WWII Battle of the Bulge Rallying Cry: ‘Nuts!’
Things looked grim for the 10,000 American troops trapped in the Belgium town of Bastogne on Dec. 22, 1944. Six days before, the Germans had surprised the Allies by launching the Ardennes Offensive, known to Americans as the Battle of the Bulge because of the sudden bulge the German thrust initially made in the Allies’ lines. It had seemed the end was drawing near for Nazi Germany, especially with the huge Soviet offensive bearing down on the Eastern Front. Allied intelligence reports of German troop movements had been interpreted as purely defensive maneuvers. Now, suddenly, four German armies were on the move, and the American troops in Bastogne were completely surrounded.
The German commander in charge of the Bastogne attack paused the fighting to issue his surrender ultimatum, certain the besieged Americans had no choice but to give up. The Americans were indeed in bad shape, completely cut off, and low on food, ammunition and medical supplies. Surrender seemed the Americans’ only option.
The American commander, 46-year-old General Anthony C. McAuliffe, sent a one-word answer back: “Nuts!” This response puzzled the Germans, but it did not take them long to discover the defiant meaning in the word: the stubborn Americans would not surrender. McAuliffe’s answer inspired his men, and they bravely fought against their numerically superior foe and beat back wave after wave of attacks. They were desperate, but determined—and they held on. Finally, on December 26, other American troops and armor broke through the German ring to rescue the Bastogne defenders. The Germans would go on to lose the Battle of the Bulge, their last offensive hope to force the Allies to accept a peace agreement.
“Nuts!” became an American rallying war cry, as explained in the following newspaper article. This copyrighted article was published by the Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) on Dec. 30, 1944:
‘Nuts’ Becomes Famous as Newest Battle Cry
Bastogne, Dec. 29 (AP)—The commander of Bastogne’s valorous 10,000, who made history with a single word—“Nuts”—was 46-year-old Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, one of America’s youngest generals.
He was acting commander of the 101st air-borne division and odds and ends of the United States 3d army’s 9th and 10th armored divisions, which had been thrown in hurriedly to stem the German rush toward Sedan.
This soldier from Washington, D.C., and his troops had been in tough spots before, for they were in the Normandy landings and the air-borne penetration of Holland.
Simple Answer Given
And so when the commander of the German forces drawn up in a siege ring around Bastogne sent in an ultimatum to surrender, McAuliffe sent back this now-famous reply which deserves to rank with John Paul Jones’ “We have just begun to fight!”
It was simply this one word: “Nuts!”
Then the young general told his tough fighters what he had done, and this typical bit of American repartee became a rallying call for the garrison of 10,000.
Besides the 101st (“Screaming Eagle”) air-borne and the 9th and 10th armored divisions, these other 3d army divisions took relief roles in the Bastogne drama: the 4th armored, the 80th (“Blue Ridge”) infantry and the 26th (“Yankee”) infantry.
Other Units Active
Two other units, the 4th (“Ivy”) and 5th (“Red Diamond”) infantry divisions, were named Friday as having aided in the 3d army’s great offensive against the south of the German bulge, operating in northeast Luxembourg.
The answer of “Nuts” went back to the German lines on December 22.
Four days later, when the 80th infantry and 4th armored divisions broke through to their relief, the fields before the American lines around Bastogne were littered with the debris of 200 German tanks which had butted in vain against the doughboy positions. They had been attacked by five German divisions.
Units of the 26th infantry division also had helped to smash the encirclement of Bastogne.
Regular Commander Back
Next day, the 101st ’s regular commander, Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, arrived after a trip by plane and jeep from Washington, D.C. Taylor had been in Washington on Christmas eve.
More and more of the epic story of American courage at Bastogne was disclosed Friday. The stand well may have frustrated the well-laid plans of Field Marshal Karl Gerd von Rundstedt.
Certainly, the Germans could not keep the drive toward France going at full steam without Bastogne’s seven highways and one railroad.
And McAuliffe and his troops told the enemy, in terms that fighting men understand, that they could not have the roads.
The 101st air-borne had been spoiling for a fight, and they got one when they were rushed into Bastogne by truck just before the waves of attacking Germans closed around the city.
Elements of the two armored divisions and remnants of other infantry units who had been able to make it into Bastogne completed the garrison.
Paratroopers Boost Morale
“In Normandy and Holland I jumped out of a C-47,” said one dismounted parachute trooper. “Here I jumped out of the rear of a truck.”
“These parachute troopers were the best morale bucker-uppers we had,” said Maj. Charles E. Fife, Los Angeles. “Those boys fought like hell from the word go.”
Lt. Col. Harry E. Brown, Indianapolis, a 4th armored staff officer, was high in the praise of the seasoned 80th infantry, which fought in to the Bastogne garrison’s relief.
“Eightieth’s doughboys really did themselves proud,” he declared. “You can’t say too much for them.”
The 80th helped weld the Normandy trap that destroyed the 7th German army, broke across the Seine, Marne and Meuse and made the first crossing of the Moselle.
Division Has History
The 4th armored division which came up and made certain that the relief corridor held firm is another famous outfit. It spearheaded the Normandy breakthrough and the Moselle river crossings at Metz and the Saar river crossings into Germany.
The first actual contact with the surrounded garrison was made by an infantry patrol led by Lt. Walter P. Carr, Hot Springs, Ark., who worked his way through the enemy lines without being challenged to an outpost of the 101st engineers.
Then came the 80th division’s 318th regiment, commanded by Col. Lansing McVickar, Cold Springs Harbor, Me., whose battalion commanders were Maj. George W. Connaughton, Paris, Ark., and Lt. Col. Glenn S. Gardner, Athens, O.
Troops See Action
The 10th participated briefly in the Saar and Moselle operations, while the 9th saw first action along the Luxembourg border.
It also was disclosed that the 4th and 5th infantry divisions had engaged the Germans northeast of the city of Luxembourg.
The 4th landed on the coast of France on D-day and captured Cherbourg and sent the first troops into Paris. As part of the United States 1st army, the 4th broke into the Siegfried line and participated in the bloody Hurtgen forest fighting before shifting to Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s 3d army command.
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