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The Battle of the Bulge at Fort Harrison State Park

by Lance Gideon

The Battle of the Bulge is one of the most famous battles that took place during World War II between the Allies and Germany. The battle lasted over a month, from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 and was considered a major victory for the Allies.

During the war, Fort Benjamin Harrison was well utilized by the military for many purposes, one of which being a POW camp. Today, Fort Harrison State Park uses its unique history as a military insulation to attract many different kinds of people to one of Indiana’s great State Parks.

On January 5, 2013, I headed to Fort Harrison State Park for its annual Battle of the Bulge Re-Enactment, and to visit the Museum of 20th Century Warfare and Battle of the Bulge Display.

My first stop in the park was the Museum of 20th Century Warfare, located near the park’s stables. The museum is open year round, free to the public with admission to the park, and run by volunteers.

As I entered the museum, I signed the guest book and made my way down a hallway toward the chapel. The walls in the hallway are lined with military memorabilia from the 20th Century including uniforms, patches, maps, and portraits. As I entered the chapel I saw several religious artifacts and a detailed timeline of the Battle of the Bulge. As I left the chapel I noticed an area in one corner dedicated to Ernie Pyle. Ernie Pyle was a famous war correspondent and Indiana native. He attended Indiana University in Bloomington and the building where the University’s School of Journalism is located is named in his honor. I soon left the chapel area and headed over to the main exhibit room of the museum. In this room there are relics from every major war during the 20th Century, World War I through the first Persian Gulf War. One interesting item is a replica of the USS Indianapolis, which was sank by the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. I made my way around the room and eventually came back to the World War I part of the exhibit. I soon left the Museum and headed toward the park’s nature center to meet up with Fort Harrison’s Interpretive Naturalist Jeff Cummings.

Cummings and I walked to building 702, where he introduced me to a man who was impersonating General George S. Patton. While talking to the Patton impersonator a World War II veteran came up and started talking to “Patton,” and all I could do was stand and listen as he recounted his experiences as a radio operator.

Shortly after this, I entered 702 and got an overview of the Battle of the Bulge Display from Cummings. He told me that he started working for Fort Harrison in 2006 and began emphasizing the park’s military history. The Battle of the Bulge display has been located at Fort Harrison State Park since 2007 and was founded by Hugh Ross, a US Navy Seabee from 1944-1945. The display started in Ross’ garage and was moved from location to location for many years until finding a permanent home at Fort Harrison. While at the Battle of the Bulge display, I was able to meet a Bulge veteran who has attended the Battle of the Bulge events at Fort Harrison for several years. His name was John Kerr, who was a member of the Army’s 78th Infantry Division. He recounted the Battle like it was yesterday; talking about the extreme conditions the soldiers were fighting in. He spoke about the frigid temperatures, 10-15 degrees below zero as he told me. The Battle of the Bulge display is temporary and is only on exhibit at the park around each anniversary of the battle.

After a quick lunch break it was back to the park, and building 702 where a couple more Bulge veterans where around to talk to. As I re-entered the building I saw a German Nurse re-enactor and several more people who hadn’t been there earlier.

After a few minutes in the building, I walked out back to the park’s battle ground to witness the park’s Battle of the Bulge re-enactment. Before the battle began, one of the re-enactors spoke to the crowd of about 120 about the guns and gear the soldiers on both sides of the battle had. Then the battle began, shots were heard from both sides, smoke and flares and hand to hand combat were on full display. With I limited number of re-enactors we were only able to see a short battle re-enactment. At the end of the battle, the Patton impersonator spoke to the crowd. He reminded the crowd of the importance of history and that if we forget our history we will repeat our history.

The Battle of the Bulge is the first of many re-enactments that take place at Fort Harrison State Park. The next one will be the Eastern Front event which will occur the first weekend in March.  

Battle of the Bulge Re-Enactment at Fort Harrison State Park Video :

Battle of the Bulge Re-Enactment at Fort Harrison State Park Slideshow :

Battle of the Bulge Display at Fort Harrison State Park :

Museum of 20th Century Warfare at Fort Harrison State Park :


Published: 01/07/2013


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