- Point of Interest
- Le Bois Jacques, Bastogne, Belgique
The small village of Foy, just four kilometers to the north of Bastogne on the road to Houffalize, was occupied by the Germans from 21 December 1944 to 13 January 1945. The American troops had installed in Jack’s wood in Foy, in their strive for the liberation of Bastogne.
Traces of the battle around Bastogne are still visible in Jack’s wood (Bois Jacques) in Foy: foxholes and cavities dug into the ground in order to protect the American soldiers from hostile fire. They show the hard fighting conditions around Bastogne from December 1944 to January 1945. The winter was harsh and the cold intense, with sometimes temperatures below 28 Celsius at night. In December not only were the American soldiers outnumbered approximately 5-1 by their German opponents, they were also lacking in cold-weather gear, ammunition, food and medical supplies. Due to bad weather the American forces could not be resupplied by air, nor was tactical air support available. After Christmas, when finally the sky was clearing up, the American planes could drop the supplies. In January American reinforcements arrived. The Easy Company, the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, occupied Jack’s wood and dug foxholes to protect the unit against hostile artillery. There was constant mortar, rocket and artillery fire from both sides. Between 9 and 13 January the Easy Company suffered its most casualties. On 13 January they attacked Foy and reconquered the village house after house. Casualties on both sides were considerable, but at the end of the day Foy was taken over.
The Easy Company became famous for its role in the Battle of the Bulge. It was further immortalized in Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers, that focuses on the story of the Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne. The subsequent TV series were a global success.
Melvin ‘Bud’ Biddle was a soft-spoken young man who adored pretty Leona, his childhood sweetheart. War tore him away from his quiet Midwest town and plunged him in the middle of the ferocious fight for the Belgian Ardennes. Much to his own surprise, Bud returned home a hero.
Augusta Chiwy was a Belgian nurse who risked her life treating badly wounded American soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge. Her story remained unknown until very late in her life when the Belgian king awarded her the highest honor and a documentary about her courage won an American Emmy.
Battle of the Bulge
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.
Bastogne War Museum
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.
Fred Glavan left high school in Minnesota to join the elite American airborne forces. It took a long year of rigorous training before he received the proud paratrooper’s wings. Early in 1945 Fred’s unit was thrown into the Battle of the Bulge. In less than a week he was dead.
Hubert Pierlot, born in Cugnon, Belgium, was Prime Minister of the Belgian government in exile in London from September 1940 to September 1944. During the war he played an important role in the negotiations between the Allied powers. After the liberation of Belgium Pierlot returned to Brussels, where he headed a government of national unity until February 1945.