When retired U.S. Army Col. Douglas Dillard walked into my office at VA last fall, we talked about a trip he was getting ready to make to Belgium on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. We also talked about what we at VA could do to share the story of the soldiers who fought for more than a month in the Ardennes. Living History: Battle of the Bulge is what resulted.

A few weeks ago, I emailed Doug and asked him for his thoughts on participating in this project. Here’s what he had to say:

As the national president of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Association, Inc., at the time of the interviews … I felt honored to participate, so I could describe a bit about my 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion. The unit was essentially destroyed by enemy small arms fire and devastating artillery, as the battalion conducted continuous attacks – and a bayonet charge – for which it received the Presidential Unit Citation.

I shall never forget my 551 GOYAS, as we were referred to.

For the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Association, I offer my thanks and appreciation to the Department of Veterans Affairs. We hoped the exposure would bring in younger people who could help us perpetuate the history of the Battle of the Bulge. Our age group has now passed the 89th year and although we are young at heart, we are aging. So this production by VA we hope will not only provide historical background about the Battle of the Bulge, but also interest other generations.

Veterans of the Battle of the BulgeWe can never thank VA sufficiently, but we can recognize the production personnel for their work and professionalism. The Veterans grouped around the conference table engaged with each other in the exchange of experiences … the team did an outstanding job. We salute them!

We also received a note from Ralph Bozorth with the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Association:

Although my contribution to this project pales in comparison to the Veterans and the staff from the VA who did all the work, I feel a part of the end result. What makes it so humbling is I know each one of the four Veterans and have been in their company over the years. Knowing Doug Dillard, Alfred Shehab, John Schaffner and Mike Levin makes me feel proud. With millions of men and women like these four serving our country during World War II, it is no wonder America was victorious.

Living History: Battle of the Bulge was produced with the assistance of The Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, a membership organization dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the sacrifices involved during the Battle of the Bulge. To learn more about the Battle of the Bulge, its living Veterans and preserving the history and memory of the battle, visit the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge website.

Special thanks to the band Carbon Leaf for allowing us to use their song “The War Was in Color” as the opening theme for Living History: Battle of the Bulge. Thanks, also, to Synthesis Production for the use of their footage from the December 2014 reenactment of the battle in Recogne, Belgium.

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Published on Feb. 22, 2015

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