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Vets Mark Battle of the Bulge Anniversary

Vets Mark Battle of the Bulge Anniversary
1 hour, 3 minutes ago Top Stories - AP
 
By ROBERT WIELAARD, Associated Press Writer
 
BASTOGNE, Belgium - World War II-era jeeps and trucks rumbled through this town Saturday in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the deadliest battle in American history, the Battle of the Bulge.
 
Veterans from across the United States returned to find Bastogne covered in snow, just as it was that bitter cold December of 1944. The town of 14,000 took the brunt of the six-week battle that raged across the Ardennes hills of southern Belgium and Luxembourg.
 
"The American veterans who have returned 60 years later to the battle site represent those who gave their lives on our soil, so that today we can live free," Bastogne Mayor Philippe Collard said in French at a memorial honoring U.S. General George S. Patton.
 
Then he added in English, "We will never forget. You are home here."
 
Later, Belgium's King Albert was to lead a special commemoration at the town's vast star-shaped Mardasson Memorial. Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was attending, along with hundreds of war veterans.
 
The Battle of the Bulge was the war's largest land battle involving U.S. forces. It drew in more than a million troops 600,000 Germans, 500,000 Americans and 55,000 Britons who fought in bitter cold from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945.
 
Some 81,000 Americans and 100,000 Germans were killed or wounded in the fighting, Nazi Germany's last offensive.
 
"No American knows where to find Belgium on the map, but they all know about Bastogne," the daily De Standaard said in Saturday's edition.
 
 
The battle began when Germany's panzer divisions broke through the thinly held American front in the Belgian Ardennes sector, catching the Allies by surprise and driving the front westward in a "bulge" that ran deep into Belgian territory.
 
There was so much destruction that it was impossible to know exactly how many were killed in action, how many went missing and how many were wounded.
 
The Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge in Arlington, Va., says 19,000 American troops died, making the battle the deadliest in U.S. history.
 
Though surrounded and outnumbered, an American force held out at Bastogne, which was heavily damaged.
 
On Saturday, there were to be guided walks along the southern perimeter relieved by U.S. Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army, which rushed north from France in time to defeat the Germans.
 
There was also to be a military parade across Bastogne's central square, named for Anthony MacAuliffe, the acting commander of the 101st Airborne whose paratroopers repulsed repeated attacks.
 
On Dec. 22, 1944, the Germans gave MacAuliffe two hours to surrender or face "total annihilation." His famous reply that stumped the Germans was "Nuts!"
 
The 40-foot-high Mardasson Memorial bears the names of U.S. Army units that participated in the action as well as the names of the then-48 U.S. states in bronze letters. There is also a plaque that says, "Liberatoribus Americanis Populus Belgicus Memor" (The Belgian People Remember Their American Liberators).

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