The Battle of the Bulge
— An account written on the walls of the monument. —
This Memorial and the Earth surrounding are dedicated to the enduring friendship of the peoples of Belgium and the United States who forged a bond from their common struggle to defeat the enemy of all free peoples. For the armies of the United States, in numbers of men engaged, in the courage shown by all forces, in the intrepid decision of their leaders, and in the final accomplishment, it was one of the great battles of their history. For the people of Belgium, it was final stand against an enemy who, for nearly five years, had violated their soil and vainly tried to crush their National spirit. It was the last act of the great liberation.
The uniformed ranks of the United States fought for this soil, as if had been their homeland. The Belgium civilians, unarmed, refused to abandon it in face of the oncoming enemy. The Battle of the Bulge opened on December 16th, 1944, with an attack by the German enemy which broke the American front, enveloped the Ardennes country and, at its extremities, reached almost to the river Meuse. It closed in the final week of January 1945. The far object of the German enemy was to be the Port of Antwerp.
The battle began with fog and darkness. The thin defending line was overwhelmed and broken under weight of fire and metal. The Ardennes door lay open. Trough three great gaps in the line the spearheads were advancing. Towards St-Vith, form both flanks around the schnee Eifel. Towards Bastogne, after leaping the rivers Our. Of reserves, the theater had but two divisions, undermanned and underequipped. In the north, near Monschau, there is a ridge called Elsenborn which is nature's bastion guarding the road to Liege and the far-off port.
In the every hour when the enemy loosed his lightning, an American corps was attacking near this ground. As the shock of the enemy guns and armour fell on these divisions, their right flank folded back and stood fast on the heights of Elsenborn. On the hills, near Monschau, the line of American guns beat time with this movement, and their fire withered the enemy corps on the right.
Together, the working of these forces at the beginning denied the enemy his chance to expand his salient towards the great. Cities and the see from out of the north, American armour rode to St Vith, at first a combat team, and then a division. From out of the south, garrison rode for Bastogne. It counted an Airborne division and a team of armour. On the ground, it would link with a battalion of tank destroyers sent from the north. Right under the guns, the oddmen joined the fighting, repairmen, clerks, police, and drivers of trucks. The picked up arms and moved to threatened, crossroads, or blew a bridge, or guarded the precious stores.
In Britain, the newly arrived formations were alerted to go by air to defend the line of the Meuse. The base supply in France reorganized to feed the battle; its convoys going elsewhere were halted and faced about. At St Vith, the enemy already swarmed over the country, but the rescuing armour arrived in time to block the road, blunt the blow, and cripple the enemy power during the crisis hours. The spearhead of the panzer army in the north rolled off the flank of this defense and on, past Stavelot. Then, in the defiles beyond the river Ambleve, it was trapped and held by the new forces of the counter attack. The fighting was within twenty miles of Liege.
The race to Bastogne was won by American column; it closed in just in time to confront an enemy armoured corps. The fighting began before the defenders could take position. They organized under fire from enemy guns. In this way began the siege now famed in history. The lines of Bastogne held firm, though the storm beat all around. By direct assault the enemy armoured corps tried to gain the city. Its men and metal were driven back at every point. And so the defeated armour flowed on and around Bastogne still seeking to gain the line of river Meuse. Its spearpoint reached almost to the door of Dinant before it was stopped by the fire of the new American line. The defeat of this southern panzer army was made sure by the stand of Bastogne. To the south of the bulge, an American army had been attacking eastward. It was called now to halt and wheel to north. Its nearest corps moved out upon this mission. From out of the corps one division struck towards Bastogne.
The weather at last turned cold. The loss from exposure grew great, as well as the loss from fire. Attacking in snow suits, the enemy could scarcely be seen. Bastogne became the chief prize in the daily struggle, as men fought for shelter and for warmth. The folk of the Ardennes opened their hearts and hearths to the defenders. They shared with them their food, their blankets, and their fuel. They tore up their bedsheets for use in concealing men and weapons. They nursed the wounded and helped to comfort the sick. By Christmas Eve, the enemy knew that his plan was defeated.
But there was no sudden strategic retreat. Every hill and roadway had to be re-won by fire power and by paying a price in the lives as valiant men. In the battle fought here 76,890 Americans were killed, or wounded, or were marked missing. Seldom has more American blood been split in the course of a single battle. The number of Belgians who died or suffered wounds or great privation helping these friends from overseas in the common defense cannot be known of these dead and of all who fought here. The now living may attest the greatness of the deed only by increased devotion to the freedom for which they braved the fire. Colonel Armstrong