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An Interview With Colonel Stuart M.

Seaton
By Nathaniel Estabrooks
Nathaniel: When did you join the United States Military?
Col. Seaton: I went into active duty on July 7, 1941, as a 2nd Lieutenant in the artillery
(several weeks after I graduated from the Virginia Military Institute on the 11th of June,
1941, and went into the reserves).
Nathaniel: Which theater in WWII did you serve in?
Col. Seaton: European-African Middle Eastern Theater.
Nathaniel: In what campaigns did you participate?
Col. Seaton: Sicily, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland, and
Central Europe.
Nathaniel: Could you explain more about the Ardennes-Alsace campaign, including the
Battle of the Bulge?
Col. Seaton: The unit I was in had come in through southern France. At the completion of
the southern France operation, the unit was attached to the 101st Airborne Division, and at
the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st was called on to go into combat. Prior to that, the 101st
had just gotten back from the operation in Holland. They were in France in early December
1944, when the Bulge broke on the 16th. As the Germans were advancing, the 101st was
called into ground action. We left the area in France on the 18th of December and went into
position in Belgium for combat operations supporting the 101st on the 19th of December.
Nathaniel: Do you have any interesting stories you would like to share about the combat
after this mentioned time?
Col. Seaton: The main story is about the day we got attacked by German armor and
infantry. We had gone into firing position on the 19th of December. From that day until the
23rd, we fired pretty much in an area of 360 degrees, in other words, a complete circle. On
the 19th we were completely encircled by the Germans like a big doughnut.
Before we had left France to go into Belgium and get into position, we had made sure that
we had loaded as much ammunition as we could. By December 22nd our unit had gotten
down to nine rounds of high explosive ammunition and was out of rations. On the 23 rd the
101st received air resupply of rations and ammunition. The aerial resupply missions
continued on the 24th, 26th, and 27th of December.
We were still in the same gun positions on December 25th. That is when the German tank
and infantry attacked the units we were supporting. They succeeded in breaking the infantry
lines and coming into our area. There was a total of seven tanks with infantry following
them. After they had broken through, the American infantry closed the gap. The tanks and
infantry continued their advance to attack our battalion at the town where we were located.
The name of the town is Hemroulle in Belgium. Hemroulle was about a mile to a mile and a

half outside of Bastogne. When this attack began it was necessary for us to move some of
our howitzers into direct fire positions so that they could take the enemy tanks under fire.
Those positions had already been prepared in case we got this attack. We had a defensive
plan that had been drawn up, and we put that defensive plan into operation on Christmas
Day.
As a result of our defense, we knocked out two tanks and captured one intact. We killed
several of the enemy and captured twenty-four German infantrymen. With that action we
had successfully defended our own battalion and the town of Hemroulle. After the battle was
over, we put the guns back in their regular positions so they could fire indirect fire in
support of the infantry. During that entire period we stayed in the same general area until
December 31. That whole action of knocking out two tanks, capturing one, capturing
twenty-four of the infantry, and killing some happened on Christmas Day. From December
19th to December 31st we fired over a 360-degree sector, and we fired 7,676 rounds of
artillery ammunition.
The critical time for us was that attack on Christmas Day, and it was sufficiently critical that
our commander (I was second in command) turned to me and gave me instructions to burn
the safe so as to destroy all secret information. I saw that that was done. That was how
critical it was. The secret material was destroyed. I had the men put a thermite grenade in
the safe where the material was kept. That destroyed all of the classified information.
Nathaniel: Could you tell us about the famous Nuts note and your personal experience
with it and the German surrender request?
Col. Seaton: On the late morning of the 22nd of December, I had gone into division artillery
headquarters with an overlay of our battalion defense position to put into effect in case we
had an infantry or armor attack. Division artillery then, of course, could coordinate our
defense structure with the defense structure of those of other division artillery battalions. I
reported to the division artillery commander, who was at that time Col. Sherburne. He was
acting division artillery commander since General McAuliffe had taken over as division
commander in the absence of General Taylor, who was back in Washington. Before I went
over the overlay with Col. Sherburne, he handed me an onionskin paper saying that maybe
Id like to read it. It was a copy of a surrender notice that the Germans had delivered to the
101st earlier that morning. It said that if the division didnt surrender by 4 oclock, they
would level the town. At that time it was about 2 oclock. After getting our plan checked, I
didnt waste any time getting out of the city and back to our battalion. Before leaving I gave
the piece of onionskin back to Col. Sherburne, who told me to just keep it.
While I was not present, I understand that General McAuliffe, in talking with his staff, said
we had to give them an answer. One of the officers suggested giving a one-word answer of
what the General said after reading their notice, which was Nuts. And therefore that was
what General McAuliffes answer to the Germans was. The Germans didnt understand what
the answer Nuts really meant.
Nathaniel: After WWII did you have further military duties?
Col. Seaton: After the end of WWII, I remained in the service until June 1962. My total
service was about twenty-one years. During the 19521953 era, I did serve in two
campaigns in Korea. My last assignment was as senior artillery instructor at the United
States Military Academy at West Point. After I retired and returned to civilian life, I worked
in the investment business until April 2000.

Nathaniel Estabrooks is a homeschooled high school freshman. One of five sons, he resides
with his parents and three of his older brothers near Knoxville, Tennessee. He is the
youngest of Col. Seatons ten grandchildren.

Col. Seaton was born Stuart Manly Seaton on May 2, 1920, in Richmond, Virginia. He
graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1941 and served in both WWII and the
Korean War. He and his wife of seventy years, Virginia, have four children, ten
grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, and they currently reside in Richmond.