Wars are fought heroes and villains alike. The convoy of German Panzer tanks that ploughed through the snowy Ardennes towards the River Meuse was commanded by Joachim Peiper.
© Fondation Baugnez 44
It was a remarkable achievement, creating the desired ‘bulge’ between the American and British armies, but their progress was slowed by the poor quality of the roads: Peiper complained they were more suitable for bicycles than tanks.
After eight days, the freezing temperatures, mounting casualties and dwindling supplies of ammunition and fuel persuaded Peiper to abandon the mission. During the advance, a shameful episode had taken place near Malmédy. At Baugnez crossroads, a lightly armed American reconnaissance battalion was captured by a Panzer force, herded into a snowy field and shot in cold blood.
A few hours later, 84 frozen bodies were discovered by an American scout platoon. After the war, Peiper was tried and imprisoned as a war criminal.
A monument across the road from the field commemorates the Malmédy Massacre, and both this and the battle are movingly chronicled at the Baugnez 44 Historical Centre, which lies on the exact spot of the massacre. Sixteen scenes re-create everyday life of the soldier, and some of the American and German equipment salvaged from the battle is extremely rare.