For the 75th Anniversary of the battle of the Bulge, Indian Head Association held its traditional winter event from 13th to 15th December 2019: “On the tracks of General Patton”. The basecamp was at Clairefontaine Sacré-Coeur Center in Arlon, next to the Luxembourg border. UNIVEM went with 25 members, the Half-Track M5 and the GMC CCKW 353 cargo.
About 40 vehicles were registered, among them, some very heavy vehicles such as two M26 Pacific (!), a M16 Half-Track, a Diamond T 969 and several Jeep and Dodge. At 16:30, the convoy headed toward the city-center of Arlon.
Vehicles were parked in front of the Saint-Martin church, while participants could walk to the Christmas Market and then have dinner. At 20:00, a big swing and jazz concert “Remember 1944” was held inside the church by the SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) International Orchestra.
On Saturday, start at 9:30 under the rain to reach through the countryside roads the small town of Fouches. A ceremony was held to honor the crew of a B-17 who crashed here on the 9th November 1944. Also to mention, the presence of Mr George Patton Waters (Grandson of the General Patton) who participated all the weekend in the different activities.
The convoy then took the direction of the city-center of Arlon where vehicules were displayed to the public. After the meal, a ceremony was held at 15:00 at the General Patton monument. At 16:30, the convoy went back at Clairefontaine. At night, a big dinner was organised and all participants got a souvenir medal.
On Sunday 15th, after a short night, convoy started at 8:30! Direction Bastogne! On the route, a halt was done at a petrol station next to the Luxembourg border, where the very low price of gas made the joy of many participants. After a trip through the countryside to skirt Bastogne and arrive from the north, the convoy arrived in town at 11:00.
Initially, Bastogne War Museum was to be visited today, but because of the presence of many Heads of States the next day for the official ceremony, the museum was closed. As a matter of fact, participants went to “Bastogne Barracks” which was 500 meters away and where the Belgian War Heritage Institute stocks most of its vehicles. Open days and several activities are held: militaria market, presence of M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley from the US Army, visit of the basement where General McAuliffe said his famous “Nuts!” when German forces asked him to surrender, presence of the Belgian Army with several armored vehicles, visit of the Vehicle Conservation Center and Restauration Center, tank demos, or even the presence of a Panther from the Saumur Tank Museum. So many nice things to see!
At 14:30, it’s the big parade in Bastogne! A dozen tank from Bastogne Barracks open the parade. The first one is a Sherman “Jumbo” in the marking of “Cobra King”, the first tank to enter Bastogne in 1944. They are followed by many trucks that were displayed in Bastogne Barracks and then comes the column of the Indian Head and finally a third column composed of lighter vehicles. Altogether, there were about 250 vehicles in the streets of Bastogne, and a lot of spectators (the city talks about 100,000 people on the weekend). Also to mention, Piper Cub flew above the city during the parade! After the parade, vehicles were parked in the main street to be displayed for the public.
Then at 17:00, our convoy went back in Arlon. From there, participants went back to home after a cold, but wonderful weekend! It was also one of the last occasion to meet veterans to talk to them so that we can pass their memory to future generations. We shall never forget.
Thanks to Pierre the photographer for some of his beautiful pictures.