Anthony McAuliffe

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Anthony C. McAuliffe
Anthony McAuliffe.jpg
Then-Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe during World War II
Nickname(s) "Old Crock"[1]
Born (1898-07-02)July 2, 1898
Washington, D.C.
Died August 11, 1975(1975-08-11) (aged 77)
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1918–1956
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held Chemical Corps
United States Army Europe
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal w/ OLC
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star w/ OLC
Relations Helen Whitman McAuliffe (1897–1983), wife
Patricia A. McAuliffe (1921–2001), daughter
John Hillary McAuliffe (1923–1979), son

Anthony Clement "Nuts" McAuliffe (July 2, 1898 – August 11, 1975) was a United States Army brigadier general who earned fame as the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium, during World War II's Battle of the Bulge.

After the Battle of the Bulge, McAuliffe was promoted to Major General, and given command of his own division, the 103rd Infantry, which he led from January 1945 to July 1945. On 3 May 1945, the 103rd captured Innsbruck in the Austrian alps, continued on to take the Brenner Pass, then earn the honor of joining the Italian and Western European fronts, linking up with the U.S. Fifth Army which had been fighting its way north up the Italian peninsula at Vipiteno, Italy.[2]


McAuliffe was born in Washington, D.C., on July 2, 1898. He was a student at West Virginia University from 1916 to 1917. McAuliffe was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon social fraternity while at West Virginia University. He enrolled at West Point in 1917. McAuliffe was part of an accelerated program and graduated shortly after the end of World War I, in November 1918. During this time period, he visited Europe for a short while and toured through several battlefields. Assigned to field artillery, he graduated from the Artillery School in 1920. For the next 16 years, McAuliffe would carry out typical peacetime assignments. By 1935, he had been promoted to the rank of captain. Afterwards, he was chosen to attend the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. In June 1940, McAuliffe graduated from the United States Army War College. Just before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he was promoted yet again, temporarily becoming a lieutenant colonel with the Supply Division of the War Department General Staff. While in this position, McAuliffe supervised the development of such new technology as the bazooka and the jeep. He rose through the ranks to four-star general in 1955.[1][3]

World War II[edit]

Brigadier general McAuliffe served as commander of division artillery of the 101st Airborne Division when he parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and when he landed by glider in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden. He became assistant division commander of the 101st Airborne following the death of Brigadier General Don Pratt on June 6, 1944.

In December 1944, when the German army launched the surprise Battle of the Bulge, Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, was away, attending a staff conference in the United States. In Taylor's absence, acting command of the 101st and its attached troops fell to McAuliffe. At Bastogne, the 101st was besieged by a far larger force of Germans under the command of General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz.

On December 22, 1944, through a party consisting of a major, a lieutenant, and two enlisted men under a flag of truce that entered the American lines southeast of Bastogne (occupied by Company F, 2nd Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry), General von Lüttwitz sent the following ultimatum to Gen. McAuliffe:

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.

According to various accounts from those present, when McAuliffe was given the German message, he read it, crumpled it into a ball, threw it in a wastepaper basket, and muttered, "Aw, nuts". The officers in McAuliffe's command post were trying and failing to come up with suitable language for an official reply when Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard suggested that McAuliffe's first response summed up the situation pretty well, and the others agreed. The official reply was typed and delivered by Colonel Joseph Harper, commanding the 327th Glider Infantry, to the German delegation. It was as follows:

To the German Commander.


The American Commander

The German major appeared confused and asked Harper what the message meant. Harper said, "In plain English? Go to hell."[4] The choice of "Nuts!" rather than something earthier was typical for McAuliffe. Vincent Vicari, his personal aide at the time, recalled that "General Mac was the only general I ever knew who did not use profane language. 'Nuts' was part of his normal vocabulary."[5]

The threat of artillery fire did not materialize, although several infantry and tank assaults were directed at the positions of the 327th Glider Infantry. In addition, the German Luftwaffe entered the attacks on the town, bombing it nightly. The 101st was able to hold off the Germans until the 4th Armored Division arrived on December 26 to provide reinforcement.

For his actions at Bastogne, McAuliffe was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General Patton on December 30, 1944, followed later by the Distinguished Service Medal.

Immediately after Bastogne, McAuliffe was promoted to Major General and given command of the 103rd Infantry Division on January 15, 1945, his first divisional command assignment, which he retained until July 1945. Under McAuliffe, the 103d reached the Rhine Valley, March 23, and engaged in mopping up operations in the plain west of the Rhine River. In April 1945, it received occupational duties until April 20 when it resumed the offensive, pursuing a fleeing enemy through Stuttgart and taking Münsingen on April 24. On April 27, elements of the division entered Landsberg, where Kaufering concentration camp, a subcamp of Dachau, was liberated. The 103rd crossed the Danube River near Ulm on April 26. On May 3, 1945, the 103rd captured Innsbruck, Austria, with little to no fighting. It then seized the Brenner Pass and linked up at Vipiteno Italy with the 88th Infantry Division of the U.S. Fifth Army which had been fighting its way north, up the Italian peninsula at over the Italian-Austrian border, thereby joining the Italian and Western European fronts.[2]


Following the war, McAuliffe held many positions, including Chief Chemical Officer of the Army Chemical Corps, and G-1, Head of Army Personnel. He returned to Europe as Commander of the Seventh Army in 1953, and Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army Europe in 1955.

While still in the service, McAuliffe attended the premiere of Battleground in Washington D.C. on November 9, 1949. The film did not depict McAuliffe directly, but did show a scene of the Germans presenting their surrender demands and their confusion on receiving McAuliffe's reply.


In 1956, he retired from the Army. He worked for American Cyanamid Corporation from 1956 to 1963 as Vice President for Personnel. He began a program to teach employees to maintain contact with local politicians. The company subsequently required all branch managers to at least introduce themselves to local politicians.[6] McAuliffe also served as chairman of the New York State Civil Defense Commission from 1960 to 1963.

Following his retirement from American Cyanamid in 1963, he resided in Chevy Chase, Maryland, until his death on August 11, 1975, age 77. He is buried along with his wife, son, and daughter in Arlington National Cemetery.[7]


The central square of Bastogne, Belgium, is named Place Général McAuliffe, in honour of its brave defender. A Sherman tank, pierced by a hole from a German 88mm shell, stands in one corner.

A southern extension of Route 33 in eastern Northampton County, Pennsylvania, completed in 2002,[8] was named the Gen. Anthony Clement McAuliffe 101st Airborne Memorial Highway.

The new headquarters building for the 101st Airborne Division which opened in 2009 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is named McAuliffe Hall.

One of the 149 rooms at the Thayer Hotel at West Point has been dedicated to General McAuliffe.

McAuliffe Drive in Rockville, Maryland, is named for him.


  1. ^ a b Fredriksen, John C. (1999). American military leaders: from colonial times to the present, Volume 2. ABC-CLIO. pp. 487–488. ISBN 1-57607-001-8. 
  2. ^ a b Fifth Army History • Race to the Alps, Chapter VI : Conclusion [1] "4 May; the Reconnaissance Troop, 349th Infantry [88th Division], met troops from [103rd Infantry Division] VI Corps of Seventh Army at 1051 at Vipiteno, 9 miles south of Brenner."
  3. ^ Antal, John; Koskimaki, George E. (2008). Hell's Highway: The True Story of the 101st Airborne Division During Operation Market Garden September 17–25, 1944. Quarto Group. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7603-3348-8. 
  4. ^ S.L.A. Marshall, Bastogne: The First Eight Days, Chapter 14, describing the incident in detail and sourcing it.
  5. ^ Pyle, Richard, report for the Associated Press (2004-12-12).
  6. ^ "Executives: Business in Politics". Time. August 10, 1962. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  7. ^ Anthony C. McAuliffe at Find a Grave
  8. ^ "Pennsylvania Highways: Route 33". Archived from the original on 25 December 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
Military offices
Preceded by
William M. Hoge
Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe
February 1, 1955 – May 1, 1956
Succeeded by
Henry I. Hodes
Preceded by
William M. Hoge
Commanding General of the Seventh United States Army
September 29, 1953 – February 1, 1955
Succeeded by
Henry I. Hodes