- Rue de La-Roche 40, Bastogne, Belgique
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The Bastogne Barracks Museum was opened in 2010. It is located in the barracks that accomodated the Allied Headquarters during the Ardennes Offensive in 1944. Restored parts of the barracks exhibit a collection of materials used in the fighting. The so called Nuts-basement shows the office where General McAuliffe spoke the famous word ‘Nuts’,that had a major influence on the outcome of the Offensive.
After the D-Day-invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, the allied forces pushed forward and reached the Ardennes. Even though the Allies largely occupied the region, Hitler decided to undertake one last surprise attack, in order to improve his position in the negotiations about the end of the war. The Ardennes Offensive would be successful when Hitlers troops could advance to the river Meuse and subsequently would conquer Antwerp and its harbour, that was of great strategic importance to the allied troops.
In this Ardennes Offensive Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe played a major role. As commander of the American 101st Airborne Division he had been involded in the Normandy invasion as well as in Operation Market Garden. On 19 December 1944, McAuliffe and his division arrived in Bastogne, where he established his headquarters at the Heintz Barracks. What followed was a heavy attack of German troops and tanks, that succeeded in pushing back the allied front line. On 21 December German troops encircled Bastogne; McAuliffe and his 18,000 soldiers were completely enclosed. The following day the German commander Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz sent an ultimatum to the American headquarters in Bastogne, saying: “There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town.” When General McAuliffe received this message, his immediate reaction was: “Nuts!” and since McAuliffe’s intentions could not be better frased, the official reply to Von Lüttwitz was: “To the German Commander. NUTS! The American Commander”. A few more days of heavy fighting followed, but McAuliffe and his men stood firm. They were finally freed after an American air raid. For his braveness at Bastogne, McAuliffe was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
In December 1944, when the Allies had advanced unto the Belgian Ardennes, they were completely surprised by three German armies. This was the beginning of the Ardennes Offensive or ‘Battle of the Bulge’. It was a last desperate attempt of the German Wehrmacht to cut through the allied lines. The battle lasted more than six weeks and took many lives on both sides.
Belgium’s different regions all offer unique experiences: Wallonia is dotted with picturesque sites and the lush Belgian Ardennes, while Flanders houses the renowned medieval cities of Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. Brussels, capital of both Belgium and Europe, holds a unique
The Bastogne War Museum represents a new way to remember the Second World War in Belgium. It offers a fresh perception in a modern and interactive framework of the causes, events and consequences of the Second World War, with a special focus on the Ardennes counteroffensive: the Battle of the Bulge.
Like the other children in La Roche, Andrée Collin was eagerly looking forward to Christmas of 1944. In September the Americans had liberated the Belgian town from Nazi occupation. There were plans for a banquet and a ball on 25 December. Hitler’s counteroffensive in the Ardennes brought a nightmare instead.