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Published on Jan 6, 2009
In Memory of Harry Kinnard, who died yesterday, January 5, 2009: (and special thanks to Reg Jans, tour guide extraordinairre) "Aw, nuts!"
That's what General Anthony Clement McAuliffe said to a German group who demanded the surrender of the encircled 101st Airborne at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.
According to Harry Kinnard, then a Lt. Colonel on McAuliffe's staff, a party of four German soldiers approached the American line waving a white flag. Their note, in part, read:
"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." Kinnard said the following about the General McAuliffes response:
He pondered for a few minutes and then told the staff, "Well I don't know what to tell them."
He then asked the staff what they thought and I spoke up, saying, "That first remark of yours would be hard to beat."
McAuliffe said, "What do you mean?"
I answered, "Sir, you said 'Nuts'."
All members of the staff enthusiastically agreed, and McAuliffe decided to send that one word, "Nuts!", back to the Germans.
McAuliffe then wrote down:
To the German Commander,
The American Commander.
The German group didn't understand the message initially: "Is the reply negative or affirmative? If it is the latter I will negotiate further."
An American clarified it for him. "If you don't know what 'Nuts' means, in plain English it is the same as 'Go to Hell'. And I'll tell you something else, if you continue to attack we will kill every goddamn German that tries to break into this city."
General McAuliffe's response came to typify the "can-do" American attitude, despite the tough circumstances, demonstrated so ably by 101st Division in Bastogne. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for leading the defense of the city against overwhelming German strength in numbers and materiel.