Like a broody hen hatching her eggs, the Bois Jacques or ‘Jack Woods’, situated between the towns of Foy and Bizory,  protects the foxholes of the young soldiers who dug and occupied them in WWII.  By Reg Jans

Photo by Esther Ait Ali-Hameleers

 

Since December 2017, this location, made famous by the popular HBO series ‘Band of Brothers’, is protected by the City of Bastogne and the Walloon Region in order to ensure the preservation of this historical site.

During the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-1945, the Siege of Bastogne was an engagement between American and German forces who ultimately wanted to recapture the strategic port of Antwerp.




Bois Jacques is one of the many places on the Bastogne perimeter where American soldiers held off countless enemy attacks to capture the town’s vital crossroads at all cost. All this with a minimum of food, barely enough ammo, dressed in their summer jumpsuits and in harsh winter conditions while suffering heavy German artillery barrages.

Just like most of the woods surrounding the formerly besieged city the Jack Woods is privately owned. This means the owners will cut and replant the spruces when time is right in order to maintain their tree-farming projects, a way to make a living in the Ardennes. Unfortunately this often comes with bulldozering the remaining foxholes from WWII.

‘ We needed to do something to preserve our history and the stories of the soldiers who fought for our freedom’, Coralie Bonnet, Bastogne Chief of Staff, explained. ‘ It is very important to us to preserve this site so the future generations can visit and more important to learn from the past. To be educated about the sacrifices that were made by the American soldiers.’

A section of these vast woods has been protected since December 2017 and there will be severe action against people who violate the rules regarding metal detecting, damaging trees, dumping garbage and digging the foxholes.  Whilst several different American units held the line there on different dates,  the chosen area was made famous by the HBO series Band of Brothers, a popular place for people to see where Easy Company of the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division was dug in from 20 December 1944 until 4 January 1945.

Photo by Esther Ait Ali-Hameleers

Needless to say this place is just a part of all the sacred ground in Bastogne and many first-hand accounts from the veterans can be told here.

‘ Currently we are in process to put up camera’s for security/protection reasons and we are working to roll out a virtual reality tour of the woods.’, Coralie says.




No need to worry for this place to become a Belgian Disney Land; just a way to preserve and protect a historical site. Also a file has been made for UNESCO to make it part of our World Heritage.

Keep History Alive !