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Re-enactors drive a restored U.S. Army military vehicle through downtown Bastogne, Belgium on Dec. 14, 2013, in preparation for events commemorating the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
Re-enactors drive a restored U.S. Army military vehicle through downtown Bastogne, Belgium on Dec. 14, 2013, in preparation for events commemorating the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Re-enactors drive a restored U.S. Army military vehicle through downtown Bastogne, Belgium on Dec. 14, 2013, in preparation for events commemorating the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
Re-enactors drive a restored U.S. Army military vehicle through downtown Bastogne, Belgium on Dec. 14, 2013, in preparation for events commemorating the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Belgian and American flags sit in the window of a cafe in Bastogne, Belgium. The town hosted thousands of re-enactors and spectators for a walk, a parade, and wreath laying to commemorate the siege of the town by German forces in World War II.
Belgian and American flags sit in the window of a cafe in Bastogne, Belgium. The town hosted thousands of re-enactors and spectators for a walk, a parade, and wreath laying to commemorate the siege of the town by German forces in World War II. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Re-enactors near St. Peter's church prepare for a day of remembering the Allied defense of the town of Bastogne, Belgium during World War II.
Re-enactors near St. Peter's church prepare for a day of remembering the Allied defense of the town of Bastogne, Belgium during World War II. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Danny Franken, foreground, and Stefen Groenewegen wait for the start of events commemorating the Allied defense of Bastogne, Belgium in World War II on Dec. 14, 2013. The pair are members of a Dutch re-enactment group that came to the town to participate in the Bastogne December Historic Walk.
Danny Franken, foreground, and Stefen Groenewegen wait for the start of events commemorating the Allied defense of Bastogne, Belgium in World War II on Dec. 14, 2013. The pair are members of a Dutch re-enactment group that came to the town to participate in the Bastogne December Historic Walk. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Participants sign up for the 36th annual Bastogne December Historic Walk on Dec. 14, 2013, to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Organizers say the proceeds of the walk were donated to a program designed to help veterans visit memorials on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Participants sign up for the 36th annual Bastogne December Historic Walk on Dec. 14, 2013, to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Organizers say the proceeds of the walk were donated to a program designed to help veterans visit memorials on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Re-enactors from Belgium dismount a restored jeep on Dec. 14, 2013, as they prepare to participate in a walk to commemorate World War II's Battle of the Bulge.
Re-enactors from Belgium dismount a restored jeep on Dec. 14, 2013, as they prepare to participate in a walk to commemorate World War II's Battle of the Bulge. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Participants leave the town limits of Bastogne, Belgium, during the 36th Annual Bastogne December Historic Walk. The walk commemorated the 69th anniversary of the siege of the town by German forces during World War II.
Participants leave the town limits of Bastogne, Belgium, during the 36th Annual Bastogne December Historic Walk. The walk commemorated the 69th anniversary of the siege of the town by German forces during World War II. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Thousands of re-enactors and spectators decended on the town of Bastogne, Belgium on Dec. 14, 2013 to commemorate the Allied victory in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Participants could choose to walk three distances -- 7, 13 and 22 kilometers.
Thousands of re-enactors and spectators decended on the town of Bastogne, Belgium on Dec. 14, 2013 to commemorate the Allied victory in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Participants could choose to walk three distances -- 7, 13 and 22 kilometers. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Participants in an annual walk to commemorate World War II's Battle of the Bulge stop to take photos of re-enactors in period uniforms.
Participants in an annual walk to commemorate World War II's Battle of the Bulge stop to take photos of re-enactors in period uniforms. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Re-enactors greet each other during the 36th annual Bastogne December Historic Walk, held to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
Re-enactors greet each other during the 36th annual Bastogne December Historic Walk, held to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Johan Wynen, a World War II re-enactor from Belgium, mans a machine gun on Dec. 14, 2013, during an event to commemorate the Allied defense of the town of Bastogne during World War II. Spectators and re-enactors flooded the countryside around the town to remember the costly battle.
Johan Wynen, a World War II re-enactor from Belgium, mans a machine gun on Dec. 14, 2013, during an event to commemorate the Allied defense of the town of Bastogne during World War II. Spectators and re-enactors flooded the countryside around the town to remember the costly battle. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
American servicemembers join other participants in grabbing a hot drink during a walk to commemorate World War II's Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium.
American servicemembers join other participants in grabbing a hot drink during a walk to commemorate World War II's Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Participants braved slick mud to walk up to 22 kilometers on Dec. 14, 2013, to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
Participants braved slick mud to walk up to 22 kilometers on Dec. 14, 2013, to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)
Re-enactors dressed in period uniforms drive a jeep through mud and water during an event to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. The event, held Dec. 14, 2013, in Bastogne, Belgium, brought in participants and re-enactors from around the United States and Europe.
Re-enactors dressed in period uniforms drive a jeep through mud and water during an event to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. The event, held Dec. 14, 2013, in Bastogne, Belgium, brought in participants and re-enactors from around the United States and Europe. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

BASTOGNE, Belgium — World War II briefly returned to this Belgian crossroads Saturday, as thousands of re-enactors and spectators descended on the town to commemorate the 1944 Battle of the Bulge.

Participants walked up to 22 kilometers, or roughly 13 miles as re-enactors used period uniforms, weapons, and vehicles to give the countryside an authentic World War II vibe. The re-enactors and participants included people from across Europe and the United States.

Bastogne, a crucial crossroads, was a major target during the German counterattack of December 1944. What began as an overwhelming German surprise, however, ended as an Allied victory when troops dug in and successfully defended points like Bastogne.

Cut off from supplies and reinforcements and outnumbered 5-to-1, the besieged defenders of Bastogne held off German attacks for a week in the dead of winter before relief arrived.

In addition to the walk Saturday, town leaders also laid wreaths and held a parade to commemorate the troops’ sacrifice.

smith.josh@stripes.com

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