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News | Dec. 22, 2017

DLA personnel brave Belgian cold, honor WWII heroes in memorial walk

By Jim White, DLA Europe & Africa

Members of the DLA Europe & Africa Team braved the winter weather Dec. 16 to participate in the 40th Annual Bastogne Memorial Walk at Bastogne, Belgium.

This event commemorates the heroic stand made by the 101st Airborne Division and Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division during the December 1944 Ardennes Offensive — more popularly known as the Battle of the Bulge.

The Battle of the Bulge was the last large-scale Nazi offensive in the West. Attacking along an 85-mile front of the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg, the overwhelming Nazi force sought to split the British and American armies and reach the English Channel.  

Fighting tenaciously and suffering heavy casualties, the American defenders of the 28th, 106th, 9th Armored, 2nd and 4th Infantry Divisions bought precious time which allowed Allied reinforcements to arrive.

Among these reinforcements were Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division and the “Screaming Eagles” of the 101st Airborne Division, who on Dec. 18 and 19 arrived at the town of Bastogne — a critical road network hub in the Ardennes.

Although surrounded, outnumbered and short on ammunition, winter clothing, fuel, and medical supplies, the tankers and airborne troopers proceeded to throw back everything the Nazis threw at them. At one point during the siege, the Nazis appealed to the “well known American sense of humanity” to demand their surrender. In reply, acting 101st Division Commander Army Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, responded with one word: “NUTS!”

Today Bastogne remains a quiet agricultural and transportation hub in western Belgium. However, the people of Belgium remember with gratitude the sacrifices Americans made for them in these desperate days of 1944.

Since 1977, the citizens of Bastogne honor those sacrifices by hosting the Annual Bastogne Memorial Walk. The walk covers distances of 7, 12 and 20 km., circling the area held the Americans held during the siege.

This year, the route encompassed the scene of the landing zones and drop zones used during aerial resupply operations and the site of the Nazi attack on Christmas Day, which saw the complete destruction of a German tank and mechanized infantry battalions.

The memorial event also includes military reenactments, a patriotic ceremony and a parade featuring World War II vehicles, veterans and military groups, ending at the Town Hall with the symbolic throwing of nuts — in honor of McAuliffe’s memorable reply.

Though damp, cold and a bit footsore by the end of the day, the DLA Europe & Africa participants took pride in being able to honor their comrades and come away with some small sense of the conditions these brave men endured in those cold, dark days of December 1944.