Belgium set for Battle of the Bulge's 60th anniversary
November 29, 2004
As World War II 60th anniversary events go, next month’s gathering in Bastogne, Belgium, will be the first major remembrance since June, when the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, were honored.
The events celebrating the Battle of the Bulge will include parachutes and parades, ceremonies and concerts, wreaths and fetes. Veterans of the famous battle are expected to turn out in droves, a rare event that will only get rarer as more and more of them pass on.
“The 60th anniversary events will never, ever happen again,” Army Lt. Col. Scott Glass said. “This is our last chance for very large groups of veterans coming to Belgium.”
Music will usher in the official ceremonies, scheduled for Dec. 16-19. The main events are slated for the final two days, Saturday and Sunday. Belgian King Albert II and other dignitaries are scheduled to attend the ceremonies.
For seven successive days, beginning Dec. 10, the 76th U.S. Army Band from Mannheim, Germany, will perform concerts in several Benelux towns, from Noville and Malmedy in Belgium to Brunssum, Netherlands, and Arlon on the Belgium-Luxembourg border.
The concert in Arlon is scheduled for Dec. 16, the start of the four-day remembrance. Prior to the concert, a ceremony will be held at the U.S. Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg.
Col. Dean Nowowiejski, commander of the 80th Area Support Group, which is active in the commemoration, suggested that interested soldiers attend at least one of the ceremonies and visit an American war cemetery. For young soldiers, especially those who have served in Iraq, the trip should hold even greater meaning, he said.
“It helps a troop understand that if you are lost on a battlefield, you won’t be forgotten,” Nowowiejski said.
No matter which event a soldier attends, “in the audience,” he said, “you will have a lot of friends of America.”
To this day, the people of the Benelux — which includes Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg — have not forgotten the sacrifices the Americans made in liberating them from Nazi Germany.
The Battle of the Bulge actually encompassed a series of battles fought over several hundred miles between Dec. 16, 1944, and Jan. 25, 1945. More than 1 million combatants on both sides took part. U.S. forces suffered 19,000 deaths.
While losses were high, the battle, which at first caught the Allies off guard, represented Germany’s last major offensive of the war.
“It was a hard fight,” said Glass, who is director of plans, mobilization, training and security for the 80th ASG in Chièvres, Belgium.
For Glass and some other soldiers, the remembrance is also personal.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Glass said his father fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a member of the 87th Infantry Division. The elder Glass had planned to attend the commemoration, but he passed away last month at the age of 81.
Spc. Rebecca Jones, a communications specialist in Chièvres, recently learned her grandfather, Eugene Heugel, took part in the battle as well. Jones said visiting the Bastogne region, where the major battles occurred, left her with a greater respect for her grandfather and all the other men who repulsed the German advance.
By visiting the battle sites, she said, “I can see it. I can feel it. I can stand in the same places as my grandfather did.”
Battle of the Bulge 60th anniversary activities
8:30 a.m. — Historical walk departing from Café L’Europa on McAuliffe Square
10 a.m. — Parade through the city and wreath laying ceremony at (Brig. Gen. Anthony) McAuliffe Square and Gen. George Patton’s monument
4 p.m. — Ceremony at the Mardasson Monument
4:45 p.m. — The annual “Nuts Festival,” which commemorates — among other things — Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s famous “Nuts!” reply to the German surrender demand. The event takes place at the Bastogne town hall.
5:20-6:20 p.m. — Sound and Light Show downtown Bastogne. Concert by the 76th Army Band at Bastogne follows.
10:30 a.m. — Commemorative ceremony at the Church of Noville (village close to Bastogne)
11:30 a.m. and noon — Air Drop near the Mardasson Monument. Participating in the parachute drop will be four Battle of the Bulge veterans.
3-5 p.m. — Parade of 300 vintage military vehicles through Bastogne.