Thousands to attend annual tribute to Battle of the Bulge
Final preparations are being made for this year’s Battle of the Bulge tribute in Bastogne, Belgium, an event that often draws thousands of people, come rain, snow or shine.
For many attendees an integral part of the tribute, scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 15-16, is the memorial walk through a designated area of interest. This time the focus is on the towns of Hemroulle, Champs and Longchamps northwest of Bastogne, an area held during the World War II battle by the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment.
While early registration ends Monday, the cost afterward is only nominally more — 6 euros instead of 5. The price for the Dec. 15 event covers the cost of commemorative patches, given to roughly the first 3,000 participants, and a certificate signed by the mayor of Bastogne.
Organizers, who include U.S. military vets, said the city wants to make the weekend even more special than in past years. Walkers, for instance, will now finish at St. Pierre Church, which is closer to the main square, where there will be more activities.
The annual event, which commemorates the largest land battle in Army history, “has just mushroomed in the last 10 years,” Thomas H. Larscheid, one of the walk organizers, said Friday.
“It looks like another big year,” he added.
More than 1 million combatants participated in the battle, which was waged over a front stretching several hundred miles from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945. Nearly 77,000 Americans were killed, missing, wounded or taken prisoner. The Germans lost considerably more people and equipment.
Bastogne became famous for the Americans’ valiant defense of the city, a place at a strategic crossroad that was encircled by German forces but not conquered. The Battle of the Bulge and its myriad stories large and small became an enduring symbol of courage and resolve.
Over the years, the Belgians, particularly those in and around Bastogne, have not forgotten.
There are several more events planned for the weekend, from a walnut toss to wreath laying ceremonies to a parade of vintage WWII vehicles. Additionally, a re-enactment group from the United States will parachute from a vintage C-47 Dakota aircraft. Most events will be on the 15th.
A Web site — taken down last month for maintenance but now restored — has more information on the event, from registration details to nearby hotels. The site is: http://bastogne.jemesouviens.fr/. There is an English version.