Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Benelux march in formation during a parade in Bastogne, Belgium, Dec. 10, 2022. The parade was part of the city's commemoration of the 78th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. (U.S. photo by Libby Weiler, USAG Benelux Public Affairs)
USAG Benelux Soldiers commemorate military legacy at Bastogne
Story by: Sgt. Thomas Sarsfield, USAG Benelux Directorate of Emergency Services
CHIEVRES AIR BASE, Belgium – In December of 1944, Bastogne became the scene of brutal conflict as German forces laid siege to the city.
Part of the campaign now known as the “Battle of the Bulge,” the German forces hoped to cut through Allied front lines in Bastogne and throughout the Ardennes Forest region in Belgium and Luxembourg in an effort to turn the tide of World War II.
During the siege, which lasted from Dec. 20 to 27, 1944, defenders fought through freezing rain, deep snow and record-breaking temperatures as they sought to prevent German forces from taking the city.
Now, seventy-eight years later, Bastogne marks the anniversary of the battle with a weekend of commemorative events.
The events, also called “Nuts Weekend” after the 101st Airborne Division Commander, U.S. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s, response to the German order of surrender during the battle, honor the courage and sacrifice of the thousands of U.S. troops and Belgian civilians who fought and died to keep the city out of German hands.
This year, 28 Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Benelux took part in the remembrance events from Dec. 9 through 11.
Throughout the weekend, they were able to learn about the battle’s history through a perimeter walk and visits to foxholes used during the siege, as well as participate in a parade and wreath laying ceremonies at squares named after U.S. Gen. George S. Patton and McAuliffe.
Sgt. Thomas Sarsfield, a Military Police Soldier assigned to Chièvres Air Base who attended the commemoration for the first time this year, shared his thoughts on what it was like to participate in the historic occasion.
Sgt. Thomas Sarsfield, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Directorate of Emergency Services
This is my last full year in the Benelux, and I did not want to pass up on the opportunity to go to Bastogne. It’s been on my list of things to do, and the Battle of the Bulge commemoration was the perfect time to go to this historic place.
The first time I ever heard about the Battle of the Bulge was when my uncle, Pete Ladowski, had me watch the TV series “Band of Brothers” as a child.
The series has special meaning to Ladowski since his great uncle, Pvt. Peter Przybyla, fought in World War II with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and was killed in action during the battle on Dec. 27, 1944.
Pvt. Peter Przybyla, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium on Dec. 27, 1944. His relative, Sgt. Thomas Sarsfield, a Military Police Soldier assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, participated in the commemoration of the 78th anniversary of the siege of Bastogne, Belgium, Dec. 10, 2022. (Photo Courtesy of Sgt. Thomas Sarsfield.)
Being able to see where he gave his life was truly special to me, and I’m excited to share my experience with my uncle.
Our visit to Bastogne lasted throughout the weekend, giving us the opportunity to experience multiple locations and events while we were there.
The first day started off with a trip to view foxholes used by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during the siege. It was a surreal experience, and provided a great visual representation of what the Soldiers here saw during the battle. To be able to walk in the same footsteps as so many before us and honor their bravery and sacrifices was truly special.
We were also able to visit the Bastogne War Museum, which showcased just how much World War II history is here in the city. The museum helped answer questions that I had regarding the history of the battle, and really put things into perspective. Being able to see what uniforms, vehicles, and memorabilia from the World War II time period was also really neat.
On Saturday (Dec. 10), we were able to participate in the 2022 Bastogne Perimeter Walk and follow the path of the city’s defenders during the siege, as well as a parade and wreath laying ceremonies.
The parade and ceremonies were amazing, and the love and support that the people have here in Bastogne is remarkable. Even after so many years, they continue to be so proud of what occurred here during the war.
It was an honor to be able to participate in all of the weekend’s events, commemorating the Soldiers who fought there and all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the siege.