Battle of the Bulge: Turning Point of the Western Front

Retrace the events of the largest World War II battle for U.S. troops as you learn the intricacies of the Battle of the Bulge

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 American tank in city square in Bastogne, Belgium. Credit: Maurice Savage/Alamy  American soldiers cross the Siegfried Line  The Westwall/Siegfried Line  Malmédy Massacre Memorial  Medics of the 5th Infantry Division in Diekirch, Luxembourg  A diorama at the National Museum of Military History in Diekirch, Luxembourg  Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial  The bridge at Remagen, also known as Ludendorff Bridge  The bridge at Remagen, also known as Ludendorff Bridge

The Battle of the Bulge, the largest battle of World War II for U.S. troops, lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945, and was a turning point on the Western Front. Join us to delve into the history of this crucial battle, from broad strategy and epic fighting to intimate stories of heroism and sacrifice. Trace the route of the German advance and walk the battlefields where Allied troops fought desperately to turn back the Wehrmacht. You’re sure to come away with a deeper understanding of what Winston Churchill called “undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war.”

By special arrangement, meet the Mayor of Bastogne and listen to the role this crossroads town played in the war. Walk in the footsteps of American heroes at battle locations where Allied victories were crucial in stopping the German advance, including Elsenborn Ridge, St. Vith, Parker’s Crossroads, Stevelet, and La Gleize. Take a day trip to Luxembourg to visit its outstanding National Military Museum and pay your respects to fallen soldiers at the Luxembourg American Cemetery. You'll also journey along the Rhine and visit the bridge at Remagen, where U.S. forces managed to cross the river and establish a foothold in Germany. Join other travelers interested in military history for this unique tour.

Day 1 — Depart the U.S for Brussels, Belgium

Day 2 — Brussels, Bastogne

Upon arrival at Brussels International Airport, transfer to Bastogne, a small crossroads town in the Ardennes region that became famous in December 1944, when German troops launched the surprise offensive that became known as the Battle of the Bulge because of the way the German advance pushed into the Allied lines. The brunt of the attack was borne by American troops, who suffered heavy casualties but managed to halt and ultimately reverse the German offensive. This evening, enjoy an introductory lecture by your Smithsonian expert and get to know your fellow travelers at a welcome reception and dinner. (R,D)

Day 3 — Bastogne
Spend the next three days learning about the battle – which Churchill was certain would go down in history as “an ever-famous American victory” – and exploring the locations where significant events took place. Begin with an orientation lecture at the Battle of the Bulge Museum at La Roche-en-Ardenne, followed by a tour of the perimeter of Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division, the 10th Armored Division, and other combat units held the line, despite being surrounded by the forces of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, commander-in-chief of the German armies on the Western Front. (B,D)

Day 4 — Bastogne
The battles on the northern flank of the Bulge were decisive in defeating the German thrust towards Antwerp. Travel to the Westwall or “Siegfried Line” at the Losheim Gap, where the German Sixth Panzer Army launched its attack against the inexperienced American 106th Infantry Division. Visit important battle sites such as Elsenborn Ridge, St. Vith, Parker’s Crossroads, Stevelet, and La Gleize, where American forces fought desperately – and, in the end, successfully – to stem the German tide. Stop at Malmedy to remember one of the worst atrocities committed against prisoners of war during World War II. (B,D)

Day 5 — Luxembourg
Take a day trip to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, stopping first at Diekirch, site of some of the earliest fighting along the southern flank of the Bulge. The National Museum of Military History in Diekirch is one of the finest in the area, with excellent exhibits telling the story of the Battle of the Bulge, enjoy a fascinating curator-led tour of the museum. Later continue on to the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, the Superintendent of the cemetery will talk about this final resting place for General George S. Patton, Jr., and 5,075 other US service members, many of whom fell in the Battle of the Bulge. Return to Bastogne along the route taken by Patton’s Third Army as it drove north to relieve the besieged defenders. (B,D)

Day 6 — Bastogne, Frankfurt
Check out of the hotel in Bastogne and retrace the route of the German attack across the rugged Eifel Mountains to the Rhine River. Imagine the surprise of the men of the 27th Armored Infantry Battallion when they reached the heights overlooking the Rhine on March 7, 1945, and discovered that the Ludendorff Bridge, the last bridge over the river, was still standing. Led by Lieutenant Karl Timmerman, a small company of men managed to capture the bridge – often known to English speakers as the Bridge at Remagen – giving the Allies a foothold on the eastern bank of the Rhine and opening the door to the German heartland. Visit the small museum housed within the remains of the bridge before crossing the river to Erpeler Ley Heights, a viewpoint that gives a true understanding of the heroic assault. Continue along the Rhine, passing by the famous Lorelei rock, to Frankfurt, Germany’s fifth-largest city, for an overnight stay. This evening, gather for a festive farewell reception and dinner at a local restaurant. (B,R,D)

Day 7 — Frankfurt, Departure
Transfer to Frankfurt International Airport for individual flights home. (B)