Skip to comments.Battle of the Bulge Memories, Emotions Live On
Posted on 12/21/2007 3:20:49 PM PST by SandRat
| BASTOGNE, Belgium, Dec. 21, 2007 Standing next to the killing field where he once found himself face-down in the snow surrounded by the dead and dying, Ted Paluch said his return wasnt as emotional as it once was, especially having visited three other times.
As the 85-year-old from Philadelphia gingerly stepped on the frozen turf -- the ground as hard as it was 63 years ago when he served with 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion -- Paluchs eyes brimmed with tears. Clutching a wreath and almost whispering to himself, he said: One of my guys was found here, in this exact spot. I wish he was standing next to me now instead.
Similar sentiments were heard 50 miles away in Bastogne, a Belgian city forever linked with the massive World War II campaign officially tagged Battle of Ardennes, but better known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Invited to the dedication of the Baugnex 44 Historical Center, a museum that recounts American prisoners of war being executed in 1944 by a German SS Panzer unit, Paluch was one of several hundred veterans and current soldiers who commemorated Battle of the Bulge ceremonies Dec. 15-17.
The 30th Bastogne Historic Walk, which paid tribute to 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, kicked off three days of remembrance. Roughly 3,000 participants, including 900 U.S. servicemembers, marched along the outskirts of Bastogne and through the villages of Hemroulle, Champs and Longchamps, where the Five-Oh-Deuce fought and bled.
Following a narrow road reduced to muck in places, marchers went past grasslands and thick forests. It is here where great tank battles took place in the open, while hand-to-hand combat spilled from one foxhole to another.
Carl Dalke, 82, who served with the 101st Airborne Divisions 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, recalls the first 24 hours of the fight as being the toughest, with his unit surrounded and trapped in arctic-like conditions. He labeled it gut wrenching, especially when his best friend died -- one of 19,000 Americans killed, along with another almost 60,000 injured.
But at no time did we ever think that we would lose, even though we were outnumbered seven to one, said Dalke, outfitted in 1940s-era military clothing and sporting several rows of medals, including a Bronze Star.
At a small memorial hugging the road, Dalke, like Paluch, laid a wreath to personally recognize those who didnt survive the costly monthlong struggle.
Along the walk, marchers passed by several such memorials and realistic scenes of uniformed reenactors digging foxholes, stealing through the woods, manning crossroads and driving authentic vehicles of that era. Adding to the setting were 22 parachutists jumping from a C-47 Dakota transporter.
Later in the day, a formal wreath-laying ceremony was held in Bastognes McAuliffe Square, named after Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, who famously replied Nuts! when asked to surrender by the Germans. Prior to the ceremony, the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Honor Guard led a parade formed by dignitaries, beret-wearing veterans, Belgian troops, and soldiers from USAG Benelux and USAG Brussels. Also included in the mix were school-age children carrying flags of every U.S. state.
The procession, with a sidewalk-lined crowd tagging along, made its way from downtown to a small park and monument dedicated to Gen. George S. Patton, commander of the 3rd Army, which relieved besieged 101st Airborne Division forces. Afterward, the parade returned to McAuliffe Square, where U.S. and Belgian officials, military leaders and Battle of the Bulge survivors remembered those who fell.
Army Col. James Drago, commander of USAG Benelux, joined Marcel DHaese, of the Belgian 5th Fusiliers, which fought alongside the Allies, in presenting a wreath. Drago, a veteran of operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, called the moment truly amazing.
The amount of energy that the Bastogne community expends to show their heartfelt appreciation each year reminds us all of the awesome sacrifices our soldiers made in that cold winter of 1944-1945, the colonel said. Knowing that people from around the world participate in such large numbers annually confirms just how important these sacrifices were.
(Ray Johnson works for the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, Europe Region, Public Affairs Office.)
Heidelberg Staff Retraces Historical Battle of the Bulge
My Granddad lost his two little toes to frostbite there and most of his hearing in one ear to a nearby 88mm shell.
Thanks for the post and the memories. It was a cold winter. But before the winter was over, we were in Germany. Bad for us, worse for them.
Funny that I just got done reading a book related to the Battle of the Bulge. Remarkable that our guys had to fight their way through the coldest winter Europe had seen in fifty years. That’s the one constant all the troops talked about - the cold.
and never forget this:
O’Reilly The Historian??
Vanity | 5/30/06 | Blau993
Posted on 05/30/2006 10:39:49 PM EDT by blau993
Oops, he did it again: Bill O’Reilly defames the victims of the Malmedy massacre
Respectful Insolence | 6/2/2006 | Orac
Posted on 06/04/2006 8:51:50 PM EDT by Born Conservative
Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution. From December.
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You kicked butt and we love ya for it! Merry Christmas ex-snook.
Sam and Snippy