Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Battle of the Bulge Cemetery - Luxembourg

Day 12 - We docked in Traben-Trarbach and disembarked for a tour of Luxembourg. This tiny nation comprises less than 1,000 square miles. It is a constitutional monarchy located between Belgium, France and Germany. A little history now before I go on.

German forces occupied Luxembourg in May, 1940 and its liberation (primarily by American troops) began in September, 1944. The Battle of the Bulge began with Hitler's desperate attack through the Ardennes in an attempt to drive out the Allied forces. The resulting battle, called "the greatest American battle of the Second World War" by Winston Churchill, raged here from December 16, 1944 to January 28, 1945. The US. suffered 8,447 killed, 46,170 wounded and 20,905 missing or imprisoned. The Germans suffered 10,749 killed, 34,439 wounded and 32,487 missing or imprisoned.

We arrived at the cemetery to beautiful gates adorned with golden eagles and wreaths. This land is bequeathed in perpetuity without payment or taxes to the American people to honor their dead. Our flag flies above it.

There is a large tower that contains a carillon that played America the Beautiful, Amazing Grace, Battle Hymn of the Republic, etc. and set a somber and overwhelming tone for the visit.

In case you can't read the inscription, it says:

In proud remembrance
Of the achievements of her sons
And in humble tribute
To their sacrifices
This memorial has been erected by
The United States of America

Maps showing the European theater and the Battle of the Bulge were mounted on slabs that contained the name of thousands of Missing In Action military men.

There are two Medal of Honor winners buried here, one of which was this young man from Indiana.

The most visited grave is that of General George S. Patton, Jr. Though he was killed in an automobile accident, he had requested he be buried here with his men.

The entire trip was worth the visit to this cemetery.

Our next stop was in stark contrast to the beautiful grounds we had just left. We were driven to a parking lot and walked through the woods to a German cemetery. Bodies of soldiers were gathered from all over Belgium and brought here for burial. While our soldiers were buried in bronze caskets in their own plot, the German soldiers share a cross with several names on it. They were buried in burlap bags. There is one common grave of over 4,000 soldiers. Because the German government contributes only 6-7% to the maintenance of this cemetery, Luxembourg refuses to fly the German flag.

We had a group lunch in Luxembourg City and then had some individual time to look around. We visited Notre Dame Cathedral and I took a picture of this sign requesting silence in French and German. Ruhe is a family name on my mother's side. This magnificent Gothic structure was constructed between 1613 and 1621. It holds the royal family vault and the huge sarcophagus of Count of Luxembourg John I of Bohemia ("John the Blind"; 1296-1346)

We stopped at a beautiful overlook on the return to the ship. This is one of a very few pictures of the two of us on this trip.

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