Scouts walk in Bastogne with World War II veterans
December 14, 2011
ARDENNES FOREST, Belgium-Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from Heidelberg's Troop 284 walked in the footsteps of the Allied forces who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium Dec. 10.
The Scouts were among thousands who travel to Bastogne annually to walk 8, 18 or 22 kilometers to remember the battle that lasted from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945.
The Battle of the Bulge is considered the largest land battle in U.S. Army history.
Along the route, reenactors dress in period uniforms, drive World War II jeeps, carry authentic equipment and march in formation during the afternoon parade following the walk.
Often, they enact a scene from that harsh winter, reviving the details of the war for those nearby.
They pop out of a foxhole, create a makeshift hospital or crouch behind bunkers.
As young people in Europe, the Scouts appreciated the first-hand experience the trip offered them.
This year as always, veterans of the battle attended and one of them, Robert Izumi, talked to Cub Scouts from Troop 284.
"We met him at the Café 1900 on the town square in Bastogne," said Shane Colbert, 10. "He told us what he was in the military and about his life."
Izumi told the boys he joined the Army when he was 17 years old, that he was a sergeant major with the 101st Airborne Division and that he was one of the Soldiers who liberated Bastogne in World War II. Izumi currently lives in California.
Colbert walked the 8-kilometer route and said it was "rainy and muddy." Yet, he learned, conditions were colder and snowier 66 years ago.
In all, German, American and British casualties totaled more than 181,000. The American troops fought under the command of Gen. Anthony Clement McAuliffe, 101st Airborne Division, who is best remembered for what he said when surrounded by the Germans.
When McAuliffe received an ultimatum from the Germans that he should surrender, he responded with, "Nuts!"
Now, every year during the battle commemoration, certain folks stand at the city's town hall to throw nuts.
The honor is reserved for veterans of the battle like Izumi and other dignitaries.