Battling the freezing cold, Stuttgart area Cub Scouts trudged through snow and slush during the Dec. 11 Bastogne Historical Walk in Belgium as they commemorated the hardships endured by World War II soldiers.
Panzer Cub Scout Pack 44 members — some as young as 6 years old — braved the wintry elements as they retraced defensive lines held by Allied soldiers during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. The recent perimeter march marked the 34th annual Bastogne Historical Walk since it was founded in 1977 by a Belgian World War II veteran who served under Gen. George Patton during the Battle of the Bulge.
Numbering more than 50 strong, with parents and siblings also taking part in the walk, Pack 44 Cub Scouts completed the march of about seven kilometers in Bastogne, Belgium.
“The walk was pretty cool, and I saw all of these re-enactors along the way who had set up little sites in some places,” said Pack 44 Cub Scout Ben Schmitt, 9. “I learned a bunch of stuff about Bastogne that I didn’t know before, and it makes me really proud that I did the walk and finished it.”
Schmitt was among the Cub Scouts who earned the Boy Scouts of America Battle of the Bulge Historic Trail Patch for participating in the walk and learning the history of the battle.
Lasting from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945, the Battle of the Bulge was the largest land battle involving American forces in World War II. More than a million Allied troops fought across the Ardennes, including about 500,000 Americans and 55,000 British.
“It was a pivotal battle,” said parent Kathryn Schmitt, who was among the walk’s participants. “It was moving to see the memorial there, and, as the wife of a service member, it was nice to see that the soldiers’ sacrifices were not forgotten.”
In addition to the re-enactors along the trail, other highlights included visiting a recreated command post, shouldering World War II weapons and climbing into fox holes to dig with shovels, according to Jill Bispels, who participated in the walk with her son Christopher, 7, a Pack 44 Cub Scout.
Pack 44 Cubmaster Gerald Egleson said the youngsters were excited to have the opportunity to touch authentic gear and even take part in some portions of the re-enactments. “For me, it was enlightening to see all of the uniforms and to see the vehicles move through the weather conditions,” Egleson said. “I hope they walked away with appreciation for what the soldiers went through during that siege.”
Son Parker Egleson excitedly shared his favorite moments of the historic Bastogne walk. “I wore an Army hat while I was holding the bazooka and it was kind of like I was standing on a mountain in the snow,” the 6-year-old said. “And I saw a gray machine gun and I dug three big pieces of a foxhole.”