December 22, 1944: General Anthony McAuliffe responds to an order for surrender. The Battle of the Bulge was a German offensive campaign during World War II. The battle line was through the dense forests of the Ardennes region of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg. Allied forces were caught completely off guard and woefully out gunned. At the time of the initial attack, the German forces were about 200,000 strong while the Allies had about 83,000 men with which to defend their positions. The Allies were able to resupply their lines with men and munitions while the Germans were not able to move in as many men. The American forces took the brunt of the action and suffered the most casualties at 89,500 with 19,000 killed and 47,500 wounded. Another 23,000 Americans were captured or missing.
Allied forces were led by Dwight Eisenhower and Bernard Montgomery from Britain. Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, and George Patton were in command of various US Army division while McAuliffe was in charge of the 101st Airborn Division. The German assault began on December 16, 1944 at 5.30 AM when the Germans began a 90 minute artillery barrage in which they launched 1,600 artillery pieces across an 80 mile front. Heavy snowstorms made the battle even more chaotic. The snows kept the Allied planes grounded but it also caused severe traffic jams for the Germans who were then faced with shortages on their front lines.
The Siege of Bastogne is often credited as the point at which the German advance was stopped. The battle at Eisenborn Ridge was another major component of the Battle of the Bulge and may have been even more of a turning point. It was at the Siege of Bastogne, fought between December 20-27, 1944, where General McAuliffe was in charge, supported by William Roberts and Creighton Abrams. The Germans were driving for the harbor at Antwerp in order to stop supply lines for the Allies. The Allies were determined to keep the supply lines open as they desperately needed the men and supplies to combat the still superior German forces.
On this day, under a flag of truce, a German major, lieutenant, and two enlisted men entered the American lines southeast of Bastogne. They carried a message from General von Lüttwitz to General McAuliffe. The message follows in the quotes and demanded a surrender of the US troops. McAuliffe read the message and issued a one word response. Others around him tried to sweeten the response but instead, decided it was the best response possible and so they sent a message to the German Commander. NUTS! And signed it from the American Commander. When the German major received and read the message, he was confused so an American translated it for him, “In plain English? Go to hell.” The Americans eventually won the Siege of Bastogne and the Allies were victorious in the Battle of the Bulge which was called a German operational failure.
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 Our 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 well-known American humanity. – The German Commander.
Also on this day: March to the Sea – In 1864, General Sherman finished his march into Savannah, Georgia.
First PM – In 1885, Ito Hirobumi became the first Prime Minister of Japan.
Fly Ash – In 2008, the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant’s dike collapsed.
Under Water – In 1937, The Lincoln Tunnel in NYC was opened.
Heavens! – In 1891, Brucia was discovered.