Anthony McAuliffe (2 July 1898 – 11 August 1975) was the United States Army general who was the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium, during World War II's Battle of the Bulge, famous for his single-word reply of "Nuts!" in response to a German surrender ultimatum.
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- His famous reply to the German demand for surrender of the surrounded US 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge (22 December 1944), as quoted in Bastogne : The Story of the First Eight Days In Which the 101st Airborne Division Was Closed Within the Ring of German Forces (1946) by Colonel S. L. A. Marshal, Ch. 14; delivering the message Colonel Joseph H. Harper was asked "What does that mean? … Is this affirmative or negative?" and replied "Definitely not affirmative."
- Allied Troops are counterattacking in force. We continue to hold Bastogne. By holding Bastogne we assure the success of the Allied Armies. We know that our Division Commander, General Taylor, will say: Well Done!
We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms are truly making for ourselves a Merry Christmas.
- US 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge (22 December 1944), as quoted in Gen. McAuliffe’s Christmas message, Battle of the Bulge
Quotes about McAuliffe
- Colonel Gaston Bell: General McAuliffe refused a German surrender demand. You know what he said?
- General George S. Patton: What?
- Colonel Gaston Bell: "Nuts!"
- Patton: [laughing] Keep them moving, colonel. A man that eloquent has to be saved.
- On Dec. 22, four German couriers approached American lines under a flag of truce, carrying a message "from the German commander to the American commander."
Asserting that Bastogne was "encircled," the note gave McAuliffe, who was acting commander of the 101st in the absence of Maj. Gen. Maxwell Taylor, two hours to surrender or face "total annihilation." It offered "the privileges of the Geneva Convention" to the would-be POWs.
What came next would be one of World War II's seminal moments.
As [Vincent] Vicari, McAuliffe's personal aide, recalls it 60 years later, "General Mac read the note and said, 'Aw, nuts.' Then he asked, 'What should I tell them?' "
Lt. Col. Harry W. O. Kinnard, the division operations officer, said, "Why not tell them what you just said?"
"What did I just say?"
"You said, 'Nuts,' " Kinnard replied.
McAuliffe scribbled a reply:
- "To the German commander.
- From the American commander."
- "To the German commander.
- He handed the message to Lt. Col. Joseph Harper, who had escorted the couriers.
To the Germans who didn't understand the Yankee colloquialism, Harper explained: "It means the same thing as 'Go to hell.' "
While WWII historian Barry Turner says McAuliffe's one-word riposte "lost something in translation," others have speculated that "nuts" might be a sanitized version of what the tough paratroop general actually said. Not so, Vicari says.
"General Mac was the only general I ever knew who did not use profane language," he said in a telephone interview. " 'Nuts' was part of his normal vocabulary."