Image: Harry W.O. Kinnard
AP file
Harry W.O. Kinnard is seen in this July 5, 1966 photo.
updated 1/12/2009 7:40:11 PM ET 2009-01-13T00:40:11

Retired Lt. Gen. Harry W.O. Kinnard, a paratroop officer who suggested the famously defiant answer "Nuts!" to a German demand for surrender during the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, has died. He was 93.

Kinnard, a career soldier who in later years was the principal architect of the Army's concept of using helicopters in infantry warfare in Vietnam, died in Arlington, Va., on Jan. 5, his family told The New York Times.

A native of Dallas, Kinnard graduated from West Point in 1939 and spent 30 years in uniform, retiring in 1969.

He parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, with the newly organized 101st Airborne Division and was decorated for heroism during its drive against German forces in the Netherlands.

When Hitler launched a surprise counteroffensive in December, the 101st, then in France, was rushed into action and seized key road junctions at the Belgian town of Bastogne, where the Americans were quickly surrounded by the enemy.

On Dec. 22, Kinnard, then a 29-year-old lieutenant colonel and the division's operations officer, was present when four German couriers arrived at the American lines under a flag of truce with a written demand to surrender in two hours or face annihilation.

'Go to hell'
Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, the 101st's artillery chief and acting division commander in the absence of Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, laughed and remarked, "Us surrender? Aw, nuts," and then wondered aloud how he should reply.

As recalled later by himself and other witnesses, Kinnard suggested that McAuliffe tell the Germans "what you just said ... nuts."

McAuliffe scribbled: "To the German commander: Nuts! The American commander."

On the way back to the defense line, a U.S. officer explained to the puzzled Germans that "nuts" meant the same thing as "go to hell."

The paratroopers held against further attacks and four days later the siege was broken by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton's tank forces. The massive German counterattack — the last major offensive effort by Hitler's forces — collapsed two weeks later.

In the 1960s, Kinnard, a trained aviator, was a key developer of the Army's helicopter "air assault" concept at Fort Benning, Ga., and first applied it in combat in Vietnam as commander of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

A memorial is planned for March 19 at Fort Myer, Va., according to the Army Times.

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