The Mardasson Memorial (Battle of the Bulge Memorial) is a war monument built in honour of the Ardennes Counteroffensive, one of the last major battles during World War II. It is situated near the Bastogne War Museum. The Belgian State owns the site on which the monument and the museum are located.
On the 31st of July 2020, a Royal Decree was passed to transfer the management of the monument, through a 99-year long lease, to the American Battles Monument Commission. This allows the ABMC to continue to work on the maintenance, restoration and renovation of the Mardasson Memorial under its own management and at its own expense, always in consultation with the Belgian Buildings Agency.
The Mardasson Memorial, founded on the initiative of the Belgo-American Association, was inaugurated on the 16th of July 1950 in presence of General Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division defending Bastogne.
The monument was designed by the Liège architect Georges Dedoyard.
The Mardasson Memorial commemorates the Ardennes Counteroffensive that took place from 16 December 1944 to 16 January 1945. During this Battle, the Allies fought against the surprise offensive of the German army. Many people lost their lives, including numerous American soldiers. The monument keeps the memory alive of the 76.890 American soldiers who gave their life during this Battle for the liberation of Belgium or the seriously injured. It also symbolises the enduring friendship between the Belgian and American people, who fought side by side against the German occupier.
The Ardennes Counteroffensive is also known as ‘The Battle of the Bulge’.
Bastogne was chosen as location for the monument because this city formed the centre of the battle during the Ardennes Counteroffensive.
The Mardasson Memorial is situated near the Bastogne War Museum. The museum opened its doors in March of 2014 and is dedicated to the history of World War II and the Ardennes Counteroffensive. Formerly, the building housed the Bastogne Historical Center, but it closed in 2011 for a thorough renovation and extension.
The Mardasson Memorial and the museum have an international standing and attract annually on average 150.000 visitors.
A star-shaped monument with a crypt
The impressive monument on the Mardasson hill has the shape of a five-pointed star, representing the American army.
The frieze of the monument contains the names of the then 48 American states in bronze letters. The history of the Ardennes Counteroffensive and the names of the most important American units that took part in the Battle are engraved in the pillars.
There is a memorial stone in the middle of the monument.
A spiral staircase leads to the top of the monument, overlooking an impressive panoramic view of the battlefields from then.
At the foot of the Mardasson Memorial is a crypt with 3 altars, each representing a certain religion: Judaism, Protestantism and Catholicism. French artist Fernand Léger decorated the altars with mosaics.
Embellishment of the landscape architecture
The Belgian state partly owns the domain on which both the Mardasson Memorial and the Bastogne War Museum are located.
In 2013, the Belgian State leased out a zone via the Belgian Buildings Agency near the museum to the city of Bastogne for public utility, so that the city could build a parking lot.
In 2019, the leasehold zone was extended with the green zones around the Mardasson Memorial, which allows the city to embellish the landscape architecture around the monument and make it more accessible for the public.
Accessibility for people with reduced mobility
The Belgian Buildings Agency performed works in 2019 to make the Mardasson Memorial more accessible to people with reduced mobility by placing an integrated inclined plane.
Restauration and renovation of the monument
To mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, refurbishment works were carried out on the Mardasson Memorial in the autumn of 2019. The monument and crypt were thoroughly cleaned and the pavement restored.
The works were managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). This organization was founded in 1923 to commemorate the US forces. It is responsible for establishing and maintaining mountain cemeteries, memorial sites and visitor centres around the world. To finance the works, it raised funds from American citizens.
However, a more thorough and structural restoration was imperative in order to keep the monument in pristine condition in the long term. The ABMC therefore wished to take over responsibility for the management of the Mardasson Memorial.
The zone where the monument is located is owned by the Belgian State and managed by the Belgian Buildings Agency. To transfer management, a Royal Decree was signed on the 31st of July 2020 to give the Mardasson Memorial a 99-year long lease to the ABMC, for one symbolic euro per year.
The leasehold allows the ABMC to continue to work on the maintenance, restoration and renovation of the Mardasson Memorial under its own management and at its own expense, always in consultation with the Belgian Buildings Agency. For example, it may concern work to continue to guarantee stability and safety or to improve the visitor experience.
In this way, the ABMC will maintain and strengthen the original purpose of the Memorial, which is to honour the US forces that fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
The city of Bastogne will - in consultation with the ABMC - still be able to use the Mardasson Memorial to organize commemorative ceremonies.
Owner and lessor: Belgian State
Long leaseholders: the city of Bastogne and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC)
Duration of the leasehold: 50 years (city of Bastogne) and 99 years (ABMC)
Surface leasehold area: 15 460 m² + 31 694 m² (city of Bastogne) and 8.274 m² (ABMC)
Investment of the Belgian Buildings Agency in the inclined plane for people with reduced mobility: 125.841 euro (VAT included)
Contractor for the inclined plane for people with reduced mobility: the firm Piccard (Tenneville)
Last modified on the 11th of December 2020.