Friend and Hero LTG Harry W.O. Kinnard Passes Away

On December 22, 1944, the situation for the American soldiers in and around the town of Bastogne was bleak. Surrounded by heavily armored German forces, the men of the 101st Airborne Division were making a desperate stand in this vital Belgian town at which several important roads converged. If the Germans took Bastogne, they could win the Battle of the Bulge.

Confident in victory, the German commander sent a message to the American general in charge – Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe – demanding the surrender of the Americans in Bastogne. Upon hearing of this demand, McAuliffe exclaimed, “Us surrender? Aw, nuts!” Unsure of how to respond, he asked his staff for suggestions.

A young officer – then-Lt. Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard – piped up, saying, “That first remark of yours would be hard to beat!” The others quickly agreed, leading to a response that has become legendary:

“To the German Commander:

NUTS!

– The American Commander”

Impressed with his wit, McAuliffe assigned Lt. Col. Kinnard the task of writing his Christmas address to rally the men. The subsequent message, still often quoted today, read in part as follows:

“What’s merry about all this, you ask? 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 and one German parachute division. The Germans surround us, their radios blare our doom. Their commander demanded our surrender, and received the following reply…‘NUTS!’ 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.”

Kinnard would rise to the rank of Lt. General, and serve as the first commander of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam. He was the 2005 recipient of the American Veterans Center’s Audie Murphy Award, it’s annual award honoring devotion to duty both during and after World War II. He also spoke at the AVC’s 2006 conference, sharing his story with many students and veterans.

General Kinnard passed away on January 5. The American Veterans Center mourns his death and honors his memory.

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