Anthony McAuliffe

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Anthony Clement McAuliffe
Anthony McAuliffe.jpg
Nickname(s) "Old Crock"[1]
Born July 2, 1898
Washington, D.C., United States
Died August 11, 1975 (aged 77)
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., United States
Buried Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, United States
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1918–1956
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Unit USA - Army Field Artillery Insignia.png Field Artillery Branch
Commands held 103rd Infantry Division
Chemical Corps
Seventh Army
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

General Anthony Clement "Nuts" McAuliffe (July 2, 1898 – August 11, 1975) was a senior United States Army officer, who earned fame as the acting commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

After the battle, McAuliffe was promoted and given command of the 103rd Infantry Division, which he led from January 1945 to July 1945. In the post-war era, he was commander of U.S. forces in the American sector of Germany.


McAuliffe was born in Washington, D.C., on July 2, 1898. He attended West Virginia University from 1916 to 1917. He was a member of the West Virginia Beta Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity during his time 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, he visited Europe for a short time and toured several battlefields. Assigned to field artillery, he graduated from the Artillery School in 1920. For the next 16 years, McAuliffe carried out typical peacetime assignments. By 1935, he had been promoted to the rank of captain. Later, 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 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.

World War II[edit]

Brigadier General McAuliffe commanded the 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.[citation needed]

In December 1944, the German army launched the surprise attack that became the Battle of the Bulge. Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, was attending a staff conference in the United States, at the time. During Taylor's absence, McAuliffe commanded the 101st and its attached troops. At Bastogne, the 101st was besieged by a far larger force of Germans under the command of General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz.[citation needed]

On December 22, 1944, von Lüttwitz dispatched a party, consisting of a major, a lieutenant, and two enlisted men under a flag of truce to deliver an ultimatum. Entering the American lines southeast of Bastogne (occupied by Company F, 2nd Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry), the German party delivered the following to Gen. McAuliffe:.[citation needed]

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 those present when McAuliffe received 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 to find 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."[2] 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."[3]

The 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 attacked the town, bombing it nightly. The 101st held off the Germans until the 4th Armored Division arrived on December 26 to provide reinforcement.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 103rd reached the Rhine Valley, March 23, and engaged in mopping up operations in the plain west of the Rhine River. In April 1945, the division was assigned to 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 met the 88th Infantry Division of the U.S. Fifth Army at Vipiteno, Italy, thereby joining the Italian and Western European fronts.[4]

One of the soldiers whom McAuliffe awarded the Silver Star to was the baseball player, Sidney Kohlsachs. However, Kohlsachs would become known for not accepting the medal because, as he put it, "My fallen brothers are much more deserving than I."


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.[citation needed] He was promoted to four-star general in 1955.[1][5]

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.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed]

After 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 in Arlington National Cemetery, as were his wife, son, and daughter.[7]


Bust of Gen. McAuliffe with Sherman tank, Bastogne, Belgium

The central square of Bastogne, Belgium, is named Place Général McAuliffe. A Sherman tank, pierced by a German 88 mm shell, stands in one corner.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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

A room at the Thayer Hotel at West Point has been dedicated to General McAuliffe.[citation needed]



  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. ^ S.L.A. Marshall, Bastogne: The First Eight Days, Chapter 14, describing the incident in detail and sourcing it.
  3. ^ Pyle, Richard, report for the Associated Press (2004-12-12).
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ 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. 
  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. 
  9. ^ "Battleground (1949) -- (Movie Clip) Nuts Is Strictly Negative". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Charles C. Haffner, Jr.
Commanding General 103rd Infantry Division
January 1945 – July 1945
Succeeded by
John N. Robinson
Preceded by
William M. Hoge
Commanding General Seventh Army
Succeeded by
Henry I. Hodes
Preceded by
William M. Hoge
Commanding General United States Army Europe
Succeeded by
Henry I. Hodes