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McAuliffe file photo [859]

Anthony McAuliffe

Given NameAnthony
Born2 Jul 1898
Died11 Aug 1975
CountryUnited States


ww2dbase"Aw, nuts!"

ww2dbaseThat'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.

ww2dbaseAccording 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."

ww2dbaseKinnard said the following about the General McAuliffe’s response:

ww2dbaseHe pondered for a few minutes and then told the staff, "Well I don't know what to tell them."

ww2dbaseHe then asked the staff what they thought and I spoke up, saying, "That first remark of yours would be hard to beat."

ww2dbaseMcAuliffe said, "What do you mean?"

ww2dbaseI answered, "Sir, you said 'Nuts'."

ww2dbaseAll members of the staff enthusiastically agreed, and McAuliffe decided to send that one word, "Nuts!", back to the Germans.

ww2dbaseMcAuliffe then wrote down:

ww2dbaseTo the German Commander,


ww2dbaseThe American Commander.

ww2dbaseThe German group didn't understand the message initially: "Is the reply negative or affirmative? If it is the latter I will negotiate further."

ww2dbaseAn 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."

ww2dbaseGeneral 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.

ww2dbaseAt the time, McAuliffe was the acting commander of the Division, as General Maxwell Taylor was in Washington D.C. Taylor's son, Thomas, recounts what his father's response might have been in his book Behind Hitler’s Lines:

"Years later [I] asked Taylor how he would have replied to Luttwitz [the German General making the demand] had he returned in time for the surrender ultimatum. Taylor's answer was that because this was an international communication he would have replied in French, the proper language of diplomacy, and would have said something like, 'These are still the Ardennes, but this is no longer 1940.'"

ww2dbaseGeneral Taylor reached the Division three days after the ultimatum was delivered, and by then "Nuts!" went "out to the world and into history."

ww2dbaseMcAuliffe went on to command the 103rd Division in January 1945 until the end of the war. After hostilities ended, he held a number of command posts in the military, including Commander and Chief of the U.S. Army in Europe in 1955. He retired in 1956.

ww2dbaseSources: 103rd Cactus Division, www.dropzone.org, National Archives, Behind Hitler’s Lines.

Last Major Revision: Mar 2005

Anthony McAuliffe Interactive Map


Anthony McAuliffe, date unknownBrigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, 1942-1944
See all 6 photographs of Anthony McAuliffe

Anthony McAuliffe Timeline

2 Jul 1898 Anthony McAuliffe was born.
11 Aug 1975 Anthony McAuliffe passed away.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Fred Childs says:
9 Mar 2006 12:28:07 PM

Typografical error. McAuliffe went on to command the 101st Airborne Division, not the 103rd.
2. Commenter identity confirmed C. Peter Chen says:
9 Mar 2006 03:56:20 PM

Actually, 103rd is correct. McAuliffe was transferred from 101st Airborne Division to 103rd Division in Jan 1945.
3. Robert says:
29 Nov 2010 07:50:09 PM

Does anyone one know of a copy of the original "Nuts!" reply to the Germans. They must have saved a copy, at least on carbon paper. Please reply to my email. robert
4. Anonymous says:
10 Feb 2011 06:32:51 PM

nowonder they call them the GREATIST GENERATION.now thats true heros.
5. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
25 May 2015 10:53:38 PM

According to the novelist and military historian, Charles Whiting, General MacAuliffes's scornful reply of "Nuts" made in response to the German offer to surrender after his division became surrounded at Bastogne may not be strictly accurate. Actually, he retorted something much more cruder, but fortunately for the legend, his PR man censored the expletive in time. The original would most certainly not have been appropriate for inclusion in High School history books.

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Event(s) Participated:
» Normandy Campaign, Phase 1
» Battle of the Bulge

Anthony McAuliffe Photo Gallery
Anthony McAuliffe, date unknownBrigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, 1942-1944
See all 6 photographs of Anthony McAuliffe

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