On 16 December 1944, Hitler launched the last major German offensive on the Western Front, Operation Watch on the Rhine, more commonly known as The Battle of the Bulge. Leading the assault was the elite 6th Panzer Army with orders to pierce through the American lines and capture the bridges on the Meuse river.
As part of the 6th Panzer Army was Kampfgruppe Peiper led by SS-Obersturmführer Joachim Peiper. He had in his disposal 4800 men and the newest and most powerful tank in the German inventory, the King Tiger. Peiper led his panzers through difficult terrain and met heavy resistance from the American troops along his assigned assault path. After 2 days of fighting and running low on ammunition and fuel, Peiper was forced to hole up in a small village in the Ardennes region called La Gleize. It is here that he fought for another 6 days before fleeing with 800 men on 24th December, leaving behind 134 vehicles and King Tiger 213. With the defeat at La Gleize, the Germans lost the Battle of the Bulge.
SS-Obersturmführer Helmut Dollinger took command of King Tiger 213 after his own King Tiger encountered technical problems on 18 December. Four days later, the two King Tigers and a PzKpfw IV were defending the Werimont Farm high ground when King Tiger 213 lost a third of it’s main gun barrel due to heavy American fire and had to be abandoned. The King Tiger 213 has since been restored and displayed at the main square in La Gieze. At the site of the King Tiger 213 was the building that previously housed Peiper’s Waffen SS Aid Station. This building has been converted into the December 44 Museum which offers an incredible journey into World War II history and the failure of the German offensive in the Ardennes during December 1944.
December 44 Museum
The December 44 Museum offers one of the most important collection of artifacts in Europe. The visitor would be transported to the time in history upon entering the museum. The exhibits in the museum are well curated and very impressive, from the King Tiger outside to the many dioramas, vehicles, life size figures of soldiers, weapons and equipment of all shapes and sizes found mostly in La Gleize, the displays are just amazing.
Following are just a small sample of images taken of the exhibits in the museum. We would prefer you visit the museum to experience it yourself. It is just a 2 hour drive from Brussels and it’s well worth the effort! More info on the Museum can be found in this link http://www.december44.com/en/info.htm
King Tiger 213 display at the entrance of the December 44 Museum
Interior of the museum shows great maintenance
Display of SS Panzergrenadier equipment used during the period. Note the MP44 which can be consodered as the first assault rifle in the world
German FG-42 Machine Carbine or Light Machine Gun issued to Airborne Troops
Life size figure of a Panzer Commander
88mm Armour Piercing shell of the King Tiger’s Main Gun
Bomber Jacket belonging to a waist gunner of an 8th Air Force Liberator B24J “Dodgin’ Don”
Diorama of German Paratroopers on Motorcycle and Sidecar
One of the many showcases displaying American and German equipment unearthed in the area
One of the many cameras on display used by a US Army photographer
La Gleize Show 2017
La Gleize is also the host for an annual military collector show, the La Gleize SHOW. The La Gleize Show is organized by the ASBL “Le Werihay” and “Friends of the December 44 Museum.” It attracts professionals, collectors and enthusiasts of military antiques from all periods. Most of the military artefacts on display were from both World Wars, with World War II being the period of most dealt items and interests. This year’s event was held on the 16-18 of Jun 2017 right in the center of La Gleize village along Rue de l’Eglise and the December 44 museum.
Visitors watch as the owner of this vintage BMW R71 starts it up
Simple food station for visitors to rest and recharge.
Medals and badges for sale
Many old communcation devices can be found. This is an example of an old telephone
Afrika Korps strap
Ammunition boxes, uniforms and even a water canister all for sale
Machine gun rounds with gunpowder removed
Replica Panzerfausts to scare the neighbour
Instructions and information on the Panzerfaust
World War I era helmets
Matchboxes with propaganda messages
A potential buyer checks out an antique rifle
Lots of personal equipment and also Mercedes Benz wheel hubs and a “Danger Mine” sign
Totally rusted MG42 waiting for someone to pick it up
A trader dealing in personal artefacts and ammunition boxes
General View of the show ground along Rue de l’Eglise
In addition to the military wares on display and trade, there is also the exhibition of collector vehicles. Many of them are of German origins, such as the Schwimmwagen, Kubelwagen and many different versions of motorcycles. These vintage vehicles also participated in a rally event through the forest around La Gleize on Saturday afternoon as part of the festivities of the show.
Rows of vehicles that are taking part in the vehicle exposition
Family of Volkswagens. Beetles, Schwimmwagen and Kubelwagens
BMW R75 motorcycle with Sidecar
Next year’s show is scheduled for 16 & 17 June 2018. Do check it out if you are near the area. http://www.lagleize.org/en/accueil.htm