Veterans of the 5th Belgian Fusiliers Battalion march down the streets of Bastogne, Belgium, in the 2008 Battle of the Bulge Parade. Marcel D'Haese, center, is the chairman of the 5th Fusilier War Veterans Association, and Robert Lemaire, far right, is a longtime member. U.S. Army photo by Cis Spook
Belgians Recall Battle of the Bulge
By Christie VanoverCHIEVRRES, Belgium, Dec. 3, 2009 – It was the early days of the Battle of the Bulge. Germans were advancing into Belgium, and the supplies they needed to strengthen their force were close at hand, until the bravery of a lone rifle company helped to halt their advance.
Special to American Forces Press Service
It was Dec. 18, 1944, in the Belgian town of Stavelot. “The U.S. Army evacuated the city, and the 5th Battalion was the only one between this treasure and the Germans,” recalled Robert Lemaire, a Belgian soldier who was assigned to the company.
The day prior, German Col. Joachim Peiper and his 1st SS Panzer Regiment were quickly moving through Belgian villages, destined to reach the Meuse River and Allied supply ports in Antwerp. His army plowed through towns like Honsfeld and Büllingen, capturing and killing unarmed Americans.
While the SS Regiment faced casualties and lost tanks and vehicles along the way, Peiper moved them on toward Stavelot. His tanks crossed the only bridge leading into the village and launched a morning attack, capturing the city. Lemaire, who was guarding the American fuel depots while his company was attached to the 1st U.S. Army, recalled that Peiper executed 132 civilians in Stavelot, including numerous children.
Americans repositioned their forces to set up a perimeter defense. However, Lemaire’s company was left behind along the Malmedy road.
“In a hurry, packed in a truck,” he recalled, “we left our billets in direction of the depot. As we came closer, our lieutenant asked for 10 volunteers.” ...
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