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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Reichley: Most famous one-word reply in military history

  • If the Army's official history book, American Military History in the Army Historical Series is to be trusted, and I've found few cases where it couldn't be, today is another exact date in military history.
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  • If the Army's official history book, American Military History in the Army Historical Series is to be trusted, and I've found few cases where it couldn't be, today is another exact date in military history.
    It was on Dec. 22, 1944, that the most famous one-word ever spoken in military history was uttered. At least in the book it is credited to six days after the Ardennes Counteroffensive, better known as the Battle of the Bulge, began on Dec. 16.
    When I'm messing with people's minds and trying to get them to think, I ask what the two most famous three-word utterances in military history are. When folks look dumbfounded, I begin the hints.
    The first utterance was during the Civil War, by a Union general who would have close ties to Fort Leavenworth and the Command and General Staff College in future years, and it described his feelings about his profession.
    Usually, I have to say he was Gen. William T. Sherman, and about then those who know military history blurt out "War is hell," the correct answer.
    The second three-word utterance came a few wars later, from a four-star general. In it he predicted what he would do in the future. He too had a connection with Fort Leavenworth. Usually I have to assist even more by giving the first word, "I." Sometimes I have to continue with "shall," and by that time almost everyone provides the third word, "return," spoken by Douglas MacArthur when he was ordered to go to Australia in 1942 from the soon-to-be surrendered Philippine Islands.
    Many historians dispute the accuracy of both the above famous quotes, saying that both generals' words were taken out of context, and neither ever said the now legendary quotes. Be that as it may, both are in many, many history books.
    The one-word utterance was on, or around, Dec. 22, 1944, spoken by a brigadier general who was a 1937 CGSC graduate as a field artillery officer. He was then assistant division commander of the famed 101st Airborne Division, and the locale was somewhere near the tiny, never before heard about little crossroads town of Bastogne, Belgium.
    The German army had Bastogne surrounded, and a colonel was sent to demand the immediate surrender of the besieged American troops. McAuliffe, the senior officer present, replied "Nuts."
    But as in the two three-word quotes, historians in the know say that McAuliffe didn't come up with the famous reply. It was attributed to a staff officer, Lt. Col. Harry O. Kinnard, if memory serves me correctly.
    Kinnard died a year or so ago and the episode was in his obituary. But most famous people who make speeches don't write what they say, so for a staff officer to have provided the answer to McAuliffe is normal procedure.
    Page 2 of 2 - Interestingly, neither Sherman nor MacArthur were graduates of CGSC, but both were assigned to the fort and are in the Fort Leavenworth Hall of Fame. McAuliffe was assigned to the fort, retired as a four-star general, but is not in the hall.
    It seems to me that someone with a sense of history at the fort needs to get somebody with a field artillery background cracking to get McAuliffe nominated for induction into the prestigious hall.
    Before I retired and became obsolete to the fort I nominated seven persons for induction, and five of them are now in it. I still don't understand why Buffalo Bill Cody, a hometown boy, and Maj. Gen. Edmund Munson, for whom the medical facility at the fort is named and who pioneered many successful medical procedures in the early 1900s, were not selected.
    Nor do I understand McAuliffe's absence. To that I say nuts.
    John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.
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