NDISC Hans J. Morgenthau Fellows Visit Brussels

Author: Notre Dame International Security Center

Ndc 101stairborne 1080 Reduced

In June 2023, the fellows of the Notre Dame International Security Center’s Hans J. Morgenthau Pre-doctoral program visited the capital of Belgium and the administrative center of the European Union—Brussels! In the weeklong experience, there were several highlights, but the one we wanted to take a moment to document will be familiar to enthusiasts of the book or miniseries Band of Brothers.

On the trip, NDISC Director Michael Desch role-played as Major William Desobry of the 101st Airborne Division during an immersive staff ride. Specifically, the staff ride traveled to the Bois Jacques outside the village of Foy, Belgium, where the Battle of the Bulge took place during World War II.

In December 1944, the Germans attempted Operation Wacht am Rhein to break through Allied lines to seize Antwerp and other port cities on the Western Front. The battle took place in the Ardennes Forest, where the Germans hoped to move undetected, but were slowed down by resistance from Major Desobry and his troops. This resistance created enough friction and disruption to give the Allies time to regroup and prepare their counteroffensive.

The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler's last major offensive of the War. The German advance was halted because of the heroic resistance of Major Desobry and others, and the Allies were ultimately able to push the Germans back to the Siegfried Line. Victory in the Battle of the Bulge propelled the Allies to winning the war.
Ndc Boisjacques 600x400 Reduced
During the visit to the Bois Jacques Forest, HJM Fellows were guided through the Battlefield.
For fans of popular culture, the Battle of the Bulge is also featured in the book and screen adaptation of Band of Brothers. Easy Company of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne played a key role in this battle and dug into the Bois Jacques (Jack's Woods), one of the many places the HJM fellows visited during this particular staff ride.

This staff ride was an opportunity for the Hans J. Morgenthau Fellows to deepen their understanding of warfare and the strategies leaders like Major Desobry used—in both the past and present. Throughout our trip, we participated in several staff rides and tours, as well as seminar discussions connecting the concepts of grand strategy and the events which took place in and near Brussels. If you're interested in learning all the intricacies of grand strategy, the Morgenthau fellowship at NDISC is right for you! Through the HJM program, you will have opportunities to engage with leaders and scholars in international security and foreign policy. Be sure to visit the Hans J. Morgenthau Fellowship page on our website and reach out to the program’s directors to get started.