The U.S. Army published a short article about the events surrounding why the American commander at Bastogne, confronted with a demand by the Germans to surrender, famously replied, “Nuts!”
Christmas 1944, Bastogne, Belgium, Battle of the Bulge.
The German high command had unleashed thousands of tanks and troops at what they saw as a vulnerable point in the Allied lines, deep in the Ardennes in northeastern France.
During the attack, the 101st Airborne was sent to the line to reinforce it. They held Bastogne, Belgium, site of a critical road intersection. The Germans surrounded the town during one of the coldest winters on record and pounded the airborne troops.
Three days before Christmas, four Germans soldiers approached the American positions with a request to see the commanding officer. They carried a message from the German commander–a request to surrender.
Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe famously sent back a formal reply: “Nuts!”
When McAuliffe had been told of the request to surrender by a subordinate, he said, “They want to surrender?” When corrected, he added, “Us, surrender? Aw, nuts!” to the amusement of his men.
The answer was no, but the Germans needed a formal reply. McAuliffe, who had more pressing things to deal with, didn’t know what to say. One of his subordinates told him his initial reply was hard to top. So that’s what he sent back:
December 22, 1944
To the German Commander,
N U T S !
The American Commander
When the German officers saw the message, they were confused. An American translated, “The reply is decidedly not affirmative.”
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