On this day in 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, Nazi Germany demanded that American troops surrender at Bastogne, Belgium. Brigadier Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe responded with the amusing reply: "Nuts!" Here are 5 facts about the battle that Winston Churchill called “the greatest American battle” of World War II.
The Term "Battle of the Bulge" Was Coined By Reporter Larry Newman
Larry Newman was reporting on the Second World War for the United Press International and the International News Service. He met with American General George Patton on December 30th, 1944, to discuss the German counterattack and decided to give the battle a memorable yet informal name.
After scanning over some war maps, he noticed the growth in numbers—or "bulging"—of the German troops, and that influenced his decision to refer to the fight as the "Battle of the Bulge." The phrase quickly spread throughout American journalism with many other reporters adopting the new name.
Trivia Was Used To Weed Out German Spies Before and during the Battle of the Bulge, German troops would dress in Allied uniforms to help them get behind enemy lines. Eventually, Americans found out about the scheme. To prevent Germans disguised as Allies from sneaking in, American checkpoints required anyone who wanted to cross to correctly answer a series of trivia questions about American pop culture. Some questions included “Who plays center field for the Yankees?” and “What’s Mickey Mouse’s girlfriend’s name?” General Bradley once had to prove his identity by “naming the then-current spouse of movie star named Betty Grable”.
When Asked To Surrender, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe Replied With This Four-Letter Word
On December 22nd, 1944 German troops caught 14,000 American soldiers and approximately 3,000 civilians by surrounding the town of Bastogne, Belgium. The Nazis sent a message to Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, explaining that the town had been enclosed by German units and gave him two hours to surrender. Upon hearing the demand, McAuliffe responded, "Nuts!" This amused some of his staffers, who persuaded him to put
that little interjection in his formal reply. Here’s McAuliffe’s actual written response to
“December 22, 1944
To the German Commander,
N U T S!
The American Commander"
The isolated Americans in Bastogne held off the German siege until General Patton forced his way into the city with reinforcements on December 26.
Illness and Injuries Hit Epidemic Levels “I was from Buffalo, I thought I knew cold,” Warren Spahn, a baseball Hall of Famer who served in WWII, later said. “But I didn’t really know cold until the Battle of the Bulge.” The December temperatures during the Battle of the Bulge were incredibly frigid. Hitler used the brutal weather to his advantage by timing his attack for the middle of December when temperatures dipped far below the freezing mark, and when the fog was thick. Such conditions would make it difficult for the Allies to attack German ground troops with their aircraft. American troops were not dressed for these conditions either, furthering their disadvantage. Without waterproof combat boots, it was nearly impossible to keep their feet dry and warm. Eventually, over 64,000 cases of "cold injuries'' were reported, which included pneumonia and "trench foot.
Segregation Was Temporarily Halted To Integrate African-American Soldiers About 1.2 million African-Americans served in the Second World War, but black troops were not allowed to fight side by side along with white soldiers. However, in response to personnel shortages in the Ardennes, General Eisenhower invited over 2,200 black soldiers to fight “shoulder to shoulder” with their white counterparts. Unfortunately, black soldiers were segregated once again after the Battle of the Bulge ended. It wouldn't be until 1948, three years after the end of WWII, that President Truman would finally commit to integrating the armed services.