Battle of the Bulge: The 69th Anniversary

Every year in mid-December, WWII veterans and ambassadors from Belgium and Luxembourg, gather at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the 19,000 American Soldiers fallen during the Battle of the Bulge.

Ambassadors and veterans each laid a wreath at the battle’s memorial and at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The president of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Association, Mr Doug C. Dillard talked about the American Soldiers who are now away from home and wished them all the best and to return soon.

Dillard is a former sergeant who served with the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion in the Battle of the Bulge. He arrived at Ardenne Forrest on January 8, 1945. At the beginning there were 600 men in his battalion, but after a week of fighting, only 98 were left so the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion was deactivated and the remaining men were transferred to the 82nd Airborne Division.

After the war, Dillard was named the first direct-commission second lieutenant in 3rd Army. He retired in 1977, the U.S. Army reports.

Battle of the Bulge The 69th Anniversary

Hitler’s last major offensive put 500,000 German soldiers against 60,000 American and 55,000 British troops, in a final attempt to force the Allies into a negotiated peace. Thousands of men died from both sides; some of them from wounds and exposure while others were killed by the cold.

“Cold, freezing cold, snow every day and up to your butt and hail … that’s what you had to remember; you had to function no matter what,” said George L. Watson, another Battle of the Bulge veteran who was only 20 years old when he enlisted.

Watson served with the 87th Inf. Div. He remembered the terrible weather they had to endure saying that the clothes weren’t adequate when the battle began and soldiers suffered from trench foot for a long time before the Army gave them rubbers for their feet.

He also recalled living in foxholes, fighting everyday to survive, always wanting to move to keep warm, falling asleep on his feet with his rifle supporting him and eating K-rations for Christmas.

Brig. Gen. Mike Paul Delobel, Belgium Defense Attaché who was also one of the event attendees, said “it’s also important that our young people remember so they can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

At the end of the bloody battle, 17,000 German soldiers were killed with Germany recording 85,000 casualties, which brought them closer to their surrender, on May 8, 1945.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE