In December 1944, during the late stages of World War II, German forces mounted a fierce surprise attack against Allied troops in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. Powerful German tanks punched into the thinly stretched American line, creating a huge bulge in the U.S. defenses along the front. The fighting went down in history as the Battle of the Bulge.
American soldiers in the town of Bastogne found themselves surrounded, short on ammunition, and ill-equipped to fight in the heavy snows that began to fall. With bad weather grounding American supply planes, no relief was in sight.
On December 22 a group of Germans approached under a flag of truce. They handed the Americans a piece of paper demanding the surrender of the town within two hours. American officers took the ultimatum to their commander, General Anthony McAuliffe. “Us surrender?” McAuliffe said. “Aw, nuts!”
That seemed as good a reply as any. McAuliffe grabbed a pencil and wrote, “To the German Commander: Nuts!” He sent the message back through the lines.
The Germans set out to obliterate Bastogne. Artillery bombarded the town while tanks attacked from every side. With no way to evacuate their wounded, and medical supplies now gone, the Americans hung on with grim determination.
Finally the weather cleared, and American bombers took to the skies. They came by the hundreds, driving back the German tanks. General George Patton’s army arrived to reinforce Bastogne. By late January, the Allies had pushed the Germans back to their original position.
The Battle of the Bulge saw the last major German offensive and some of the most savage fighting of the war. The Allied line had bent, but it never broke. The Americans had stood their ground.