Day in History: Critical Point in Battle of the Bulge


Special Feature: This Day in History

In addition to being only 3 days away from Christmas, December 22nd is also an historic day as it is the anniversary of Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe’s immortal response “NUTS!” Here’s the history below!

The Battle of the Bulge is how we have come to describe a massive German surprise offensive of the 2nd World War. It began on December 16th, 1944 and lasted through January 25, 1945 and consisted of 13 German divisions that caught the allies off-guard. It took everything the US troops had, but somehow they managed to keep the lines from breaking and weathered the onslaught.

In the midst of this chaotic fighting, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe in command of the 101st Airborne Division was caught in the town of Bastogne, Belgium, and was surrounded by German forces FAR outnumbering his own. It is believed they were surrounded by 6 German divisions to 1 American division.

The German commander Heinrich Freiherr von Luttwitz, seeing the hopeless situation of the American troops before him, sent the following letter demanding our capitulation.

    To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. 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 Our 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 hours term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.

The German Commander.


General McAuliffe sent back the following now famous one-word response…

To the German Commander.


The American Commander

Legend has it the German commander was befuddled and asked the American soldier who delivered the message to clarify. Colonel Joseph Harper of the 327th Infantry cleared up the confusion for the German commander. “In plain English? Go to hell!”

The Germans attacked, but McAuliffe’s men of the 101st held out until the December 26th when General Patton punched through the German lines and relieved the exhausted 101st Airborne.

The rest, as they say, is history.


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