Flag Ceremony Honors 70th Anniversary of Battle of the Bulge
June 6, 2014
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (June 5, 2014) ‐‐ Nearing the 70th anniversary of the infamous Battle of the Bulge, representatives from several of the Allied nations that fought in the battle met at Fort Meade to celebrate their partnership.
A flag ceremony, hosted by the Battle of the Bulge Historical Foundation, was held Friday at the Battle of the Bulge Conference Room at the Medal of Honor Memorial Library to recognize the partnership between Belgium, Luxembourg and the United States.
Jean-Louis Wolzfeld, ambassador to Luxembourg, and Brig. Gen. Johan Andries of the Naval and Air Attaché at the Belgium Embassy each presented Garrison Commander Col. Brian P. Foley with flags of their respective countries.
"Today's ceremony underpins the respect and trust between our three nations," Andries said in his remarks.
Soldiers who fought in the World War II battle, including Fort Meade's retired Lt. Col. Alfred Shehab, also attended the ceremony.
"Veterans are the brave ones who fought and served on the battlefield," Andries said. "They are the ones that really had to undergo the horror of war."
The five-week battle, which lasted from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945, was fought in the forested Ardennes mountain region in Belgium. The major German offensive near the end of the war was aimed to split the Allied line of the American and British troops.
In addition to the frigid Belgium winter, Soldiers fought through several snowstorms in the Ardennes forests, which prevented air support and the ability to move in supplies.
Although the Allies were victorious, there were nearly 90,000 American casualties -- 19,000 of whom were killed.
Wolzfeld said that it wasn't just Luxembourg and Belgium that were freed of German occupation during the battle. The Battle of the Bulge helped liberate the remaining countries under Axis control.
"The whole European continent is now free, democratic and prosperous," Wolzfeld said.
In addition to the flag presentation, Douglas Dillard -- who was assigned to the 551st parachute Infantry Battalion during the Battle of the Bulge -- discussed his experiences and "put a face" on the American infantrymen who took part in the battle.
"They paid the ultimate price in winning the battle," he said.
At the end of the ceremony, Dillard offered a toast to the partnership. The use of red napkins during the toast represented the common color in all three national flags and the blood shed during the Battle of the Bulge.
"The tragedies of the war in Europe ... in the snowy and ice forests of the Ardennes Region, later known as the Battle of the Bulge, resulted in an enduring and special partnership with Belgium and Luxembourg," Foley said.
Foley also addressed the relationship that Fort Meade has with a city in Belgium.
"Since the establishment of the Battle of the Bulge Historical Foundation, Fort Meade has enjoyed a sister city relationship with Stavelot, Belgium," Foley said. "We want to rekindle that relationship that has waned over the years."