Belgian Royalty mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes in snowy weather reminiscent of wintry conditions of the battle. The country’s King Philippe and his wife, Queen Mathilde, threw nuts into crowds of revellers in homage to the U.S. Army General Anthony McAuliffe (pictured right) who responded: ‘Nuts!’ when confronted with an ultimatum by the German army, Well-wishers dressed in GI uniforms to pay tribute to the American divisions which tirelessly defended the 70-mile stretch of woodland in the 1944 battle, known for having been fought under thick, cold mist.
More than 10,000 troops were killed in the conflict launched by Hitler in a final bid to infiltrate the west by infiltrating one of its quietest fronts. Over the course of four days from December 16, American divisions of the alliance came under the siege of Nazis, with German troops switching uniforms to cut telephone wires and sabotage their resources.
After weeks of bloodshed, western forces triumphed in what was hailed by Winston Churchill as ‘an ever-famous American victory’. Dressed in black, the Belgian royal family today braved blizzards and freezing temperatures to lay wreaths at the McAuliffe monument in Bastogne, named after the American general who spearheaded the ferocious defence. Belgian Royalty turned out in blustery wind and snow today to commemorate the Battle of Bulge fought between the Nazis and Allied Forces 70 years ago.
The text on the newspaper cut out reads: Dec. 23, 1944 – “Battle of the Bulge” – An entire U.S. armored division was retreating from the Germans in the Ardennes forest when a Sergeant in a tank destroyer spotted an American digging a foxhole. The GI, PFC Martin, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, looked up and asked, “Are you looking for a safe place?” “Yeah” answered the tanker. “Well, buddy,” he drawled, “just pull your vehicle behind me… I’m the 82nd Airborne, and this is as far as the bastards are going.”
And lets not forget the unsung heroes of the battle whose deeds often go unmentioned, the ‘builders and fighters’ of the 168th Engineer Battalion (Combat). First constituted on 25 February 1943 and activated at Camp Carson (later known as Fort Carson), Colorado on 5 May 1943. The new unit trained and conducted maneuvers at Camp Carson and in Tennessee, prior to deploying to Europe in 1944.
‘The 168th Engineer Battalion landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, France with General George S. Patton’s Third Army in mid-July 1944. Between August 1944 and March 1945, the 168th Engineers fought in France, Belgium, and Germany, transferring between the Third, Ninth, and First Armies. They fought alongside the 7th and 11th Armored Divisions, and the 29th, 106th, 4th, 89th, and 2nd Infantry Divisions.’Engineers sweep for mines in the snow during the Ardennes campaign Prior to the Battle of the Bulge, between 17 and 23 December 1944, the 168th Engineers reorganised as infantry and were charged with the defense of St. Vith, Belgium (Sahn-Vee). During the crucial period of the German offensive in the Ardennes in 1944, the 7th Armored Division, of which the 168th Engineers were then an element, was attacked by enemy forces estimated at 8 divisions, among them 3 SS Panzer and 2 Panzer divisions. The Allied forces were subjected to repeated tank and infantry attacks, which grew in intensity as the German forces attempted to destroy the stubborn forces that were denying them the use of the key communication center of St. Vith. The attacking forces were repeatedly thrown back by the gallant troops who rose from their foxholes and fought in fierce hand-to-hand combat to stop the penetrations and inflict heavy losses on the numerically superior foe. The 168th Engineer Battalion, and the 7th Armored Division, inflicted crippling losses and imposed great delay upon the enemy by a masterful and grimly determined defence in keeping with the highest traditions of the Army of the United States. Their performance in the battle earned them the Presidential Unit Citation, the Army’s highest unit award. COMMEMORATING THE BRAVERY OF THE 168th ENGINEER COMBAT BATTALION
And if you have time for a bloody good read ‘Hinder Forward: The 168th Engineer Combat Battalion’ This is their story, the men of the 168th Engineer Combat Battalion, in their own words, not written by some second guesser working in a quiet and safe modern facility, but by those who were actually there in the heat, the mud, the cold, the bullets, the bombs, the tree bursts and the mines… True Grit from a generation whose ranks are slowly dwindling through the passage of time. A hearty BZ to one and all. Yours Aye.
With thanks to ‘CenTexTim’ for the additional prompt, because sometimes we need reminding that we also have a personal library full of books, as well as past memories…