Today, December 22, marks the 74-year anniversary of American Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe’s legendary reply to the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge.
During the Battle of the Bulge, German forces had surrounded the Americans holding Bastogne and the area around the town. (RELATED: Watching ‘Band Of Brothers’ Never Gets Old. Here’s Why It’s Such A Great Series)
German forces approached the men of the 101st Airborne Divison to demand their honorable surrender or face annihilation. In the absence of General Maxwell Taylor, McAuliffe was in charge of the 101st. The German message was delivered to him around noon, and read in part:
This time the U.S.A.
forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong
German armored units. More German armored units have crossed
the river Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and
reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet.
Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled
U.S.A troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable
surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over
a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the
presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German
Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready
to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The
order for firing will be given immediately after this two
What did McAuliffe do? Did he order his men to throw their weapons down and surrender to the Germans, who had them outnumbered and encircled? Did he cave to the enormous threat from the enemy?
No, he simply replied with one word: NUTS! His full message read:
December 22, 1944
To the German Commander,
N U T S !
The American Commander
What happened next was unbelievable — and one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of American warfare. The American forces defended Bastogne, pushed the Germans back and didn’t give a damn inch to the enemy.
The Germans threw every single thing they had at our guys, and they still couldn’t crack us. Not only couldn’t the get our guys to crack, we turned around to kick their ass. One moment they’re demanding our surrender, and the next we’re unleashing everything we’ve got on them. Don’t mess with the USA.
The actions of the 101st were forever memorialized in HBO’s hit mini-series “Band of Brothers.” Below is the scene when the men are informed of McAuliffe’s response to the Germans.
As Richard Winters so eloquently put it, “We’re paratroopers. We’re supposed to be surrounded.”
God bless McAuliffe, the men of the 101st and everybody else who took up arms against the Nazis. They’re a generation that must never be forgotten.
We need a few more men in this world with the guts of those guys — the guts to tell the enemy military that has them surrounded “NUTS!”