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Posted on Aug 18, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Panzer Hunting in Bastogne: A Traveler’s Guide

By Pete Gade

Ardennen Poteau ’44 Museum
Poteau, Belgium

Some people leave old Plymouths on the front lawn, but these folks have opted for M8 Greyhounds, M5A1 Stuarts, and what could be the only Soviet SU-100 to set treads on Belgian soil. Located just west of St. Vith, Belgium, the operators of Ardennen Poteau ’44 Museum offer battlefield tours in historic halftracks plus an assortment of gear ranging from an M29 Weasel, a Cushman scooter built for airborne troops, and a 105mm Howitzer.

Numerous veterans of the fighting are reported to have visited this museum, and one travel agent recounted the story of a former German soldier who proclaimed that his boots were on display! (The fact that this individual was wheelchair-bound due to a wartime injury allows the reader to surmise how he lost said footwear.) Word has it that the staff has numerous other yarns just as this one, which in many ways rivals the relics they curate.


"The Wereth 11"
Wereth, Belgium

Many know of Malmedy, yet far fewer know of Wereth and the massacre of 11 African-American soldiers in December of 1944. The perpetrators were never prosecuted for war crimes, and for years the atrocity moldered in obscurity. Today a modest monument remembers these artillerists who fell to the torture of SS bayonets, and a yet greater project will soon establish a memorial to all the black GI’s of WW2. The target date for completion is December 2004, the Bulge’s 60th anniversary. Wereth can be easily reached with a short, northeasterly drive from St. Vith.

La Gleize Museum
La Gleize, Belgium

See what Peiper left behind. Here’s an opportunity to see one of the six King Tiger tanks abandoned by Kampfgruppe Peiper just after its history-making thrust during the Ardennes offensive. This steel beast is the museum’s marquee piece, yet also worth the price of admission is a collection of other hardware found on the battlefield. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. between March 21 and November 21, and on weekends and holidays during the winter months.

The National Museum of Military History, Luexmbourg
Diekirch, Luxembourg

Known for an impressive series of dioramas that detail the hardware and uniforms that once dotted the local landscape, this is a newer museum formed by WW2 enthusiasts. Other items that make this location a worthwhile stop include a Hetzer (actually a former Swiss G13), a 75mm PaK48, and an exceptionally rare 105mm Leichte Feldhaubitze 16, and a presentation of Luxembourg’s modern-day military. The NMMH is open daily year-round, yet hours vary from season to season.

Clervaux Museum
Clervaux, Luxembourg

This is the stuff of an old Bill Holden movie ? a 12th century feudal castle that provided a great redoubt for a beleaguered HQ company in the face of a German onslaught. Thanks to the epic stand of Captain John Aiken and a handful of GI’s, elements of the German 2nd Panzer Division were dealt a costly delay on 17 December 1944. It was only after a full night and day of fighting that these men of the 28th "Keystone" Division finally surrendered.

At the chateau today, one can find an ?88 in the courtyard and a T23 Sherman mounting a 76mm gun (although this piece of hardware did not belong to the 707th Tank Battalion that fought in the town). Outside of their relevance to WW2, the town and chateau are quite fetching and beg a visit based on their own merits.

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