Winter walk to retrace 82nd Airborne’s steps in Battle of the Bulge
January 8, 2009
Paying to take a long walk in the country in the dead of winter on a Saturday morning might seem crazy to a lot of people.
But nutty or not, a winter walk in the Ardennes Forest in eastern Belgium annually draws hundreds of people. Often bundled from head to toe, they come to pay tribute to the 82nd Airborne Division and the role it played in the winter of ’44 during the Battle of the Bulge.
This year’s commemorative walk is scheduled for Feb. 14 in the Belgian village of Bra, located about 30 miles south of Liège.
Emile Lacroix, the Belgian who founded the event in 1983, said most people tend to only associate Gen. George S. Patton, Bastogne and the 101st Airborne Division with the battle. But the campaign, the last great German offensive of the war, encompassed a series of battles fought along an irregular line hundreds of miles long. The 82nd served on the north end of the battlefield.
Beyond the iconic names and places, "most people know nothing else," Lacroix said of the battle. "The northern sector is not that well known."
The site of the commemorative walk rotates each year, typically between areas manned by one of the division’s main units. The 2009 event will follow the trail of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The 12-mile walk begins and ends in Bra, with stops in the villages of Trou de Bra, Villettes, Pont de Villettes and Floret.
"Bra is like it was in ’44," Lacroix said. "Nothing much has changed."
Organizers plan to lay wreaths at a couple of memorials along the route. Soup will be served at a field kitchen free of charge around noon. Participants can also buy a beverage and other hot foods, such as hamburgers. Walkers will receive souvenir certificates and a cup of traditional hot wine once they complete the walk.
Last year, at least 1,000 people took part in the commemorative walk, Lacroix said. The price for this year’s event remains unchanged at 6 euros.
For more information, including a map and details on advance registration, go to the event Web site at: http://82ndairbornemarch2009.blogspot.com