December 22, 1944 - It was on this day that American forces in Bastogne, Belgium were surrounded by the Germans during what has become known as the Battle of the Bulge.
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 Ourthe 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 wellknown American humanity.
The German Commander
After General McAuliffe read the message, he exclaimed simply, "Nuts!" As he and his officers discussed what they should say as an official reply, it was agreed that his first reaction summed things up nicely. So they typed it up:
To the German Commander,
The American Commander
When the Germans received the response they were a bit confused with the meaning of the word "NUTS!" Colonel Joseph Harper, the American who helped deliver the letter offered to aid in the translation. He said in plain English it meant, "Go to hell."
The stunned Germans did not follow through with their threat of a massive bombardment but they did launch some strategic tank and aerial assaults. The American forces were able to hold their ground until reinforcements arrived.
For his bravery General McAuliffe was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.