Belgium / Museum
The Bastogne Barracks Museum was opened in 2010. It is located in the barracks that accommodated the Allied Headquarters during the Ardennes Offensive in 1944. Restored parts of the barracks exhibit a collection of materials used in the fighting. The so called Nuts-basement shows the office where General McAuliffe spoke the famous word ‘Nuts’,that had a major influence on the outcome of the Offensive.
After the D-Day-invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, the allied forces pushed forward and reached the Ardennes. Even though the Allies largely occupied the region, Hitler decided to undertake one last surprise attack, in order to improve his position in the negotiations about the end of the war. The Ardennes Offensive would be successful when Hitlers troops could advance to the river Meuse and subsequently would conquer Antwerp and its harbour, that was of great strategic importance to the allied troops.
In this Ardennes Offensive Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe played a major role. As commander of the American 101st Airborne Division he had been involved in the Normandy invasion as well as in Operation Market Garden. On 19 December 1944, McAuliffe and his division arrived in Bastogne, where he established his headquarters at the Heintz Barracks. What followed was a heavy attack of German troops and tanks, that succeeded in pushing back the allied front line.
On 21 December German troops encircled Bastogne; McAuliffe and his 18,000 soldiers were completely enclosed. The following day the German commander Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz sent an ultimatum to the American headquarters in Bastogne, saying: “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.”
When General McAuliffe received this message, his immediate reaction was: “Nuts!” and since McAuliffe’s intentions could not be better frased, the official reply to Von Lüttwitz was: “To the German Commander. NUTS! The American Commander”. A few more days of heavy fighting followed, but McAuliffe and his men stood firm. They were finally freed after an American air raid. For his braveness at Bastogne, McAuliffe was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.