|Battle of the Bulge Museum of Clervaux, Luxembourg|
One of the many highlights of my visit to Luxembourg was a tour of the Battle of the Bulge Museum of Clervaux. Enthusiastic curator Frank Kieffer has assembled an astounding collection of World War II memorabilia, including flags donated by U.S. visitors from each of the 50 U.S. states. The collection is housed in an imposing feudal castle.
|Charlie and John with the museum's Sherman tank||"This U.S. Sherman M4A3 of Company B, 2nd Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division is the only known surviving combat vehicle of the division. Put out of action on December 17, 1944 while defending Clervaux here at the gate to the castle."|
With origins in the 12th century, the castle has a long and storied past. In 1927 the castle was transformed into a hotel. Belgian, Dutch and English tourists stayed there, where in times past, Counts, Princes and Princesses resided. But sadly, the Ardennes offensive (Battle of the Bulge) reduced it to ruins during the second World War. The Luxembourg State then acquired the ruin and restored it back to its former glory.
Housed within this restored fortress is Frank Kieffer's war museum exhibiting weapons and souvenirs from the 1944-1945 Battle of the Bulge. Of particular interest to us, was Lt. Harold Stalnaker's P-47D engine, tucked in a small alcove in the castle-museum. When we arrived, Frank was there -- ready to personally escort us on a tour of his facility.
|In June of 2004, to commemorate D-Day and the dedication of the WWII Memorial (in Washington, D.C.), Charlie will travel to Luxembourg to donate a replica of Uncle Harold's uniform to the Battle of the Bulge Museum.|
|Museum curator, Frank Kieffer (center) poses with John and Charlie in front of Lt. Stalnaker's P-47D engine. Frank cradles the portrait of Charlie's uncle.||
While viewing Frank's collection of U.S. Marines uniforms, Charlie (a former Marine) notices a service pin out of alignment... he and Frank climb into the display case to correct it...
A little background on the castle's role in the Battle of the Bulge (courtesy of the museum's brochure): "The 16th of December 1944 ... a sudden murderous artillery fire started ... and occupied the American bases ... with a hail of fire using every type of caliber available. The winter battle in the Ardennes, also called the "Battle of the Bulge" had started. It turned into one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War: an act of desperation from a severely shattered opponent.
One of the biggest catastrophes in the history of Luxembourg had descended over the north of the country.
During the night of 17th-18th of December 1944, Clervaux was taken over; the following day the castle of Clervaux burst into flames...
The U.S. soldiers kept St. Vith until December 21st. The defenders of Bastogne ... although fully surrounded, resisted heroically.
On the 24th of December the German offensive succumbed at Celles (Belgium).
On the 26th of December the first tanks of the 3rd U.S. Army under General Patton broke through the ring surrounding Bastogne. The German offensive had failed."
Next stop: American Cemetery, Luxembourg to pay our respects at the Wall of Missing
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