This monument was erected at Lake Eola in 1999 by the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge organization (now the Battle of the Bulge Association). The six-foot tall sculpture of an American soldier was placed in honor of those who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. The Battle of the Bulge, occurring from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945, was a last ditch effort by Adolf Hitler to halt the advance of Allied forces in western Europe. After heavy fighting the Allies were able to halt the German offensive. The battle left German forces severely depleted and unable to effectively defend their country's borders; Germany would surrender by May 1945. Every December a memorial service is held at the Lake Eola monument in honor of all veterans.
In June 1944, Allied
forces (mainly American, British, and Canadian soldiers) established a foothold
in Western Europe with the D-Day invasions in Normandy. By December they had
liberated France, entered Belgium, and were approaching the German border.
However, supply lines were stretched thin and troops were exhausted by the lengthy
combat. Germany at this point was being pressured on two fronts, with American,
British, and Canadian forces advancing in the west, and Soviet forces advancing
in the east. To alleviate the situation, Adolf Hitler began planning a massive
counteroffensive in Western Europe, much to the consternation of his generals. Hitler
assembled 200,000 troops and 1,000 tanks, mostly drawn from his reserves. On
December 16, 1944 his forces launched a surprise attack on American troops in
the formidable Ardennes forest. The plan was to split the Allied forces in
half, surround them, and hopefully force a peace agreement.
American troops in the
Ardennes were caught completely by surprise, not anticipating a German attack
of such scale. Heavy snowstorms hampered mobility for both armies and prevented
aircraft from being used, much to the Germans’ advantage. The Germans advanced
deep into Allied territory, creating a large bulge in the front line that gave
the battle its name. Many American units were surrounded and suffered heavy casualties.
By late December a shortage of fuel, an
improvement of the weather, stiff American resistance, and reinforcements from Gen.
George S. Patton’s Third Army brought the German offensive to a halt. The
Allies then launched their own counterattack, forcing the Germans to withdraw
in January. While the battle managed to delay the planned invasion of Germany,
German reserves had been significantly depleted. Unable to adequately defend
itself on either front, Germany surrendered the following May. The Battle of
the Bulge was one of the costliest battles fought by American forces in World
War II. Casualties were over 100,000, including nearly 20,000 deaths.
In 1981 American veterans
of the battle and their descendants formed the Veterans of the Battle of Bulge
(now the Battle of the Bulge Association). On December 16, 1999, the 55th
anniversary of the battle, the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Central
Florida Chapter #18 dedicated a new monument at Lake Eola in Orlando, Florida. The
monument was created by sculptor Chris Scala and is based off a similar one in
Clervaux, Luxembourg. It depicts a six-foot bronze American soldier standing on
top a granite pedestal. Displayed on the pedestal are the insignias of
forty-one armored and infantry divisions that participated in the battle. The
monument sits in the center of a star, with a light placed at each of the five
points to illuminate the statue. Surrounding it is a “Circle of Honor” consisting
of bricks with the name of veterans on them. Behind it is a semicircle of
American, Belgian, and Luxembourg flags. Every year on December 16 a ceremony
is held at the monument to commemorate the Battle of the Bulge.