22 December, 2011

22 December 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
22 December, 1944       0920

My darling –

I don’t promise I can finish this but I’ll go as far as I can. I suppose I’ve sounded mysterious in my last couple of letters, dear – but it shouldn’t seem too much so. A good many facts must be apparent to you. You wrote not so long ago, that you had been looking over some of the pictures I had sent home and that you had re-read my letters of the past two months. From the latter you said you were able to get an overall picture; that you could tell when I had a hard day, or when there had been activity – or moving etc. I’m certainly glad you are able to get all that from a collection of my letters, darling – because it’s impossible to give you a more detailed picture in any single letter. You can also get a better idea by correlating the dates of my letters with the actual day it was written – rather than with the day you receive it – or them. That’s difficult to do – especially if a few weeks go by. You wrote also that it was wonderful that I could write every day. I think it is, too, dear – wonderful for me, because – whether you liked the tone of some of them or not, dear – I always feel my day is complete when I do write a letter to you. And when I miss a day, that day is a void one, dear.

We’ve been in a good many peculiar military situations since the day we landed and I didn’t have to miss many days. Let’s hope that the future will be no different. And talking about mail – it looks as if I’ll have a banner month in January – because we’re getting no mail at all these days. I’ve received not one letter from you, darling, dated December, and I have quite a few coming to me from November.


Hello again sweetheart – and this time for only a few minutes, I’m afraid. I’ve had several things to look after and there’s more coming. There’s nothing much else of interest to write you about – that is – that I can write you about. Last night would have been relatively inactive for me but I had to go see an 82 yr old woman who fell down some stairs. The place was right behind our C.P. – so don’t worry dear. It turned out that she had a fractured hip; we had to splint it and we then evacuated her to the civilian hospital in this city.

Now, darling, I’ll have to knock off for now. I’ll try to write tomorrow. Be well, dear – and don’t worry about me – regardless of all the things you’re reading in the papers. I’m taking good care of myself for you – because I love you more than anyone in the world. So long for now, dear; love to the folks and

All my sincerest love –


about "Nuts"

An airdrop of supplies planned for the 22d never reached Bastogne because bad flying weather continued as in the days past. All that the Third Army air liaison staff could do was to send a message that "the 101st Airborne situation is known and appreciated." Artillery ammunition was running very low. The large number of wounded congregated inside Bastogne presented a special problem: there were too few medics, not enough surgical equipment, and blankets had to be gathered up from front-line troops to wrap the men suffering from wounds and shock.

Improvised Emergency Ward
during Siege of Bastogne

Nonetheless, morale was high. Late in the afternoon word was circulated to all the regiments that the 4th Armored and the 7th Armored (so vague was information inside the perimeter) were on their way to Bastogne; to the men in the line this was heartening news. What may have been the biggest morale booster came with a reverse twist - the enemy "ultimatum."

The story was told in an interview by Patrick O'Donnell with Lieutenant General Harry W. O. Kinnard, who at the time of the Siege of Bastogne was a Lieutenant Colonel and Division G-3.
While we were still surrounded, on the morning of December 22, a German surrender party, consisting of two officers and two NCOs, and carrying a white flag, approached our perimeter in the area of our Glider Regiment, the 327th. The party was taken to a nearby platoon command post. While the enlisted men were detained the officers were blind folded and taken to the command post of the 327th where they presented their surrender ultimatum. The ultimatum in essence said the 101st's position was hopeless and that if we elected not to surrender a lot of bad things would happen.

The message was brought in to the Division Headquarters by Major Alvin Jones, the S-3, and Colonel Harper, the Regimental Commander. They brought the message to me, the G-3 and Paul Danahy, the G-2. My first reaction was that this was a German ruse, designed to get our men out of their fox holes. But be that as it might, we agreed that we needed to take the message up the line. We took it first to the acting Chief of Staff of the Division, Lt. Col. Ned Moore. With him, we took the message to the acting Division Commander General Tony McAuliffe. Moore told General McAuliffe that we had a German surrender ultimatum. The General's first reaction was that the Germans wanted to surrender to us. Col. Moore quickly disabused him of that notion and explained that the German's demanded our surrender. When McAuliffe heard that he laughed and said: "Us surrender? Aw, nuts!"

General Anthony McAuliffe
in Bastogne on 27 December 1944

But then McAuliffe realized that some sort of reply was in order. 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, "Nuts!" The American Commander."

McAuliffe then asked Col. Harper to deliver the message to the Germans. Harper took the typed message back to the company command post where the two German officers were detained. Harper then told the Germans that he had the American commanders reply. The German captain then asked, "Is it written or verbal?" Harper responded that it was written and added, "I will place it in your hand."

The German major then asked, "Is the reply negative or affirmative? If it is the latter I will negotiate further."

At this time the Germans were acting in an arrogant and patronizing manner and Harper, who was starting to lose his temper, responded, "The reply is decidedly not affirmative." He then added that, "If you continue your foolish attack your losses will be tremendous."

Harper then put the German officers in a jeep and took them back to where the German enlisted men were detained. He then said to the German captain, "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 goddam German that tries to break into this city."

The German major and captain saluted very stiffly. The captain said, "We will kill many Americans. This is war." Harper then responded, "On your way Bud," he then said, "and good luck to you." Harper later told me he always regretted wishing them good luck.

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