Bastogne is one of, if the the favorite place I visited in Europe... so fantastic that I did it twice. The first time we left on a Friday night and, after suffering some autobahn traffic, made it to our AirBnB in the small town of Frenet. The apartment was on the second and third story of a home. There were three bedrooms, with a large living room and sizeable kitchen. It was, frankly, perfect.
On Saturday morning we headed into Bastogne. I had a long list of places I wanted to see that I had researched on the internet, but our family was still a little new at traveling in Europe, so we headed into town to get a lay of the land. Our first stop was at the visitor's center (Maison Du Tourisme du Pays de Bastogne), however it was closed -- Zut alor! However, in the parking lot, there's a large Sherman Tank of the 11th Armored Division.
Once I had my bearings, we headed up the road to the Bastogne War Museum. Tickets were reasonable and the exhibits were fantastic. Through the use of scenography, witness testimonial, multi-media installation the route through the exhibition appeals not only to the intellect but to the emotions, giving visitors the feeling that this story belongs to each and every one of us. After visiting the gift shop, we headed out to the Mardasson Memorial, an enormous honoring the memory of American soldiers wounded or killed during World War II's Battle of the Bulge.
The inner walls are covered with ten passages carved in stone commemorating the battle, and the parapet bears the names of the then 48 U.S. States. Insignia of most participating battalions are shown on the walls, representing the 76,890 killed and wounded during the thwarted December 1944–January 1945 German Watch on the Rhine offensive, known in English by the colloquial "Battle of the Bulge". The monument is rather remarkable. I liked walking around it to see all the military units that participated in the campaigns, noting some that I served with.
After visiting the museum and the memorial, it was time to be hungry, so we headed back into town, near the Sherman Tank, and sat down for a bite to eat at Le Nuts, dedicated to the infamous reply by Gen McAuliffe to the German Commander-- "NUTS!"
We enjoyed a burger, fries and even had a few Airborne Beers, with a souvenir helmet mug. A must see if you're in town.
After lunch we ventured out to Foy to see if we could track down the fox holes from 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Heading up route N30, we came to a crossroads upon entering Foy and made a left into Recogne. We found the Recogne-Bastogne German Military Cemetery-- In February 1945, following the American victory in Bastogne, the Germans established a cemetery in Recogne, where some 2,700 Americans and 3,000 Germans were buried. After the war in 1945-1946, the remains of the fallen American soldiers were transferred to Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial
In the meantime, the Belgian authorities started clearing all German cemeteries in the area, and transferred all German graves either to Recogne or to Lommel German war cemetery. Therefore, the cemetery also contains graves of Germans killed in 1940 or during the occupation.
Just up the street a monument in memory of the temporary American cemetery that was located at this place from 1945 to 1948. The cemetery counted 2701 deaths. Most have been reburied in the American cemeteries of Henri-Chapelle or Neupré. Follow Corbu Road to Noville and see Vaux Ridge which is where Captain Winters led 2nd Battalion’s assault against Noville, following Foy. Along the way you'll pass a home that was the former Aid Station for 2nd Battalion.
We headed to Noville and saw the Rechamps Church where Easy Company had their last night in Belgium, before headed to Hagenau, France.
Right: The Rechamps church was closed when we arrived, so we were only able to take pictures from the outside.
We headed back down the N30 and made a right hand turn into Foy and headed up the Foy-Bizory road. Once we passed the large field, the woods enveloped us and we could almost immediately see some of the fighting positions. On our second trip in March 2019, we also found fighting positions on the west side of Foy, below Recogne. My research suggested it was from Soldier's of 1st Battalion, 506th PIR. At both sites, the feelings were overwhelming and I was overcome with emotion.
Above: Photos of Easy's foxholes and the E/2-506 PIR monument on the road to Bizory.
Right: from the Bois Jacques is E/2-506 PIR's position overlooking Foy and the Sniper house.
We headed back into Bastogne for a bite to eat and to grab some refreshments for the evening-- there's nothing quite like a Belgian Beer.
The following day we headed back into Bastogne and made a stop at the 101st Airborne Museum. The museum opened at 10:00am which offered us more than enough time to see it all before our next scheduled event, the Bastogne Barracks.
The museum offers an exclusive collection of items from the Battle of the Bulge and window displays with amazing lifelike scenes and mannequins will take you back in the dramatic period of the Battle. This museum is definitely worth a visit!
The Bastogne Barracks is unassuming in it's view from the road, but entering the compound offers an entirely different perspective. On December 19, 1944 Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division arrived in Bastogne with the division and established his headquarters at the Sous-Lieutenant Heinz Barracks. On December 22, 1944 he wrote history when he answered "Nuts” to the German troops encircling Bastogne who had demanded their surrender. His short but powerful statement becomes a turning point in the Battle of the Bulge.
Pictures from inside the 101st Airborne Museum and the Bastogne Barracks.
The Bastogne Barracks is run by the Belgian Military and has unique hours, so be sure to visit the website to secure your admission in advance.
On Sunday Morning, we packed up our belongings and got on the road headed back to Stuttgart.
Despite the city's small size, it is obvious of the impact it had on the Allied victory in WWII and the people of Belgium are certain to never forget.
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