By Dr. Linda Miller
The Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge begins December 16. This was the date in 1944 in Bastogne, Belgium in fog and zero degrees American soldiers were surprised at 5:30 a.m. by German Panzer divisions roaring out of the Ardennes Forest. The Battle of the Bulge, the largest land battle in American history, had begun.
Fifteen years ago, on the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, I stood on that historic spot at 5:30 a.m. following a night vigil in snow and frigid temperatures much like what the soldiers felt in 1944. The battle officially lasted until January 28, 1945 though some areas around Echternach were not liberated until February 12. Traveling as a historian reporter with the Battle of the Bulge Association delegation of 102 American veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and 116 family members, I relieved those moments in the snowy Ardennes.
What I experienced as a veteran history teacher during those 10 days from December 10-20, 2004, could not be found in any textbooks. The veterans recounted their stories hidden in foxholes still visible as if it were yesterday.
Mayor and citizen alike poured out love and appreciation saying, “We will never forget what you did here and we will never let our children forget either.” Everywhere people said “thank you”.
At Wiltz, I learned that William Nellis, namesake for Nellis Air Force Base, was shot down near there. At Hamm Cemetery in Luxembourg, wrapped in blankets for 90 minutes, one of the veterans told me that he wanted to come to honor his fallen buddies because, “They were the real heroes.”
December 18 is known as “nuts” day named in honor of General McAuliffe who, when asked by the Germans to surrender, said “Nuts”. Not really but that was the printable version. The pouring rain did not stop throngs of people from lining the streets and watching the veterans and their king in a parade. The king threw nuts from the balcony and everybody received a bag of nuts.
The Belgian and Luxemboug people know what it is like to be without freedom. The American veterans gave them their life, their prosperity and their children. For this they are eternally thankful.
The Battle of the Bulge Association conducted a 75th Anniversary tour this year.
PICTURE: Dr. Linda Miller at Military Museum at Dietrich Luxembourg