Surrender? Nuts!

Exhibition Hall of the National Archives with the German surrender documents on display, 1945. (National Archives History Office)
Exhibition Hall of the National Archives with the German Surrender Documents exhibition, 1945. (National Archives History Office)

On Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany officially surrendered to the Allied Forces at the end of World War II. That same day in the United States, President Harry S. Truman issued a proclamation announcing the war in Europe had ended.

Soon after, Archivist of the United States Solon Buck and President Truman, decided that the German surrender documents and the V-E Day proclamation should be shared with the American people as symbols of democracy and freedom.

Less than a month later, on June 6—the one year anniversary of D-Day—the National Archives held a ceremony in the Rotunda to open an exhibit of the surrender documents.

In attendance was U.S. Army General Anthony McAuliffe. McAuliffe was the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division troops, who just six months before, defended Bastogne, Belgium, during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. There he famously replied “Nuts!” to German demands that the U.S. force surrender to Germany.

General McAuliffe Unveiling the German Surrender Documents in the Rotunda of the National Archives, June 6, 1945. National Archives Identifier  4477175 )
General McAuliffe Unveils the German Surrender Documents in the Rotunda of the National Archives, June 6, 1945. (National Archives Identifier 4477175 )

During the unveiling ceremony, which was broadcast by radio, McAuliffe remarked that the documents were a testament that “the American soldier, bound to a just cause, and backed by the labor and industry of America, can and will overcome any evil force on earth no matter how strong, or how long in power.”

In September, the German surrender documents were officially transferred to the National Archives. Due to the high demand for reproductions, the National Archives printed the German surrender documents in a facsimile publication, Germany Surrenders Unconditionally, which became a bestseller.

In celebration of Veterans Day and in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the National Archives is presenting a document display of Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s Christmas message to his men besieged in Bastogne, Belgium.

The December 24, 1944, message recounts McAuliffe’s famous reply of “Nuts!” to the German demand to surrender. The documents will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from November 4, 2014 to January 5, 2015.

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