Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bastogne World War II Sites

On a crisp Friday morning, November 11th - Veteran's Day in Europe as well as America - we drove to Bastogne, Belgium to tour some of the World War II sites, particularly the location of the Battle of the Bulge.  We were interesting in seeing where Joe was when he fought in that battle and was taken prisoner.

Our first stop was at a large monument just east of the city of Bastogne.  This armored tank was of the vintage used by the US soldiers in that campaign.

This was a small memorial to the American soldiers of the 101st Division who gave their lives to stop the Germans.

           The City of Bastogne will forever owe a debt to the American soldiers who gave their lives for the freedoms they now enjoy. 

This is a huge memorial that is in the shape of a star.  Each state that sent servicemen to Belgium is honored here.

                          Elder Beckstrand with Elder and Sister Anderson in front of the memorial.

The great state of Utah is listed with the other states who sent soldiers to fight against Hitler's army.

The monument was in a beautiful, quiet area on the top of one of the many hills outside the city.

From the top of the monument we could see an unobstructed view of the surrounding countryside.  There was a slight mist in the air - typical of November weather.

Another view from the top of the monument.

 We looked out over the valley and tried to imagine the horror of facing the German tanks as they rolled through this valley.  The battle took place in December, when snow and cold would have made conditions even more intolerable.  We were cold after just a few minute out in the elements.

Elder Beckstrand stands in front of the plaque paying tribute to Joe's Division - the 28th.
This was a map of the area where the battle took place.  The star shows the location of the monument.  Bastogne is the rectangular area just north and west.

This sign was at the entrance to the memorial, explaining the reasons the monument was constructed and how it is laid out.  It is a beautiful tribute to the American soldiers who fought here.

As we drove back to Bastogne we admired this lovely church in the center of town.

It was located across the street from the Battle of the Bulge Museum.

I took this shot for Traci and Cherie - the door lovers in our family.

The arrows point the way to the museum containing WWII artifacts.

I've seen lots of these motorcycles with their passenger cars in WWII movies.

This exhibit contained lots of helmets, water containers, and mess kits left in the area.

A large map on the wall showed the location of the various U.S. military units and the Germany army advances.  This was Hitler's the last big push to try to cut the allied forces in half by capturing Antwerp.  The secrecy with which he amassed his troups caught the allied troups completely by surprise.  Eisenhower had placed his new recruits in eastern Belgium because the fighting was less intense there.  Little did he know how quickly their fighting ability would be tested. 

 We were shocked when we saw Joe standing in the back of a jeep during a film that was being  shown of footage taken during the war. We had to stay and watch it the second time to be sure our eyes weren't deceiving us.  It was really him!

After leaving the museum we drove around the city of Bastogne to get a feel for the area.  There was a Veteran's Day parade being held on main street just as we arrived.

We stopped at the city square and got some luscious French pastries and some delicious French bread to make sandwiches for our lunch.

The square was surrounded by restaurants and cafes.  We enjoyed walking around the square and watching all of the interesting people.

Before leaving eastern Belgium we drove out into the countryside to get a feel for the places the armies were located during the war.

The rolling hills are visable in all directions.  This landscape is very different from the flat country we're used to seeing in Holland.

Joe said the battle in which he was taken prisoner was fought on a large hill.  It could have been located in any of these places. 

The churches here are different from the Netherlands.  These have tiled walls that almost look like quilt blocks sewed together.

Sister Anderson stands in front of a water tower in the small town of Wiltz.  It was cold and windy, and we were grateful we didn't have to stay out in the weather like the army did in December of 1945. 

We left eastern Belgium and drove back towards Brussel to the town of Waterloo.  I wanted to see where the great battle between Napoleon and Wellington took place in 1815.  This monument was erected in honor of Wellington and the English army for their valor in stopping Napoleon in his push to conquer Europe.

There was a large diorama in the round building behind us which depicted scenes from the Battle of Waterloo, but we had spent too much time in Bastogne and it was already closed.  It was okay - I just wanted to see the place where the battle took place.

It was just 5:30 pm when we were walking around the area, but the sun had almost set.  It gets dark early this time of year.

This picture over the door of the visitor's center shows scenes from the famous battle. 

As the sun set we could see people just coming down the stairs from the top of the monument.  It is quite a climb to the top.  It has been a long day and we have a long drive ahead of us to get back to Amsterdam.  I guess we'd better say goodbye to Belgium.  It's been a lovely day, and a sobering one.  We owe so much to the brave men who fought and gave their lives to preserve the freedoms we enjoy.

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