MARDASSON MEMORIAL REMEMBERS THE AMERICAN SACRIFICE IN THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE:
North-east of the town of Bastogne is the Mardasson Memorial, a star-shaped monument commemorating the American soldiers who died or were injured in the Siege of Bastogne during the Second World War. Built as a tribute from the Belgian people to the American nation, the memorial was intended to perpetuate the memory of those brave Americans who sacrificed their lives or were injured during the Battle of the Bulge. On our tour of Belgium we made a stop at the Memorial and got to know a little more about the events that took place in this part of Europe.
Battle of the Bulge in Brief
Bastogne is a quiet town situated on a ridge in the Ardennes. We normally don’t hear much about Bastogne on the news except when the Liège-Bastogne-Liège one-day cycling race is on. However, Bastogne was far from being a peaceful place during the Second Wold War. Due to its strategic location, the town was the centre of attraction for the Germans and fierce fighting took place for control of Bastogne in and around the town. The German aim was to ultimately advance to the port of Antwerp to cut off supplies and to prevent the British and American troops from linking up. It was unfortunate for Bastogne that all the roads in the Ardennes mountain range converged on this town, making the control of the crossroads vital to the Germans.
Legendary Spirit of Resistance
Bastogne was liberated by the Allied Forces in late 1944 , only to be attacked again by the Germans in December of that year. Taking advantage of the cold winter weather and under cover of fog, the Germans started attacking the sparse American deployment around Bastogne. Although Brigadier General McAuliffe, the 101st Airborne Division and others arrived a few days later to counter-attack the Germans, they were outnumbered and encircled. On December 22, the German Commander sent emissaries “To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne….” advising General McAuliffe to surrender or else they would suffer further bombardment by German heavy artillery. General McAuliffe was given two hours to consider the request and his famous response to the German Commander was just one word “NUTS”, which it seemed was translated to the German Commander as “Go to hell!”
Luckily for General McAuliffe, the weather cleared the next day, allowing American air retaliation and much needed food and medical supplies to be dropped in. General Patton and his troops arrived on December 26 and were successful in bringing the Battle of Bastogne to a close.
The Belgian People Remember
The Memorial is shaped to represent the star of freedom, with each of its five points measuring 31 metres. The diameter of the central atrium is 20 metres wide and about 12 metres high. We were
able to climb the spiral staircase to the top where a circular gallery leads to the orientation tables at each point of the star (these were scale models showing different stages of the battle). The names of the 48 states which made up the then United States are engraved around the top of the monument on the inner and outer walls.Around the outside are badges from the main battalions who participated in the Battle. On the inner wall the ten panels with gold engravings record the battle’s progression in English.
A crypt was also dug in the rock as a reminder of the sacrifice made by the 76,890 American heroes killed, injured or reported missing in the battle. The three altars are dedicated respectively to the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religions.
At the Memorial’s central point, there is a stone bearing the following inscription:
POPULUS BELGICUS MEMOR
4. VII. MCMXLVI
(The Belgian people remember their American liberators – 4th July 1946)
It was at this central point that some earth was removed on the 4th July 1946, placed in a casket, sealed in the presence of the United States Ambassador and sent by special plane to Washington where it was handed over in the sacred casket to the then president of the United States, Harry Truman.
For the Belgian people, the Mardasson Memorial is a symbol of remembrance of their American liberators and for the Americans, Bastogne is not only a reminder of their victorious counter offensive, but also a symbol of their legendary spirit of resistance.
Other Things to See
Another tribute at the site is the Eagle monument by The City and the Citizens of Bastogne. It reads:
“May this eagle always symbolize the sacrifices and heroism of the 101st Airborne Division and all its attached units. December 1944 – January 1945”
Bastogne War Museum
In March 2014, the Bastogne War Museum was opened just a stone’s throw from the Mardasson Memorial. This new museum covers everything about the Battle of the Bulge in a modern and interactive media.
The Mardasson Memorial is something that we wouldn’t normally seek out on our travels, so we were pleased to have been brought here and to see this important Belgian tribute.
Memorial du Mardasson
Colline du Mardasson