From Bastogne to Vielsalm

The tour below takes you on an exiting trip. We start our journey in Bastogne near the Historical Center Mémorial du Mardasson. From the centre of Bastogne, drive towards the Historical Center (if you did not visit it yet). From the parking lot it is left back to Bastogne, right is towards Bizory.

The turret of a Sherman with a 76mm gun in the corner of the road
leading towards the Historical Center Mémorial du Mardasson
(notice the 88mm hole in the side of the turret)

From the parking lot, take the small road to the right. Drive north towards Bizory and Foy. Then on to Noville and La Roche-en-Ardenne and through small villages to Vielsalm and Poteau. Sometimes you come across battle scars, but most of the time the only thing you may find is a small monument or an artefact such as a tank. But, when you drive through this part of the Ardennes, remember that a lot of blood was spilled in these beautiful surroundings.


Take the road towards Bizory. Turn left here, and head for Foy. But first stop is directly at your right to ‘The Peace Woods’, locally known as ‘Bois de la Paix’ (follow the signs). This forest was created in 1994, when the Battle was 50 years remembered. Every veteran that returns to Bastogne, receives a tree with his name attached. From the air the trees are forming the emblem of UNICEF.

Two of the veterans that returned to Bastogne

Return from the ‘Bois de la Paix’ to the road leading to Foy. A kilometre ahead you come across the monument for the 506th PIR, Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division. This unit, made world famous through the TV-series 'Band of Brothers', fought in these surroundings. It is a bit of a shame that only this unit, Easy Comp., 506th, is remembered on the monument, many other units also fought around these woods. The monument was co-production by actor/director Tom Hanks, Home Box Office (the broadcaster) and the Jeep Corporation from Detroit.

The monument for Easy Company of the 506th PIR.
In the back Le Bois Jacques with the foxholes.

After Bastogne was liberated on December 26, but far from save, plans were made to make a break towards the north. On January 3 1945 a unit from the 101st Airborne Division were at the east and south of Foy, some kilometres north of Bastogne. Foy was encircled in a U-shape, with the last position taken on January 3 on the right flank of Foy. Till January 9 the woods of Le Bois Jacques were cleaned from Germans and the leftflank also paratroopers dug in. On January 13 the attack would come from 2nd Battalion van het 506th PIR, Easy Company from the south towards Foy. The village of Foy was not the initial goal, which was Noville. Frustrated by weeks of defence, the attack should be a fierce one.

The woods south of Foy, where still the foxholes can be found

The start of the attack was hindered by a very cautious officer, but once this was settled, Foy was taken in a fast sweep. The Germans gave the best resistance they could, but had to retreat to Noville. The next day the Germans counterattacked, and the paratroopers had to pull out. For the sixth time Foy switched into other hands. But that same morning, with assistance of artillery, the 101st para’s retook Foy at 09.30 hours. Midday, the paratroopers moved out to take Noville. But the cold and snow made the progress slow, and they reach only Cobru. A patrol managed to enter Noville, but returned to Cobru.

The crossroad in Foy with the N30, cross it and go towards Recogne (or, if you come from Bastogne, go left).

A couple of hundred meters before you reach the German cemetery of Recogne
(a small road to the right) you find a monument as remembrance
for the first temporary American cemetery for 2701
that were killed during the Battle of the Bulge

The German cemetery in Recogne

In Recogne you can visit the German cemetery with 6807 graven. Read the marker stones and notice how many you boys are buried here. Read the markers and notice how many young victims are resting here. Beneath every cross are six bodies,...

Recogne, the Gereman cemetery with one of the many markers (front and back)

Just as Bastogne, Noville was nearly destroyed during the Battle of the Bulge. During the first days of the attack the Germans tried through these route (Houffalize-Bastogne) a breakthrough. Thanks to Team Desobry of the 10th Armored Division and paratroopers of the 101ste Airborne Divison the attack could be slowed down for a couple of days. On both sides a lot of casualties were made. During the retreat to Bastogne, on December 20, a convoy was stuck near Foy where Germans were in ambush. But despite this attack, thanks to own judgment, a lot of Americans managed to break through towards Bastogne. During the retreat the tower of the church was blown, so this could not be used by Germans as a watchtower.

For a powerfull story, read;
'Seven Roads to Hell', by Donald R. Burgett.

In the early hours of January 15 1945, the Americans returned in Noville. They had support from tanks and artillery. To have the most of these support, a sergeant run towards a tank to show him the ay. Just as he was calling out to the tank commander, who was standing in his turret, he realised that it was a German tank,…! The tank cranked up his engine and moved to pursue the Sergeant, and a Lieutenant that was also in his presence. But the two escaped without harm. The Tiger fired into some earlier destroyed Sherman tanks and left. Unfortunately for the German crew, the tank was stopped in it’s tracks when a P-47 Thunderbolt destroyed it. On January 16, 1945 Noville was finally back in American hands.

Noville, Then and Now (notice the Stug III Ausf G, below left)

At the Mémorial du Mardasson I spoke a German veteran. He told me that he had lost his best friend near Noville. He had visited his grave at the cemetery at Recogne. I asked him after his age during the battle. He became 18 in November 1944 and one month later he had the heaviest struggle in his then young life. He showed his righthand. A bad healed scar run between his fingers all the way up his sleef. He was hit near Noville by American fire and was brought back to Germany. For this man, the war was over,… or so he thought. But becoming older, the pictures of then haunted him daily now. A war of just one month, became a lifelong nightmare. A little talk with a veteran, from either side, German, American or British,… it brings war at you doorstep. It is disturbing to watch a grown man with eyes full of tears, and to realise that soldiers are send to battle by others who ‘think’ they are doing the best thing for ‘their’ people. I know it is fruitless, but leaders should listen to veterans,… and ask themselves; are all these sacrifices really necessary?

The small monument with the liberty tree
(left the catholic church of Rachamps)

From Noville it’s just a short trip north, by the N30, to Rachamps. For the one who is following the route of ‘Band of Brothers’, it is a interesting place to visit. After the heavy fighting for Foy and Noville, Easy Company of the 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division arrived here on January 16, 1945 to find some rest at the convent, which was opposite the catholic church of Rachamps. As a remembrance there is a little monument in a little park left of the church (with behind the monument a liberty tree). Rachamps was taken with not much difficulty. But after the Germans left, the village was shelled by German artillery. Sgt. Earl Hale and Pr. Liebgott took refuge in a barn, where they ran into six German officers, which they took prisoner. They warned the Germans, that if one of the two troopers were hit by the german shelling, that they would be killed. A short time later, hale was struck by a piece of shrapnel. A German pulled out a knife, and was aiming for the throat of Hale, but Liebgott opened up, and shot the German officer, and also the other five. Hale survived the attack, but was unable to use his voice. Some time later, Hale met up with Genral Patton, and Patton noticed that this trooper was not wearing a necktie, and started to put a number on Hale. Hale pulled out a note from the doctor, and Patton was at once without speech,… he rarely was.

Detail of the plaque for Easy Company, 506th PIR

After the battle for Rachamps, and snug up in the convent, that evening a children choir sang for the paratroopers. To find the convent (from the N30), go right at the crossroad at the church. The road is getting steep, and on top is the former convent. Today it is a school and meeting center (you will notice the ‘Jupiler’ sign).


The Panther in Houffalize

Leave Noville and head 10 kilometres north on the N30 towards Houffalize. Just after you enter the town, you come across a German PzKpfw V Panther, Ausf G. on the left of the road. There are some parts missing, but it looks rather well preserved. Some inner wheels are moved to the outside to show a complete trackset. This Panther belonged to 16e Panzer Regiment of the 116e Panzer Division which was under command of Colonel Gerhard Tebbe. This unit was destroyed in the so called 'Pocket van Verdenne' (south of Hotton). Drive through town and go left towards Roche-en-Ardenne on the N860.

The spot where the 'Bulge' was closed

After 8 kilometres following the river Ourthe, you come across a bridge on the left, move over it. Directly across the bridge is a steep cliff with three remembrance plates. This point, called Rensiwez, was the place where the American 2nd Armored Division and the 84th Infantry Division, of the First Army, united with the 11th Armored Division of Patton's Third Army on January 16, 1945. With this pincer move the ‘Bulge’ was cut of for a German breakthrough to the west.

Return back over the bridge and follow your rout westwards. After some 10 kilometres go right towards Wibrin. Behind the church you find an original relic from the war.

The Sherman of Wibrin

Here is on display an M4 Sherman tank. The background story is obscure. The barrel of the gun is blown outwards by a explosion. This could have be done on purpose by it’s crew. It looks like the tanks was put out of action by hits at the front. And to prevent it could by recovered by the Germans it was destroyed. What is for certain, the tank was saved in 1950 from the scrap man by the local vicar and the townspeople. The scrap dealer was already working a blowtorch to deconstruct the former machine of war.

The signs of the blowtorch are visible

Because the Sherman is reduced halfway, it is possible to inspect the inside. What is evident, the thin armour of the tank. For German anti-tank shells not too difficult to penetrate.

The 75mm gun has exploded (notice the cut made by the scrap dealer)

Early 2010 Philip Vancampo sent me a mail telling me, that the Sherman was gone, but a new plateau was built where it once stood, so it should come back. In July 2010 Philip brought an update, the M4 was back in place. The tank was un-done from it’s rust and painted in olive-drab. During the last restoration, the inside was painted white. What is remarkable; the ‘strange’ dates are back (which it also wore before the restoration), and are still not ‘correct’. Also, it says that this Sherman is an M4A3, but in my opinion it’s an M4A2.

Still with the strange data on the inside of the tank

Move further towards Nadrin/Berismenil
To go back again on the N860 towards La Roche-en-Ardenne.

In 2010 a new museum was opened, History 44, in Bérisménil. Bérisménil is on the N860 between Wibrin (after 4 kilometer, 3 miles) and La Roche-en-Ardenne. It's not daily open, only on saterday from 10.00 hours till 12.00 hours and from 13.00 hours till 18.00 hours. On sun- and holydays (not during Christmass and New years day) it is open from 13.00 hours till 18.00 hours. And with an apointment it will be open for you.

For more info on History 44:
Adres: Bérisménil 35, 6982 Bérisménil
Telefoon: 0032 (0) 477 59 53 79

For the next trip, towards:
La Roche-en-Ardenne and Grandmenil,