Bastogne and Ardenne!

Trip Start May 27, 2009
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Trip End Jun 11, 2009


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Flag of Belgium  , The Ardennes,
Monday, June 1, 2009

 

We started this morning after breakfast and Ralph, the man in charge of the tour, took me and Doc into Bastogne so we could hook up with the 101st tour. We drive into and through the town of Bastogne and on to the Bastogne Memorial. The Memorial is on a hill just outside of town and we all met there for yet another ceremony and service to honor those that fought and died in that heroic defense of Bastogne. The ceremony was really neat, probably the neatest one of all so far. One could stand up on top of the Memorial and look down on the ceremony which I did. I was able to shoot some great pictures during the ceremony and also take pictures of the town itself.

All the ceremonies end with the last toll and the playing of the National Anthem. It is really neat to see that even at the age of 80 plus these vets are the first to stand at taps and the playing of the Anthem. It still really means a lot to them after all these years.

The vets all mentioned how different the town looks today. I did have the chance to walk around town for a little bit at the end of the day. It was a very nice town and still had the feel of a town of the 40's in my opinion. We spent little time in the town as we drove the perimeter of the defense of the town. At some points we were a little more the 2 kilometers outside the town. We stopped at quite a few places around the perimeter including, Champs, Long Champs, where the 502 held the positions. We stopped at the monument for the 502nd since we had a vet with us from the 502nd. Jim somewhat remembered that he was positioned on a small rise just outside of Champs.

We also stopped at the position of the 506th. Yes, that would be E Co. 506th of the 101st. We stopped at the monument to the 506th and then we went to E Co. positions in the woods overlooking Foy. I actually had the opportunity to walk around in the woods around Easy's position and look down on the town of Foy. Hard to believe these guys lived out here in the dead of winter in the worst cold winter Europe saw in years. We stepped in and out of fox holes that were still here from the war. What a crazy feeling. I bent down and picked at the soil thinking about these guys that froze all night so that I may sleep in a warm bed at night. And I am there with some of them right now. They have given me, and you, the freedoms that we enjoy today. Something that we Americans do not appreciate enough. And can NEVER appreciate enough. The other interesting stop we did make was at a small Belgium made bunker used by the 101st during the siege. It was the bunker where the CO of the 101st and the CO of Patton's 3rd Army met for the first time and broke through the Germans lines. The bunker is marked with a plaque.

After finishing the perimeter, we headed back in to Bastogne for a dedication of the plaque to General McAuliffe at what was his headquarters in Bastogne. He lived in the basement of a long, red brick building just 2-3 blocks from the center of town. We dedicated the plaque and then had the opportunity to head down to the basement. I will let the few pictures I have tell the story of the basement. Displayed in the basement were 3 rooms, one was decorated as McAuliffe's operation room, the second was communications and the third was to the veterans that have visited there. Mostly original WWII equipment was used in the room. It looked very good right down to the wires running out from the com room.

We finished the tour in Bastogne and the color guard that was part of the first ceremony that day offered to take Doc and I back to our hotel since we stayed just outside of Bastogne in a small town that was completely destroyed during the war. A town called Houffalize. These guys were all young guys and their spouses. Nice young men all intending to make a career of the Army. I wish them all well.

One thing I decided today in seeing the perimeter of Bastogne. While Easy Company was made famous with the Band of Brothers Series, I decided that E Co. was a symbol for all the Companies that suffered the hardships in and around the Bastogne area in the in winter of 1944. Each and everyone one of those men suffered in their own way that winter. And many are still suffering today. And for that reason, we need to continue to honor them.
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