On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the men received General McAuliffe’s Christmas greetings. “What’s merry about all this, you ask?” was the opening line. “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. . . . The Germans surround us, their radios blare our doom. Their Commander demanded our surrender in the following impudent arrogance.” (There followed the four paragraph message “to the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne” from “the German Commander,” demanding an “honorable surrender to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation,” dated December 22.)
McAuliffe’s message continued: “The German Commander received the following reply: ’22 December 1944. To the German Commander: NUTS! The American Commander.’
“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. A. C. McAuliffe, Commanding.”
– From Band of Brothers, by Stephen E. Ambrose
It was on December 22, 1944, more than six months after he parachuted into Normandy, France, that Lt. Col. Harry W. O. Kinnard–later Lt. Gen. Harry W. O. Kinnard–urged his commanding officer, Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, to deliver just that message to the Germans in response to their demands for surrender in the snowy landscape in and around the Belgian town of Bastogne.
Courage and patriotism and bravery and bravado had never before and have never since been captured in such simple and appropriate terms. The previous days and weeks and months had been among the most brutal of their lives. They parachuted into a foreign land, held the hands of dying loved ones, fought through rain and snow and mud and swamp and injury, all motivated by a call to arms for not only America but for the human race, all driven by the knowledge that, through their blood, sweat, tears and more blood, they were the best chance the world had to stop evil in its tracks.
According to a report released today by the Associated Press, Lt. Gen. Harry W. O. Kinnard died last week. Kinnard, a West Pointer and 30-year Army veteran who, later in his military career, helped redefine military operations by designing and orchestrating the use of helicopters in the course of infantry warfare, is a genuine American hero.
They all are. These men, gentle giants greying and dying each and every day, personify what made America great — patriotism, courage, altruism, drive to be the best and do their very best for America. Freedom lived and died on their watch, and by the dirt under their fingernails and the blood on their knuckles and the grit in their eye, they never let the latter happen. Thousands upon thousands gave their lives in foreign lands, on largely uninhabited islands in the south Pacific, all to save their country, the very nation they were sworn to protect and defend, from the growing tide of evil permeating other lands across the globe.
We must never let their memory to fade. We must tell their stories to our children, to our children’s children, and we must commit ourselves to ensuring that this nation never succumbs to evil, or lays prostrate in waiting through complacency and corruption and the overbloated sense of entitlement.
God bless America, and may God bless Lt. Gen. Harry Kinnard and those like him who fought for Her and died for Her.
Rest in peace.