In light of recent electoral events, on this 72nd anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, it’s worth revisiting an old news story from the battle:
World Outraged By Crude Surrender Response
December 22, 1944
BASTOGNE (Routers) A generous German offer of surrender terms was crudely rebuffed by an American general in this besieged Belgian town today, reinforcing the growing image of America as a brutish cowboy in the OK Corral, and almost certainly dooming it and its inhabitants.
The town has been under attack by German artillery almost since the beginning of the latest successful German offensive six days ago, and has been surrounded by German troops for the past two days. Its only defense has been the US 101st Airborn Division, under the command of General Anthony C. McAuliffe.
At 11:30 AM this morning, the German commander, General Heinrich von Luettwitz of the XLVIIth Armored Corps, sent negotiators in to arrange for the peaceful handover of the town. There are varying stories about what occurred next.
Some say that General McAuliffe’s response was a single word–“Nuts!”–a word that the German officer sent to negotiate had trouble translating back to his superiors. Other firsthand reports suggest, however, that the General actually issued a two-word reply, one in the imperative case suggesting that the unfortunate officer have someone engage him unwillingly in activity of a sexual nature, but one that was also more readily and universally understood.
In either case, the negotiations were ended, and with them any prospects for saving the town. As a result of the general’s needlessly insulting recalcitrance, the destruction of the town is now all but certain, and the lives of its terrified residents and defenders likely forfeit.
Surprisingly, some have defended the general, pointing out that the value of German surrender offers had been severely debased after the “massacre” of American POWs at Malmedy just five days earlier.
However, back in Washington, many were privately appalled. One State Department official noted that this could only diminish Americans in the eyes of the world as a heartless and base people, who don’t understand the exigencies and nuance of war. “General von Luettwitz is a noble aristocrat–not the SS troops at Malmedy, and anyway, we still don’t have all the facts on that. That town could have been spared,” he went on, “but General McAuliffe put his own ego and stubbornness ahead of the lives of the townspeople and his own men. But then, what do you expect from a hick who went to the University of West Virginia?”
Some at the Pentagon were dismayed as well. “Now we’re going to have to risk many more men to go in and save his sorry ass,” groaned an undersecretary. “Maybe Patton can do it, in between slapping enlisted men.”
The White House had no official comment, but staffers indicated that the general was perfectly justified in light of the Malmedy incident. It was clear that despite his incompetence and rashness, the general continues to have the president’s full support, and that the war effort would continue, despite its seeming hopelessness, as the tide of world opinion continues to turn against the nation.
(Copyright Rand Simberg 2004)
I wrote this during the politically correct Bush administration. It may have even more resonance today. And before you correct in comments, yes, I am aware of what school McAuliffe actually attended.