Home

“NUTS!”

“NUTS!”

  Anthony C McAuliffe

The American General Anthony Clement McAuliffe is with out no doubt the one and only person who got world famous by saying just one single word.

The word was “Nuts!”

And it was delivered on the 22nd of December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes in Belgium.  McAuliffe’s response was given to the German delegation asking the Americans either to surrender or to be killed.
 
The Americans were short off ammunition, food and other supplies.  But not off courage. And McAuliffe’s defiant reply gave the troops extraordinary fighting spirit.  McAuliffe and his one-word reply are considered the most famous quote of World War II and it went straight into history.  Many Americans have met the phrase in their History lessons (perhaps with out remembering today, who said the word – why and where). 
 
The French newspapers in 1944 had it on the frontage two days later: “A new punch-line in American lore was written this week by a wiry general, McAuliffe…he said “Nuts!”, when he was asked to surrender.” 
 
The locals in Bastogne first thought that McAuliffe referred to the Nut Fair held at Bastogne about this period of the year, but soon the city was nicknamed “Nuts City” because off McAuliffe. 

“On your way, Bud!”

 
101st Airborne Division had established head quarters a few miles outside the city of Bastogne, a small town but a transportation centre with many crossing roads and therefore quite important to keep in control. 
 
It was December the 22nd and the battle was commencing on its sixth day.  The time was precise 11.30.  The American soldiers could in the distance see four dark spots appearing.  It was German soldiers carrying a white flag.  One of the Germans, a captain, could speak English.  He said that they were parliamentarians and that they would deliver a message to the American commander. 

McAuliffe was handled the paper and was informed: “We have a surrender ultimatum from the Germans”.

McAuliffe asked: “You mean they want us to surrender?”

McAuliffe laughed and said: “Aw, Nuts!”

The demand was absurd for McAuliffe.  He read the note: 

“To the American Commander: The fortune of war is changing.  The American forces in and near Bastogne have now been encircled by strong German armoured units.  There is only one possibility to save you from total annihilation: To surrender with honour.  A term of two hours will be given from presenting this note. If this should be rejected heavy artillery corps and battalions will immediately after the two hours respite annihilate the American troops in and near Bastogne."  
 
Signed: The German Commander 
 
"What on earth shall I say?" asked McAuliffe his men. 
 
"Well, that first remark of yours would be hard to beat," said Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard. 
 
"What did I say?" asked McAuliffe, who him self wasn't aware of what he had said. 
 
"You said Nuts!" replied Kinnard and all other soldiers voiced their approval. 
 
“That’s it!” beamed McAuliffe. 
 
The response was perfect.  Typically American: Go to Hell we won’t give up!  Even though many of McAuliffe’s men had only around twenty rounds of ammunition! And so it was: 

22 December 1944

 
To the German Commander: “NUTS!” 
 
The American Commander. 
 
McAuliffe asked Col. Harper to arrange that the message were given to the Germans. “I’ll handle the note over myself – it’ll be a lot of fun!” said Harper. 
 
The Germans said that they would kill many Americans, but Harper saluted: “On your way, Bud – and good luck to you!” 

New energy!

 
McAuliffe’s redundant reply was the buzzword, the energizer and morale-booster to all troops.  McAuliffe’s spirit gave that little extra courage which made it impossible for Hitler’s men to even dream of a victory.  McAuliffe was originating Brigadier General Artillery commander of the 101st Airborne Division, but acting divisional commander in the absence of Major General Maxwell D. Taylor who was on leave in The United States. 
 
General Patton and his men were on their way from a southern position.  Having heard of the difficulties in Bastogne, Patton at once said that he and his men could be in Bastogne within three days.  Nobody else thought that they could be there so fast, but Patton had another opinion. 
 
Some of his soldiers have told afterwards, that “we didn’t even take time to have a leak…” 
 
Unfortunately Patton had difficulties caused to the alarming bad weather, snow, frost, ice and fog.  But McAuliffe and the rest of the US Army just said Nuts!  And continued to fight!  When Patton had heard of McAuliffe’s reply he immediately answered: “Any man who is that eloquent deserves to be relieved.  We shall go right away!” 

Cold Christmas

 
Christmas Eve in Bastogne for the 101st Airborne Division was one to remember – but not for the fun of the party.  The “Screaming Eagles” of the 101st Airborne – or the “Battered Bastards of Bastogne” as their nick name became.  In McAuliffe’s headquarters the Christmas tree was a little tiny one placed on the tale in a used food can!  But there was turkey on the table!  McAuliffe held a speech: “What’s merry about all this, you ask?  We’re fighting, it’s cold, and we’re not home.  Yes, but we have stopped everything that has been thrown at us from the North, East, South and West.  We continue to hold Bastogne and thereby assure the success of the Allied Armies.  We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in the gallant feat of arms and are truly making for ourselves a merry Christmas”. 
 
McAuliffe later added: "The finest Christmas present the 101st could get would be a relief tomorrow.” 
 
Patton sent a message: “Xmas present coming up. Hold on.” 
 
McAuliffe radioed back: “Sorry I didn’t get to shake hands today.  I was disappointed” 
 
The day after Christmas Patton and his troops arrived, and the siege of Bastogne had brighter days.  The rest is more or less history, even though the battle first ended the 28th of January 1945.  The story of the Battle of the Bulge, is not only a story of the two “one man bands”, McAuliffe and Patton.  It is primarily the story of a collective spirit.  Made by soldiers who, even when it was darkest, said about the Germans: “So they got us surrounded again, the poor bastards…” 
 
The Battle of the Bulge will always be remembered with pride by all Americans. And by the rest of the world. 

(Fact box) The Battle of the Bulge

 
This battle was Hitler’s last strike.  None of the Allied had any idea that Nazi-Germany had the power to make this last effort.  Hitler himself being architect of the battle had held his cards tight.  A heavy mass of soldiers and equipment was ready in all secrecy and at 04.30 in the morning Sunday the 16th of December 1944 hell broke loose.  The plan was to cut in between the English and American troops and get to Antwerp and occupy the city, which was of great importance for the Allied in-shipping of material to the mainland of Europe.  At the same time Hitler would split the Allied front.  Not that Hitler thought this would turn the tide of the war (or did he?), but it would give time to develop the V2 rockets into more efficient weapons and further to develop the world’s first jet fighter.  Under all circumstances Hitler could use this battle as a possibility to achieve conditional surrender instead of unconditional surrender as clamed by Roosevelt and Churchill already from the Atlantic Charter Meeting in August 1941. 

Toughest battle for US in WWII

 
In the Ardennes was gathered a huge group of American troops.  They were placed there for relaxing after a tough fight since D-Day six month earlier. But what a holiday!  The battle lasted from December the 16th to January the 28th 1945, and 8.447 American soldiers lost their lives and 46.170 were wounded.  The battle was one of the hardest - and with one of the heaviest losses - in World War II for America.  But the battle was won! 

(Fact box) Anthony Clement McAuliffe

 
Born on July 2, 1898 in Washington DC. Graduated at West Point in 1918.  Advanced from Second Lieutenant in 1918 to Commander and Chief of the U.S. Army in Europe in 1955.  In 1956 McAuliffe retired from the Army after serving nearly 40 years.  He then joined the American Cyanamid Corporation from 1956-1963.  Alongside with this he was chairman of the New York State Civil Defence Commission, 1960-1963.  He retired in the age of 65 and lived his last 12 years in Chevy Chase, Maryland until his death on August 11, 1975.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery (Section 3). 

McAuliffe's Medals:

 
Distinguished Service Cross (because of his effort during the Battle of the Bulge).  McAuliffe was decorated by General Patton on December 28, 1944).  Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star Bronze Star, First Oak Leaf Cluster Presidential Unit Citation, First Oak Leaf Cluster British Distinguished Service Order, with bar French Legion of Honour French Croix de Guerre. 
 
 

(Fact box) More to know?

 
In Bastogne there are three museums all worth to experience.  Just outside Bastogne City you find the Bastogne Historical Center, a huge Battle of the Bulge museum - the only museum in the world dedicated to only one single battle.  In Bastogne City you find two very interesting local museums with special sections for the Battle of the Bulge.  With many fascinating relics from then and items. 
 
Bastogne town square is named Place de General McAuliffe and on the place is raised a monument of McAuliffe next to a real Sherman tank from the battle.  The whole area around Bastogne is filled with monuments. 
 
On the Internet you will be able to find further information via every search machine, and there is written many books about the battle.  The author of this article has alone consulted 37 books.  If only one book should be mentioned, it must be Danny S. Parker: Battle of the Bulge, 1991.  Greenhill Books. 

About the author:

 
René Hojris, born 1952. He is a Danish advertising copywriter and also a writer of Danish biographies about Winston Churchill, the Formula One driver Michael Schumacher and the American advertising man Rosser Reeves.  All three books will be translated into English. 
 
In 2004 René Hojris will release an English biography about McAuliffe in connection with the 60th Anniversary for the Battle of the Bulge.  If interested you are welcome to get more information via the author on e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
 
René HOJRIS