Ambassador Gidwitz Remarks at the U.S. Embassy reception to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge
Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019
Mayor Lutgen, Speaker Pelosi and delegation members, Secretary Matz, Senator Boozman and delegation members, dear veterans, Belgian friends, and American colleagues – allow me to welcome you to the U.S. Embassy reception to commemorate the 75 th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.
We are here this evening to honor the veterans who have traveled to the Ardennes Forest to remember their brothers-in-arms. And we are here too to celebrate the first phase of the renovation of the Mardasson Memorial, the generous gift built by the people of Belgium in 1950 in honor of the American servicemembers who died in that exhausting battle.
Many of you have traveled thousands of miles, sometimes year after year, to make this pilgrimage to Bastogne. As you may know, the Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest that the United States fought in the European theater.
The German offensive caught the American Army off-guard. The attack was swift and at first effective, creating the famous “bulge” that the world came to know through newspaper maps illustrating the German assault’s initial progress.
And the battle was grim. Many long weeks of insufferable cold, with soldiers insufficiently equipped and fed. And for those in Bastogne, surrounded by the enemy on every side – in fact, encircled on the land where we stand this evening. U.S. casualties numbered in the tens of thousands.
But the battle eventually turned. The weather cleared. Gen. McAuliffe held firm. General Patton broke through. Reinforcements fought back the assault. And the battle has come to be known as one of America’s finest hours.
And that particular struggle these many years later has perhaps come to be the most poignant symbol of the ties between the United States and Belgium and the sacrifices our people have always been willing to make in the name of freedom.
Some of those men who took part in that finest hour are here with us tonight. They are the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. Well into their tenth decade, all are here with their families to remember those grim days and more so, to honor those friends of theirs who fell in that battle.
Tomorrow the King and Queen will be here in Bastogne as well, at the Mardasson Memorial, to recognize the sacrifices made by these warriors.
Please join me in toasting the veterans here tonight, and those veterans who have already passed, and those soldiers who, in the winter of 1944 in the nearby towns and fields and forests, gave their lives in battle, and in the name of freedom. May their memories live on and their deeds never be forgotten.
And now, i would like to introduce a great partner and great friend of the embassy and the united states. please join me in welcoming the Mayor of Bastogne, Benoît Lutgen.