December 2019 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the final German offensive campaign which saw the Americans suffer their largest number of casualties of any battle in World War II, and in fact more than the rest of the European conflict from Normandy to the German surrender put together. When you talk about visiting places related to the Battle of the Bulge, you really only need to focus on two places: Eastern Belgium and Luxembourg.
The object of the offensive was to recapture Antwerp and its invaluable harbor. However, the furthest that the Germans advanced was near Dinant, Belgium. Notice the ring around Bastogne in the below map. That is where Easy Company had to hunker down in the freezing winter and defend themselves during the battle.
Both Belgium and Luxembourg memorialize the events of the battle in numerous ways… museums, statues, hikes, monuments, beer, etc. The culmination, in what may be the most important memorial of all, is the Luxembourg American Cemetary and Memorial. If you have heard of the Band of Brothers, 101st Airborne Division, and General George S. Patton then you know some of the key iconic Americans involved in this battle.
During the last two winters, I have attempted to visit as many sites as possible to absorb myself in the remembrance of the sacrifices during the time of the year that the battle took place. It wouldn’t be itsabrewtifulworld though if there weren’t a few beer pilgrimages along the way. Below I have categorized the places I have visited in no chronological order.
Luxembourg was engulfed by this offensive and the gratitude for the liberation of Luxembourg by the Americans still lingers today much like I experienced in Plzen, Czech Republic.
Other Blog Posts discussing Battle of the Bulge Sites or related to Luxembourg
- Having Beers With Patton
- Christmas & War in the Eifel
- Christmas in Luxembourg City
- Beer & Bike: Durbuy & La Roche-en-Ardenne
Note: Numbers are used as reference further in the post.
Map of Sites
Icons on this map which are not grey are ones I have visited and most are presented in this post. The grey icons are the sites I have not visited but are either related or possibly of interest to those visiting the area.
Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes (La Roche-en-Ardenne)
Refer to link #4 above.
Bastogne War Museum
The Bastogne War Museum sits next to the Mardasson Memorial. It is flanked by an enormous statue depicting the iconic V-J Day on Times Square kiss photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Two of my favorite artifacts in the museum were the famous Bastogne road sign and the front page of The Atlanta Journal the day after Hiroshima.
101st Airborne Museum “The Mess”
Location: Bastogne. During the battle, this was a German officer barracks and afterwards a Red Cross hospital. Some highlights are wonderful photography of the rough winter conditions, a very realistic bomb shelter experience, and learning about the origin story behind Airborne beer which is served in a ceramic helmet. The latter comes from the story where Vincent Speranza, veteran of the 501st, collected beer in his helmet from an abandoned nearby tavern to quench the thirst of a wounded comrade.
Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes Clervaux
The museum is located in the Chateau de Clervaux. This is probably the smallest of the Battle of the Bulge Museums on this list. A couple highlights are the Liberty Road marker and some clippings regarding the 1976 avenging murder of Jaochim Peiper, the German commando responsible for the Malmedy Massacre who had been living in France under a new identity.
Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes Wiltz
This museum is combined with the brewery and tanner museum (Musée National d’Art Brassicole et de la Tannerie). The main highlight here is finding out about the heartwarming story of the American St. Nick. Wiltz, Luxembourg had suffered from Nazi occupation for four years. On December 5, 1944, the American soldiers organized a St. Nicholas celebration with Corporal Richard Brookins dressing up as St. Nicholas and the soldiers making hot chocolate, donuts, and cookies for the kids.
General Patton Museum
Location: Ettelbruck, Luxembourg. Most of the General Patton Museum focuses on the Luxembourg Resistance and the dedication to the Grand Duchess Charlotte and family who had to flee to England during the war. But my favorite part of the museum was a room dedicated to the press coverage of Patton and a reprint of his infamous farewell speech to his troops in October 1945. You have to read it to believe it.
National Museum of Military History
Location: Diekirch, Luxembourg. I didn’t visit the interior of the museum but the Liberty Trail marker resides just outside this museum.
Baugnez Crossroads (Malmedy Massacre Memorial)
See Link #2 above.
Le Bois de la Paix (Woods of Peace)
Location: near Bastogne. During the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, veterans were allowed to choose a tree to plant. The trees were arranged in the UNICEF symbol for peace.
101st Airborne Easy Company – Battle of the Bulge Memorial
Easy Company was the nickname of E Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Otherwise known as The Screaming Eagles and the subject of the Band of Brothers. This is located between the Woods of Peace and the Bois Jacques foxholes.
Along with the Luxembourg Cemetery, this is the must-visit memorial to the soldiers of the Battle of the Bulge. It was dedicated in 1950 and is shaped like a five-pointed American star. It is adjacent to the Bastogne War Museum.
General George S. Patton Memorial
Oddly located in the corner of a parking lot in Bastogne.
See Link #1 above.
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
This cemetery which had already been founded on December 29, 1944 right in the middle of the ongoing battle today has more than 5000 graves of American soldiers, many of them from Patton’s 3rd Army. Patton died tragically less than one year later from the injuries suffered from a car collision in Germany. It was Patton’s wife who chose the Luxembourg cemetery to fulfil his wish to be buried with his men. Luxembourg had been the base of his command during the battle and he and his army were largely responsible for its liberation. You can get close to Patton’s grave from the monument platform but you cannot see the inscription from there. Unfortunately during my visit, the entire section of graves surrounding Patton’s grave were cordoned off. So it is only possible to get a good photo of the inscription on his cross with a good zoom lens.
Remembrance Hikes & Forest Walks
Bois Jacques Foxholes 101st Easy Company
This is not an organized hike, but a forested area that contains foxholes made by the soldiers of Easy Company. The forest around the foxholes is possible to explore.
Schumann’s Eck Battle Of Bulge Memorial Trail
Schumann’s Eck was the site of a battle over this important crossroads. There is a monument to the battle and just up the road is the start of a short hike thru the forest where American foxholes are still visible. In one corner of the trail is a memorial marking the location of a mass grave where 160 bodies of both Germans and Americans was found. The entire hike is around 5km. The trail can be accessed with parking at either spots marked with A or 2.
Komoot Link: Schumannseck Memorial Trail
Hoesdorf Plateau Remembrance Walk
The area known as the “Hoesdorf Plateau” marks the spot where Germans and an undersized American force of 109th Infantry Regiment fought a 3-day battle from December 16-18. This area is bordered by the rivers Our and Sure on two sides. The river Our marks the border between Luxembourg and Germany and was heavily fortified. The Germans crossed the Our river to attack the Americans but despite taking several casualties, the German numbers overwhelmed the 109th who were ordered to retreat. The German advance was ultimately repelled by Patton’s 3rd Army who forced them back across the river. In January 1945, the Germans in this area were finally defeated.
I have included my map recorded by Komoot and also provided some links that are helpful in making the most of this hike. There are a number of information panels along the way pointing out important sites. I wasn’t aware of this until after I was well into my hike. I did the hike in the counter-clockwise direction which in retrospect I would not recommend doing because some information on panel 6 gave some tips on what to look for later on in the hike. Since I was doing them in the reverse order, I missed out on this key strategic detail. Along the way I spotted panels 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, and 15. I am not sure how I managed to miss 5, 8, 11, and 13.
Nevertheless, I found that the trail was not always clearly marked at intersections in the forests and it is possible I cut off a portion of the trail. The marker you are trying to follow looks like a white star in a blue arrow. There is a sign version and a painted version.
I parked the car at the Reisdorf train station, however, there is a better spot to park that will save about 2km of hiking up and down a long muddy road between Reisdorf and the plateau. The length of the hike I took was about 21km.
- Komoot Link: Hoesdorf Plateau Remembrance Walk
- Tourist Website Map: Remembrance Walk
- Great post from another blogger: Joe Demadio’s blog post (notice the #65 on the memorial panel. This marked the 65th anniversary of the battle. This year, the number 75 appears on that panel.)
Hollerather Knie (Shark Teeth Tank Obstacles)
See Link #2 above.
War-Related Beer Pilgrimages
Musée National d’Art Brassicole et de la Tannerie
This brewery and tannery museum is housed in the same chateau as Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes Wiltz. The beer-related part of the museum has a replica pub with a lot of Gambrinus iconography and the audioguide explains the history of Gambrinus. Another room contains artifacts from various historical breweries in Luxembourg. Finally there is a small micro-brewery facility which is operated in cooperation with Brasserie Simon, a larger brewery in the region.
This brewpub and restaurant in Bastogne is home to Airborne beer. There are blond, dubbel, and tripel versions of the beer and they are served in a small ceramic American GI helmet. The story behind that is detailed above at the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne.
The Official War Beer
There are two variants of The Official War Beer, an amber and a blonde. This beer seems to be trying to imitate the success of Airborne by also incorporating a ceramic mug in the shape of a hand grenade. I saw this for sale at Boucherie Baltus on the corner of Bastogne’s MacAuliffe Square. It is brewed by Saint Monon brewery in Belgium.
Other Must See Sites in the Region
See Link #3 above.
See Link #3 above.
Other Breweries in the Region
Brouwerij van Achouffe
The makers of La Chouffe and other Chouffes need no introduction to Belgian beer lovers. This brewery is close enough to Bastogne that it should not be missed. There is a restaurant, a shop, and a guided tour.
The Diekirch brewery sits tantalizingly in the center of the namesake town of Diekirch. However, it is not possible to visit the brewery. To enjoy a Diekirch in Diekirch, one must visit a local pub.
National Brewery (Bofferding)
The National Brewery makes both Bofferding and Battin. The brewery was closed during my visit but it looks like it is set up for nice tours and has an adjacent brasserie restaurant to enjoy the beer.
These, of course, are not all of the possible sites related to the Battle of the Bulge, but it covers many of the major ones. For example, one still on my list is a monument near Dinant which marks the furthest advance of the German army. Visiting these sites while I have the opportunity to live in the region seems almost a necessity. I am driven to continue to seek these places out. It is New Years Day 2020 as I complete this post and I wish anyone who had the patience and stamina to read or scroll to the end a very happy, healthy, and successful New Year!