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General McAuliffe's Christmas Message
The Battle of the Bulge, 1944

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The last hurrah of the Wehrmacht occurred in the famous Battle of the Bulge, wherein the German High Command mustered its remaining strength and munitions for one last push into what it perceived to be an Allied weak point in northeastern France. By threading its armor through the lightly defended Ardennes Forest in a surprise attack, the Germans hoped to drive a wedge between the U.S. forces and the British 21st Army Group as they closed on the German industrial basin.

Launched on December 16th during a spell of poor weather -- calculated to keep the Allied air forces on the ground -- the offensive achieved both surprise and early victories over the U.S. V and VIII Corps. In an attempt to hold the critical road intersection at Bastogne, Belgium, General Eisenhower rushed in the already-famous "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division to reinforce a previously positioned armored detachment. In short order, the German Army surrounded the entire force and laid siege to the town.

With division commander Major General Maxwell Taylor out of the area, it was left to acting commander Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe to respond to the German demand for surrender. He did so with one well-remembered word ... "Nuts!"

Christmas looked dismal for Bastogne, but there was hope as U.S. forces were counterattacking. McAuliffe's buoyant Christmas message was prescient ... Bastogne was relieved on December 26th by General Patton's Third Army, charging up full-tilt from the south. Denied crucial transport routes, and stretched to the breaking point on fuel and munitions, the German advance collapsed in January, 1945. The expenditure of scarce supplies to support the failed offensive signaled the death knell for the once-mighty Wehrmacht.

A month of hard fighting cost the Americans 75,000 casualties, and the Germans over 100,000, but never amounted to more than a bulge in the Allied lines.

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General McAuliffe's Christmas Message
The Battle of the Bulge, 1944

Headquarters 101st Airborne Division
Office of the Division Commander

24 December 1944

What's Merry about all this, you ask? We're fighting - it's cold - we aren't home. All true but what has the proud Eagle Division accomplished with its worthy comrades of the 10th Armored Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and all the rest? just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the North, East, South and West. We have identifications from four German Panzer Divisions, two German Infantry Divisions and one German Parachute Division. These units, spearheading the last desperate German lunge, were headed straight west for key points when the Eagle Division was hurriedly ordered to stem the advance. How effectively this was done will be written in history; not alone in our Division's glorious history but in World history. The Germans actually did surround us. their radios blared our doom. Their Commander demanded our surrender in the following impudent arrogance.

December 22nd 1944
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 Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hombres 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

The German Commander received the following reply:

22 December 1944
To the German Commander:


The American Commander

Allied Troops are counterattacking in force. We continue to hold Bastogne. By holding Bastogne we assure the success of the Allied Armies. We know that our Division Commander, General Taylor, will say: Well Done!

We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms are truly making for ourselves a Merry Christmas.

A. C. McAuliffe

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