- Rue Chamont 5, La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgique
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The Museum of the Battle of the Ardennes tells the story of the battle and liberation of La Roche and nearby villages on the left bank of the River Ourthe during the allied counteroffensive between 3 and 16 January 1945. In 1944-1945 the town of La Roche was almost completely destroyed and 114 inhabitants were killed.
The German offensive in the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge, began on 16 December 1944. It was during the night of 18 to 19 December that the first troop movements were seen in the vicinity of La Roche-en-Ardennes. The American soldiers then occupied the city, but on 21 december the Germans took over La Roche. From 23 December American warplanes bombed German positions in the Ardennes, in particular in La Roche, where a bridge on the Ourthe was still intact. La Roche was liberated on 11 January 1945, but in the surrounding villages the battle continued five more days. During the Battle of the Bulge 90% of the town of La Roche was destroyed and 114 inhabitants were killed.
Founded in 1992, the La Roche Museum of the Battle of the Ardennes (Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes) offers a particular focus on the fundamental role played by British troops in the liberation of the Ardennes. Of course the American and German army, with their respective arms and vehicles, are also well represented. Covering close to 1500 m2, the museum spreads over three levels. The visitor will discover over 120 mannequins of American, English, German and even Scottish soldiers with their equipment and armament, as well as uniforms donated by veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. He will also discover an important collection of light and heavy arms, personal objects and equipment found on the battlefield, some 20 military vehicles and the famous Enigma decoding machine of Polish origin. The daily life of the soldiers during the battle is captured in a collection of photographs. The museum presents wall maps of the successive stages of the Battle of the Bulge and a film with period pictures of the liberation of La Roche in January 1945.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial
The Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial can be found in Neupré, Wallonia. The Memorial is a stone structure bearing on its facade a massive American eagle and other sculptures. The cemetery contains the graves of 5,317 American soldiers, 65% of them being fallen airmen of the U.S. Air Force.