Seventy-Three years ago, a dying Nazi Germany made a last gasp offensive to retake the port city of Antwerp, Belgium from the Allies by attacking through the Ardennes forest. The attack was initially successful, catching the Allies almost completely off guard forming a bulge in the Allied lines that was to give the battle its name-the Battle of the Bulge. The city of Bastogne with its network of roads meeting in the city was crucial to keeping the German armor units moving on to Antwerp. The 101st Airborne Division was defending Bastogne and was soon surrounded by a large force of German tanks and artillery. The Screaming Eagles were low on food, medical supplies and ammunition and were fighting in miserably cold conditions, but they held on. The Nazis would never go on the offensive again. By May of 1945, Hitler would be dead by his own hand and his regime a smoking ruin. Below is the text of a letter the commander of the 101st Airborne, General Anthony McAuliffe, sent to his men.

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 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 imprudent 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 Hompres-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 the 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 hour’s 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:  N U T S ! 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.