Visiting the Mardasson Memorial, Bastogne, Belgium: solemnly remembering US losses in the Battle of the Bulge

Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Memorial to the Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne
Memorial to the Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne | Source
Bastogne Memorial
Bastogne Memorial | Source
Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, left, and then-Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard II at Bastogne, after victory battle.
Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, left, and then-Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard II at Bastogne, after victory battle. | Source
Prince Charles of Belgium and President Truman at a White House meeting in 1948
Prince Charles of Belgium and President Truman at a White House meeting in 1948 | Source
King Albert II of the Belgians
King Albert II of the Belgians | Source
Map location of Bastogne, in the Belgian province of Luxembourg
Map location of Bastogne, in the Belgian province of Luxembourg | Source

Some deep roots of Belgian-American friendship

The Battle of the Bulge, which raged in the closing months of World War Two, was especially high in US casualties. Much of the fighting occurred in eastern Belgium as well as in the neighbouring Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. A solemn and imposing monument, known as the Mardasson Memorial, honours the 76,890 US losses during the Battle of the Bulge. The Siege of Bastogne occurred between December 1944 and January 1945.

The Memorial was dedicated in 1950. Largely the work of architect Georges Dedoyard (1897-1988) (1), with murals by Fernand Léger (1881-1955), it is 12 metres high, 31 metres wide; an inner atrium measures 20 metres across.

The stone structure is in the shape of an enormous pentagram, and contains the names of all States of the Union (as they then were).

Memorably, when General Anthony C. McAuliffe (1898-1975), who commanded the 101st Airbourne Division, and his troops were surrounded by German forces and called upon to surrender, he replied: 'Nuts!'

After the end of World War Two, General McAuliffe was invited to unveil the German surrender documents at the National Archives, in Washington, DC. (A nut tree was also planted in Bastogne!)

The name 'Mardasson' refers to a hill of that name, some 2 kilometres from the Downtown area of Bastogne, on which the Memorial is built. The Wiltz river flows nearby; and students of military history may recall the name 'Wiltz' in association with the Battle of the Bulge: a town of that name in the neighbouring Grand Duchy of Luxembourg suffered considerable damage during the Battle.

Bastogne itself is situated in a Belgian province also known as Luxembourg, in the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ).

My visit to the Mardasson Memorial was curtailed, but if I get the opportunity to visit the district again I would be very interested to spend more time there.

Nearby is an Historical Centre, opened in 1976 by Prince Albert of Liège (1934-), who in 1993 became King Albert II of the Belgians, and who has been a repeated visitor to the Mardasson Memorial. After World War Two, when King Albert's uncle, Prince Charles of Belgium (1903-1983) was Regent of Belgium, the land on which the Memorial was to be built was gifted to the United States after World War Two, and earth from the site was presented to US President Harry S. Truman.

October 23, 2012

Note

(1) Other works by Architect Dedoyard include a number of bridges across the Meuse River in Liège, including the Pont des Arches and the Pont Kennedy .

Also worth seeing

In Bastogne itself, McAuliffe Square has a bust of General McAuliffe and a commemorative plaque.

St Vith , (distance: 52 kilometres) has Battle of the Bulge memories, having suffered severe damage during the Battle.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Bastogne : 178 kilometres). Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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