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Belgium > Pictures and travelogues > Bastogne

Pictures from Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge: the city center with a Sherman tank, the bust of General McAuliffe and the Liberty Road.

Tank Sherman of Bastogne
M4 Sherman Tank in Bastogne, Belgium. Tank of the 17th American Division located at McAuliffe Square in Bastogne.

At the end of the Second World War, during the winter of 1944-1945, Nazi Germany launched a strong offensive against Allied Forces, especially American armies, in the Belgian Ardennes. This offensive, known as the "Battle of the Bulge", took place in very difficult climatic conditions and resulted in heavy casualties in both sides: 33,246 dead or missing among the Germans, 29,751 among the Americans and 2,850 Belgian civilians. The battle also caused several tens of thousands of wounded.

Begun on December 16, 1944, the Battle of the Bulge was marked by several tragic events. St. Vith, a small town at the crossroads of Germany, Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, was temporarily conquered by the Germans and was almost completely destroyed during the battle.

In Baugnez, south of Malmédy, a unit of the German army led by Officer Joachim Peiper captured a hundred American soldiers and murdered them on December 17, 1944. In total, this unit massacred 362 prisoners of war and 111 civilians in December 1944. In Bande, hamlet of Nassogne, thirty civilians suspected of helping Allies were massacred on 24 December.

McAuliffe Monument in Bastogne
Bust of General Anthony McAuliffe at McAuliffe Square in Bastogne, Belgium.

The city of Bastogne, a major road junction of the Belgian Ardennes, was at the heart of the Battle of the Bulge. It was besieged by the German armies. To the surrender offer made by the Germans on December 22, General Anthony McAuliffe, commanding US forces in the city, drily replied "NUTS!". The resistance of American soldiers, much lower in number in a ratio of 1 to 5, was heroic.

From December 23, following an improvement of the meteorological conditions, a supply of Bastogne could be assured by air by the Allies. On December 26, elements of George Patton's 3rd Army managed to break the encirclement of the city in the south. On December 27, an ambulance convoy was able to evacuate the wounded.

Subsequently, supported by American air force, superior to that of the Nazis, the Allies undertook the reconquest of the places that had been lost the previous weeks. Despite an attack by the 5th Panzer Army commanded by German General Hasso von Manteuffel and the destruction of several hundred allied aircrafts during Operation Bodenplatte, the Battle of the Bulge ended on 30 January 1945, the Germans having been repulsed beyond their starting line.

Bastogne actively maintains the memory of the resistance of the American soldiers. On the main square of the city, renamed McAuliffe Square since 1947, you will find a Sherman tank and the bust of General Anthony Clement McAuliffe (1898 - 1975). A little further away is a monument in honor of General George Smith Patton, Jr. (1885 - 1945). The memorial of the Mardasson (an imposing monument erected in tribute to American soldiers), the 101st Easy Company-Battle of the Bulge Memorial, the Foy American Memorial (memorial to the memory of a temporary American cemetery) as well as the German cemetery are located not far from the city.

The McAuliffe Monument was inaugurated by the general himself in the post-war period. It is a sculpture that is the work of Miss Silvercruys, sister of the Belgian ambassador to the United States at that time. The Patton Monument is the work of the sculptor and medalist Mr. Rau. It was inaugurated in 1963. General Patton is buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial at Hamm in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, less than an hour's drive from Bastogne.

The Bastogne War Museum opened its doors in 2014 on the site of Mardasson. It replaces the Bastogne Historical Center.

Road of LibertyLiberty Road in Bastogne
Liberty Road in Bastogne, Belgium. Kilometer 1145, end of Liberty Road.

Liberty Road commemorates the liberation of France, Belgium and Luxembourg by the Allied Forces in 1944. It follows the route taken by General Patton's 3rd Army since his landing in Normandy until his march to Bastogne in December 1944 to break the encirclement of the city by the German troops and put an end to the Battle of the Bulge the following month.

The 1145 km course runs from Sainte-Mère-Eglise and Utah Beach in Basse-Normandie (France) to Bastogne (Belgium). Every kilometer, it is punctuated by commemorative monuments, the last of which is located on McAuliffe Square in downtown Bastogne.

In order to perpetuate this epic, a cycling ride bringing together amateurs is organized for three days every two years on a section of the Liberty Road either in France (Périers) or in Belgium (Bastogne).

See also: more pictures from Bastogne.

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Pictures from Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge: the city center with a Sherman tank, the bust of General McAuliffe and the Liberty Road.