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Veterans of the Battle of The Bulge come together

Organization to hold its national reunion in Seattle this October

Surviving veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, often known as VBOBs. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

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On April 23, the Northwest Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of The Bulge met for their Spring Luncheon Program. They met to commemorate World War II's Ardennes offensive and the subsequent allied counter attack.

At the luncheon, attendees swapped stories and photos. Bob Parker, who fought in the battle as a sergeant in a machine gun team, showed fellow guests a book his son made that collected his photos and letters. These days veterans of the Battle of the Bulge are known as VBOBs for short.

The battle for the Ardennes was one of the largest ground battles of World War II. During the winter of 1944, the German military high command launched a surprise attack in Belgium's Ardennes region that took the western allies completely off guard. It was a last ditch effort by the Nazis to preserve their hold on power and negotiate an end to the war on their terms.

The battle was defined by heavy fighting in frigid temperatures. Many allied troops were rushed to the frontline without proper winter gear. Soldiers sat in freezing foxholes as they traded fire with the enemy.

The lines changed frequently as both sides conducted raids, pounded each other with artillery and airstrikes, and armored units clashed in some of history's most spectacular examples of mechanized warfare. The toll was heavy on both sides. For the Americans, the losses came out to 19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded, 23,000 captured or missing.

But the battle exhausted German resources on the western front while Russians closed in from the eastern front. It turned into a major U.S. military achievement and a blow from which the Nazis could never recover.

The battle was immortalized in the 1965 film The Battle of The Bulge starring Peter Fonda and decades later in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.

But as the years go by, there are fewer and fewer VBOBs left to tell their stories. That's part of the reason why VBOB association isn't just for veterans of the battle - dwindling numbers of survivors has meant that many members of the organization are supporters and history enthusiasts trying to keep memories alive.

Chapter President Jim Pennock and his wife Doris - who welcomed guests to the event - are deeply committed to memories of the battle though neither were there themselves. Re-enactors showed off historically accurate uniforms and collectors chatted with each other about recent acquisitions - and excitedly discussed potential future prizes.

But everyone was silent when guest speaker Jim Marich took the stage to share his experiences as a crewman aboard B-29 Bombers, including abandoning a plane at sea during his service in the Pacific Theater.

Later this year, from Oct. 5-10, the organization will hold its 35th annual national reunion in Seattle, bringing out VBOB veterans and supporters from around the country. The reunion will include activities in Seattle as well as a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord for a tour of the base and lunch with soldiers.

It will be a meeting between the generation that fought America's largest war and the current generation fighting America's longest wars.

Until then, the VBOB Northwest Chapter meets at 11 a.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at Gig Harbor Round Table Pizza. You don't have to be a member of the group to attend.

For information on the VBOB Northwest Chapter, contact Jim and Beth Pennock at 425.774.8420. For more information on the 2016 national reunion in Seattle, go to

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