Secretary Esper Press Gaggle En Route to 75th Anniversary Commemoration of Battle of the Bulge

Dec. 15, 2019
Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper

STAFF:  All right.  So let's go ahead.  We'll do (inaudible).

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER:    Sure.  Well, I -- this is a -- a great trip.  It's, you know, professional for me, on one hand, personal on the other, because I served in the 101st Airborne, in combat.  And few Americans don't know about the Battle of the Bulge.  It was the last major battle, if you will, in World War II.

I think it was the second or third most deadly campaign (inaudible) for Americans in World War II.  And so it's just an epic battle of courage and bravery of U.S. paratroopers resisting the last major German offensive conducted by Panzer divisions, only to be relieved by Patton's 3rd Army.

So it's a great story, the 75th anniversary.  Much like Normandy that I attended this summer, this will probably be the last time where we can actually see some -- some veterans of that -- that campaign, at a major -- at a major point in time.

So I really look forward to it.  I have a -- always enjoy seeing the veterans, and I want to get out and walk around and -- and, of course, speak to our allies.  But it's also a great moment to reflect on how far we've come in 75 years as a continent and certainly as an alliance.

So we're going to have a great trip.

STAFF:  Anybody have any questions on the trip?

Q:  On the trip?

STAFF:  (inaudible)

Q:  OK, OK.  I guess, for the trip, can you explain at all how it came together that you're -- you'll be meeting this delegation?

SEC. ESPER:  Well, I expressed interest early on, on going on this trip, again, because of my personal and professional interests, and I am the senior guy, so I think it's a matter of I just happen to be the senior guy and the secretary of defense, so it's appropriate.

Q:  Is this your first time to go there?

SEC. ESPER:  Yes, it's the first time I've been to -- to Bastogne.  I've been to several European battlefields (inaudible) not just World War II, but I've been to Waterloo and -- and, of course, we used to do staff rides, when I was stationed in Italy, to see some of the major -- major fights of World War II in Italy.

So I've been out to places like that.  So, again, it's another -- another historic opportunity to go to visit.

STAFF:  All right, guys.