Belgium's King Albert yesterday was to lead US officials and war veterans in a 60th anniversary commemoration of Americans who died in the deadliest single battle in US history -- the 1944 Battle of the Bulge.
The ceremony at the vast star-shaped Mardasson Memorial commemorates those who died in fighting off Nazi Germany's last offensive against allied forces advancing toward Berlin.
The six-week Battle of the Bulge was the largest World War II land battle that US forces took part in.
King Albert -- joined by Dennis Hastert, speaker of the US House of Representatives, Tom Korologos, the US envoy to Belgium and hundreds of war veterans -- will pay homage to 80,000 Americans who died or were wounded in fighting that also claimed 120,000 German lives.
Rising out of the Champagne fields of northern France, the Ardennes highlands sweep across southeastern Belgium, cover much of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, then flow into western Germany's Eiffel range.
Sixty years ago, their valleys, trout streams and rolling hills were the scene of Hitler's last gamble.
In December 1944, his panzer divisions smashed through the forests, catching the Allies by surprise and driving the front westward in a "bulge" that ran deep into Belgian territory.
There was so much destruction that it's impossible to know exactly how many were killed in action, how many went missing and how many were wounded.
The Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge in Arlington, Virginia, says 19,000 American troops died in the battle, the deadliest single battle in American history.
Bastogne is central to all manner of Battle of the Bulge commemorations spread over several weeks. In December 1944, the town was virtually encircled by Germans and was heavily damaged.