Convoy of vintage WWII vehicles ends tour of Patton's route
July 24, 2006
A two-week convoy of vintage World War II vehicles concluded Sunday on the streets of Bastogne, Belgium, a fitting way to end a rolling tour of the route taken by Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army.
The route, referred to as the Road to Liberty, begins in Normandy and winds its way for 716 miles through France, Luxembourg and Belgium. While some Americans took part in the journey, which Patton’s army took 62 years ago, most of the participants are Europeans from such lands as England, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
According to Cis Spook, an event organizer, about 100 restored World War II vehicles were signed up for the convoy. Most of them carried folks clad in World War II attire.
“Many of them are ready to go into battle today,” said J.D. Hardesty, a spokesman for U.S. Army Garrison Benelux. “They are in that good of shape.”
Hardesty, of course, was talking about the vehicles, not the occupants.
The vehicles include GMCs, Jeeps, Dodges and Harley Davidson motorcycles, most bearing unit colors and insignias similar to those one would have seen in 1944. It’s all in tribute to the sacrifices made to liberate Belgium and the rest of Europe from Nazi Germany.
Including Bastogne, there have been 11 overnight stops. Participants have steered clear of any creature comforts, preferring to give visitors a fairly accurate representation of what life was like for U.S. soldiers back in 1944.
“Instead of getting hotel rooms, they actually mimic a World War II campsite,” Hardesty said.
The highlight of the last day was the encircling of Le Mardasson, a massive monument on a hill outside of Bastogne. The monument honors U.S. soldiers killed in the Battle of the Bulge. The Belgian organization, “Je Me Souviens,” received special — and rare — permission to drive vehicles up to the actual monument.
While USAG Benelux is not a direct sponsor of the event, organizers have been gathering signatures and short notes from well-wishers in a book that will be presented to the garrison commander, Col. Dean A. Nowowiejski.
For more information on the convoy and the Road to Liberty, go to the organization’s Web site: www.jemesouviens.fr.