the American line, was defeated and all the tanks destroyed. The next day, 26 December, the spearhead of Gen. Patton’s 4th Armored Division, supplemented by the 26th (Yankee) Infantry Division, broke through and opened a corridor to Bastogne. (info purloined from wiki).

Phil wanted to visit two places inn Bastogne, Bastogne Barracks, which has a goodly amount of restored tanks , and the Bastogne War museum.  We arrived at the barracks to find it didn’t open until 2pm, so went off to visit the War museum.  We parked up in the car park and I opened up the back of the car to get my camera, whereupon we were invaded.

After we evicted the cat we walked up the hill. I wasn’t expecting a giant statue of the famous photo ‘The Kiss’ by Alfred Eisentaed,

also outside is the Belgian-American memorial, in the shape of a 5 point star

These words are carved into panels in the memorial like the ones in the photo above, it is worth reading.

We were given handsets to listen to as we walked around the museum, and the story of 4 real people from the time is told as you walk through each section. Robert Keane : an American corporal of the 101st airborne division;Hans Wegmüller : a German lieutenant of the 26th Volksgrenardier Division; Mathilde Devillers : a young teacher from Bastogne school and Emile Mostade : one of her pupils, aged 13. The museum is laid out in 7 sections starting with an overview of pre-war Europe, and ending with the New World order. It’s really well done and worth a visit.

Some of the exhibits.

After the museum we went back to the barracks as it was after 2pm, only to be told that we were now too late 🙄 as it’s a tour with a guide, that starts at 2, and ends at 4.  Didn’t spot that when we looked it up online so we were a bit disappointed.  Instead we had a wander into Bastogne itself, and had a coffee or two.

Belgium of course is noted for it’s chocolate,

but we were good, and didn’t indulge.

There’s a square at the top of the street where every building seems to be a restaurant

and it had a Sherman tank in the carpark

which had been wounded in the war

Even though we missed out on the barracks tour, we had a lovely day again, the weather started off cloudy but turned into blue skies in the afternoon and we stayed in a really nice guest house where we had our own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, so dined in on microwave meals, from a supermarket up the road. Actually that was a bit of a disaster as the microwave conked out after heating up one dinner and we had to wait 1/2 an hour for it to work again. 🙄

Stay tooned for the next visit which is to Overloon and the War museum there, which is an amazing place.

more about Bastogne War museum HERE

full set of pictures HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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