Sunday, June 21, 2009

WWII Battle of the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

To celebrate and remember the feedom that we enjoy today, my wife and I took a trip on June 6th, 2009 to the former battlefields in Belgium where the Battles of the Ardennes were fought. We visited Bastogne with another American couple, Dave & Karen Pond. Bastogne was the city where the most intense fighting was and the place where the heroic American soldiers defied great odds and won a tremendous victory.

On June 6th, 1944 the Allied Forces landed at Normandy, beginning the liberation of France, and Belgium, and the defeat of the German army. The Allied commanders had determined that the winter conditions and the difficult terrain of the Ardennes hills of Belgium would deter the enemy from making an attack in that region. They decided to weaken the defensive forces there and concentrate on other areas.

However, the Germans saw a great opportunity to launch a counter offensive and attempt to break-through to re-seize the port of Antwerp. It started on December 16th, 1944 in the cold and fog. The attackers had about 250,000 men, 600 tanks and assault guns, and 1,900 big guns and howitizers. The American forces had about 80,000 men in the area. The attack was a complete surprise and the defenses were broken through in many places. But resistance was organized and the Americans fought back bravely. They were heavily out numbered and the German Panzer tanks seemed unstoppable. The battles were tremendous and there were many lives lost on both sides. On Dec. 22nd, the German General von Luttwitz sent a letter to the American General McAuliffe demanding the surrender of the Americans. That is when Gen. McAuliffe gave the famous response, "Nuts". The fierce fighting continued and it was not until the 26th that reinforcements arrived under General Patton. Thousands of American troops arrived to rescue the city and defeat the Germans. The Battle of the Ardennes is considered the greatest American battle of the 2nd World War. There were over 80,000 American casualties. It was the final decisive battle that really turned the tide of war, which finally ended in May, 1945.

We were grateful that we had the opportunity to experience some history. Dave Pond and I are both retired military, so we saw the battlefields with our knowledge of tactics and military planning. Dave and I walked through some of the woods where the fighting had taken place and found some of the old foxholes that had been used. We are so thankful for all of those who fought and died there to help preserve the freedom of the world.

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