Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"A victory for eloquence at some expense to grammar"

12/22/2010 On December 22, 1944, General Anthony C. McAuliffe sent a famous one word written note to the German commander, General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz, in response to the latter's demand that McAuliffe surrender his 101st Airborne Division troops at Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Publius at Big Government has a post on the General's famous response, and a good photo of that great American hero.

McAuliffe, as the unit's artillery commander, was temporarily in command of the 101st Airborne Division, as General Maxwell D. Taylor was away at a staff conference in Washington, D.C. The written surrender ultimatum from the German commander arrived at the American headquarters under a flag of truce. That complete surrender demand was eventually taken to McAuliffe by staff, and attempted to play on American concerns over potential civilian casualties, should the battle continue . . . "All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity."

Here then was that typed written response from General Mac to General von Lüttwitz . . . word for word.
"To the German Commander, NUTS!, The American Commander"
From the Wikipedia entry about the famous incident involving General McAuliffe:
. . .

According to various accounts from those present, when McAuliffe was told of the German demand for surrender he said "nuts". At a loss for an official reply, Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard suggested that his first remark summed up the situation well, which was agreed to by the others. The official reply: "To the German Commander, NUTS!, The American Commander" was typed and delivered by Colonel Joseph Harper, commanding the 327th Glider Infantry, and his S-3, Major Alvin Jones, to the German delegation. Harper offered an explanation of the meaning of the word to the Germans, telling them that in "plain English" it meant "Go to hell."[1]

According to an article in the Daily Mail the reply was not "Nuts," but a four letter expletive that was changed for propaganda purposes for domestic consumption [citation needed]. But that was not the case, according to Vincent Vicari, McAuliffe's personal aide, who was there at the time. As quoted by Richard Pyle of the Associated Press Dec. 12, 2004, Vicari said, "General Mac was the only general I ever knew who did not use profane language. 'Nuts' was part of his normal vocabulary."
. . . .

Well said, General! Well said!

The footnote above, linking to the internet posting of Chapter 14 of S.L.A. Marshall, Bastogne: The First Eight Days, describes the incident in even greater detail. It is certailny worth the read for more information on the incident, and is the source for the "quote" title of this post . . . a characterization of the description of the entire incident and the immediate aftermath, written at the time by the unit's G-2 . . . the G-2 Periodic Report No. 4.

The real eloquence, though, was contained in that one word quip by General McAuliffe. It was one for the ages -- 66 years ago -- and it still brings a smile to our faces, and tears to our eyes!

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At 7:08 PM, January 10, 2011, Blogger Scooter Jay said...

the Battle of the Bulge, and more specifically the cable which you refer to, are my favorite stories of WWII. Thank you!


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