16 December 2019
The King of Belgium and the President of Germany will be attending a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.
World War II veterans and civic leaders gathered in Belgium today to commemorate those who fell in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the war.
Code named Operation Watch on the Rhine, the Wehrmacht, spearheaded by Waffen-SS armour, launched the attack on 16 December, 1944, taking Allied troops in Belgium and Luxembourg by relative surprise. The Germans poured their mobile strategic reserve into the offensive, committing remaining armoured divisions into one last gamble to break the Allied lines in two, with the ultimate aim of capturing the port of Antwerp. However, the heroic defence of Bastogne and artillery on the Elsenborn Ridge forced the attackers into narrow paths of advance that gave the Allies enough time to pull in troops to stop the offensive.
Ahead of the anniversary, veterans and military enthusiasts re-enacted the close-quarters fighting in the wooded hills of the Ardennes.
Belgium’s King Philippe and Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes were joined at the Mardasson Memorial by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Poland's President Andrzej Duda, plus envoys from Britain, Canada and France. In the afternoon, the leaders crossed the border to the Luxembourg Military Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, where US General George Patton was laid to rest. Patton was responsible for the American counter attack that drove the Germans back.
The town of Bastogne, which is close to the Luxembourg border, was the scene of today’s commemoration. Bastogne’s Mayor, Benoit Lutgen, said, “Our gratitude to the young Americans who fell on Ardennes soil is eternal. We owe them our freedom.”
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