Museum in Bastogne, Belgium, walks visitors through WWII history
By MICHAEL ABRAMS | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 2, 2015
The Bastogne War Museum, opened in the spring of 2014, gives the visitor a personal experience of the Battle of the Bulge, as exhibits trace the history of World War II and what led to it.
In addition to static displays of weapons, uniforms, documents and photographs, the exhibit also relies on audio and visual elements to teach the visitor about the conflict and the battle that began on Dec. 16, 1944.
A surprise Nazi counteroffensive knocked a “bulge” in the American front line on the German-Belgian border, giving this bloodiest of battles its name.
By Christmas, the Belgian town of Bastogne and the 101st Airborne Division headquarters there were surrounded.
Asked by the Nazis to surrender, the American commander, Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, gave his famous one-word reply to the enemy: “Nuts!”
The encirclement of Bastogne was broken Dec. 27 by American armor. With help from American and British reinforcements, the Nazis were pushed back and the Battle of the Bulge was over by mid-January.
Get an audio guide at the museum entrance to be transported into World War II history. With the guide, the Battle of the Bulge is told through the eyes of four people, a Bastogne schoolteacher, a pupil, a German army lieutenant and an American corporal of the 101st. As you wander the exhibit, they pop up throughout to tell their story.
A 3-D video shows the D-Day invasion of France, while two other multimedia installations have visitors sitting on tree trunks in a forest during the battle and in a local cafe during an aerial bombardment.
The museum also focuses on the toll the battle took on civilians. Most were preparing for a quiet Christmas after liberation from the Nazis only to find themselves surrounded by the Germans.
In one of the last exhibits, the visitor walks between two rows of tombstones with video screens telling stories of some of those killed, civilian and military, during the Battle of the Bulge.
Find more information at www.bastognewarmuseum.be.