|First World War||Second World War||The Cold War|
George Patton was born in San Gabriel, California, on 11th November, 1885. He attended the West Point Military Academy but along with his friend, Courtney Hodges, was forced to leave after a year because of poor test results. Patton restarted the course and graduated in 1909 (46/103) and won a commission in the cavalry.
Patton, a talented sportsman, finished fifth in the modern pentathlon in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. As well as being a great horseman and sailor, Patton also qualified as a pilot.
During the First World War Patton was sent to the Western Front in France where he served under General John Pershing before being given command of 304th Tank Brigade. Patton, who fought at St Mihiel Offensive was seriously wounded at Meuse Argonne and would have died but for the brave actions of Joe Angelo. During the war won the DSC and DSM in the war.
After the war Patton was assigned to the tank centre at Camp Meade where he met and became close friends with Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1932 Patton joined Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur in dealing with the Bonus Army in Washington. MacArthur, controversially used tanks, four troops of cavalry with drawn sabers, and infantry with fixed bayonets, on the protesters. He justified his attack on former members of the US Army by claiming that the country was on the verge of a communist revolution. One of the leaders of the demonstration was Joe Angelo, the man who had saved Patton's life at Meuse Argonne.
On 1st October 1940 Patton was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the 2nd Armed Division based at Fort Benning. Rated highly by General George Marshall, in January 1942, Patton was placed in charge of the Desert Training Centre at Indio, California. Later that year Patton joined General Dwight D. Eisenhower in organizing Operation Torch.
Patton's troops arrived in North Africa in November 1942. After liberating Morocco he worked on planning the invasion of Sicily with Mark Clark before being sent to Tunisia as head of the 2nd Corps. Patton was a strict disciplinarian and he insisted that his men shaved every day and wore a tie in battle.
At the Casablanca Conference held in January 1943, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to launch an invasion of Sicily. It was hoped that if the island was taken Italy might withdraw from the war. It was also argued that a successful invasion would force Adolf Hitler to send troops from the Eastern Front and help to relieve pressure on the Red Army in the Soviet Union.
The operation was placed under the supreme command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. General Harold Alexander was commander of ground operations and his 15th Army Group and Patton was placed in charge of the 7th Army.
On 10th July 1943, General Bernard Montgomery and the 8th Army landed at five points on the south-eastern tip of the island and the US 7th Army at three beaches to the west of the British forces. The Allied troops met little opposition and Patton and his troops quickly took Gela, Licata and Vittoria. The British landings were also unopposed and Syracuse was taken on the the same day. This was followed by Palazzolo (11th July), Augusta (13th July) and Vizzini (14th July), whereas the US troops took the Biscani airfield and Niscemi (14th July).
Patton now moved to the west of the island and General Omar Bradley headed north and the German Army was forced to retreat to behind the Simeto River. Patton took Palermo on 22nd July cutting off 50,000 Italian troops in the west of the island. Patton now turned east along the northern coast of the island towards the port of Messina.
Meanwhile General Bernard Montgomery and the 8th Army were being held up by German forces under Field Marshal Albrecht Kesselring. The Allies carried out several amphibious assaults attempted to cut off the Germans but they were unable to stop the evacuation across the Messina Straits to the Italian mainland. This included 40,000 German and 60,000 Italian troops, as well as 10,000 German vehicles and 47 tanks.
On 17th August 1943, Patton and his troops marched into Messina. The capture of the island made it possible to clear the way for Allied shipping in the Mediterranean. It also helped to undermine the power of Benito Mussolini and Victor Emmanuel III forced him to resign.
During the campaign seventy-three Italian prisoners were murdered by soldiers in the 45th Division. General Omar Bradley ordered two men to face a general court-martial for premeditated murder. The men's main defence was that they were obeying orders issued by Patton in a speech he made to his soldiers on 27th June. Several soldiers said they were willing to give evidence that Patton had told then to take no prisoners. One officer claimed that Patton had said: "The more prisoners we took, the more we'd have to feed, and not to fool with prisoners." In order to protect Patton from the charge of war crimes, Bradley decided to drop the investigation into the murder of the Italian soldiers.
Patton also created controversy when he visited the 15th Evacuation Hospital on 3rd August 1943. In the hospital he encountered Private Charles H. Kuhl, who had been admitted suffering from shellshock. When Patton asked him why he had been admitted, Kuhl told him "I guess I can't take it." According to one eyewitness Patton "slapped his face with a glove, raised him to his feet by the collar of his shirt and pushed him out of the tent with a kick in the rear." Kuhl was later to claim that he thought Patton, as well as himself, was suffering from combat fatigue.
Two days after the incident at the 15th Evacuation Hospital Patton sent a memo to all commanders in the 7th Army: "It has come to my attention that a very small number of soldiers are going to the hospital on the pretext that they are nervously incapable of combat. Such men are cowards and bring discredit on the army and disgrace to their comrades, whom they heartlessly leave to endure the dangers of battle while they, themselves, use the hospital as a means of escape. You will take measures to see that such cases are not sent to the hospital but are dealt with in their units. Those who are not willing to fight will be tried by court-martial for cowardice in the face of the enemy."
On 10th August 1943, Patton visited the 93rd Evacuation Hospital to see if there were any soldiers claiming to be suffering from combat fatigue. He found Private Paul G. Bennett, an artilleryman with the 13th Field Artillery Brigade. When asked what the problem was, Bennett replied, "It's my nerves, I can't stand the shelling anymore." Patton exploded: "Your nerves. Hell, you are just a goddamned coward, you yellow son of a bitch. Shut up that goddamned crying. I won't have these brave men here who have been shot seeing a yellow bastard sitting here crying. You're a disgrace to the Army and you're going back to the front to fight, although that's too good for you. You ought to be lined up against a wall and shot. In fact, I ought to shoot you myself right now, God damn you!" With this Patton pulled his pistol from its holster and waved it in front of Bennett's face. After putting his pistol way he hit the man twice in the head with his fist. The hospital commander, Colonel Donald E. Currier, then intervened and got in between the two men.
Colonel Richard T. Arnest, the man's doctor, sent a report of the incident to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The story was also passed to the four newsmen attached to the Seventh Army. Although Patton had committed a court-martial offence by striking an enlisted man, the reporters agreed not to publish the story. Quentin Reynolds of Collier's Weekly agreed to keep quiet but argued that there were "at least 50,000 American soldiers on Sicily who would shoot Patton if they had the chance."
Eisenhower told one of his senior officers: "If this thing ever gets out, they'll be howling for Patton's scalp, and that will be the end of George's service in this war. I simply cannot let that happen. Patton is indispensable to the war effort - one of the guarantors of our victory." Instead he wrote a letter to Patton demanding that he should apologize or make "personal amends to the individuals concerned as may be within your power."
Eisenhower now had a meeting with the war correspondents who knew about the incident and told them that he hoped they would keep the "matter quiet in the interests of retaining a commander whose leadership he considered vital." The men agreed to do this but Ernest Cuneo, who worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), passed this story to Drew Pearson and in November 1943, he told the story on his weekly syndicated radio program. Some politicians demanded that Patton should be sacked but General George Marshall and Henry L. Stimson supported the way General Eisenhower had dealt with the case.
In January 1944, General Mark Clark replaced Patton as commander of the Seventh Army. Patton was now sent to Britain and succeeded General Courtney Hodges as commander of the Third Army, and to help prepare for the Normandy invasion.
On 25th April Patton created more controversy when he made a speech using obscene language to an audience that included a large number of women. At the meeting he also said it was the destiny of the United States and Britain to rule the world. This remark upset Allied leaders and Karl Mundt in the House of Representatives complained that Patton had "managed to slap the face of every one of the United Nations except Great Britain."
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was furious and cabled General George Marshall that he was "seriously contemplating the most drastic action" in dealing with Patton. Eisenhower initially decided to send Patton home but then changed his mind. He wrote to Patton: "You owe us some victories; pay off and the world will deem me a wise man."
Patton did not arrive in France until 1st August, 1944 but his troops quickly overrun Brittany. While General Bernard Montgomery and his forces drew the main strength of the German Army, Patton made spectacular progress and took Le Mans on 8th August before turning north and heading for Argentan.
Patton now wanted to head to Germany believing the war could be brought to an end in 1944. He was therefore furious when General Omar Bradley ordered him to return to Brittany to mop up the remaining German troops. As soon as this job was completed he raced eastward across France with the rest of the 3rd Army. On 30th August 1944, Patton crossed the Meuse. Metz was well-defended and Patton's troops took heavy casualties and it was not taken until 13th December.
Adolf Hitler now ordered Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt to launch a counter-attack through the Ardennes. On 16th December 25 divisions of the German Army broke through American lines on a 60 mile front from Monschau and Echternach. They were finally halted and Patton's troops began to force the Germans back at what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Joining up with Alexander Patch and the 7th Army Patton and his troops crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim on 22nd March 1945. He then sent a task force to liberate the Hammelburg Prison Camp, which included his son-in-law, John K. Waters. Patton continued to advance deep into Nazi Germany and eventually crossed into Czechoslovakia and was forced to withdraw after protests from Joseph Stalin and the Red Army.
After the war Patton was made governor of Bavaria. He was severely criticized for allowing Nazis to remain in office and at a press conference on 22nd September 1945, Patton created outrage when he said: "This Nazi thing. It's just like a Democratic-Republican election fight."
Patton was removed as governor and was given command of the 15th Army. A day before he was due to return to the United States Patton was severely injured in a road accident. Paralyzed from the neck down, George Patton died of an embolism on 21st December 1945.
(1) George Patton wrote to his future wife Beatrice Ayer, explaining why he was leaving the staff of General John Pershing (23rd December 1917)
I would have been simply an office boy. I have always talked blood and murder and am looked on as an advocate of close up fighting. I could never look my self in the face if I was a staff officer and comparatively safe. The Tanks were I truly believe a great opportunity for me. I ought to be one of the high ranking men one of the two or three at the top. I am fitted for it as I have imagination and daring and exceptional mechanical knowledge. Tanks will be much more important than aviation and the man on the ground floor will reap the benefit. It would not have been right either to Pershing or myself to have hung on any longer. Besides I was loosing my independence of thought and a little more of it would have made a nothing of me.
(2) George Patton, letter to Beatrice Ayer (13th June 1918)
One year ago today we we reached Paris full of desire to kill Germans. We are still full of desire but some times I deeply regret that I did not take the infantry last November instead of the tanks. The regiment I had the chance to join has been at it now for five months. Of course I have done a lot but I keep dreading lest the war should finish before I can really do any fighting. That would destroy my military career or at least give it a great set back the unknown is always full of terrors and I wake up at night in a sweat fearing that the damn show is over. I trust that it is doing my character a lot of good for I keep at it in spite of constant difficulties and discouragements. But unless I get into a fight or two it is all wasted effort.
(3) George Patton, orders given to his men before St Mihiel Offensive (September, 1918).
If you are left alone in the midst of the enemy keep shooting. If your gun is disabled use your pistols and squash the enemy with your tracks remember that you are the first American tanks. You must establish the fact that American tanks do not surrender. As long as one tank is able to move it must go forward. Its presence will save the lives of hundreds of infantry and kill many Germans. This is our big chance; what we have worked for. Make it worthwhile.
(4) Ruth Patton later wrote about a letter that George Patton sent to her mother during the First World War.
He wrote to her that he had been inspecting a battlefield at night, and that the dead soldiers, as yet unclaimed by the burial teams, were lying there in the moonlight. He said it was hard to tell the Americans and British from the Germans, and they all looked alike - very young and very dead - and he began to think how often their mothers had changed their diapers and wiped their noses, and suddenly the whole concept seemed unbearable, and he decided that the only way to survive under such a stress was to try to think of soldiers as numbers, not as individuals, and that the sooner the allies won, the sooner the slaughter of the innocents would cease.
(5) George Patton, letter to Beatrice Ayer (28th September 1918)
I decided to do business. So I went back and made some Americans hiding in the trenches dig a passage. I think I killed one man here he would not work so I hit him over the head with a shovel. It was exciting for they shot at us all the time but I got mad and walked on the parapet. At last we got five tanks across and I started them forward and yelled and cussed and waved my walking stick and said come on. About 150 doughboys started but when we got to the crest of the hill the fire got fierce right along the ground. We all lay down.
(6) George Patton was badly wounded at Meuse Argonne. Later he explained what happened to his daughter.
Just before I was wounded I felt a great desire to run, I was trembling with fear when suddenly I thought of my progenitors and seemed to see them in a cloud over the German lines looking at me. I became calm at once and saying out loud "It is time for another Patton to die" called for volunteers and went forward to what I honestly believed to be certain death. Six men went with me; five were killed and I was wounded so I was not much in error.
(7) In 1932 George Patton wrote an article, Federal Troops in Domestic Disputes about the Bonus Army.
In my opinion, the majority were poor, ignorant men, without hope and without really evil intent, but there were several thousand bad men among them and many weak sisters joined them." Bricks flew, sabers rose and fell with a comforting smack, and the mob ran. We moved on after them, occasionally meeting serious resistance. Two of us charged at a gallop, and had some nice work at close range with the occupants of the truck, most of whom could not sit down for some days.
(8) Isaac White served under George Patton and later wrote an article about him in Military Affairs (December, 1970).
General Patton was really the person who instilled the division with great pride in itself and developed a great esprit, as well as a great deal of the aggressiveness which characterized the division throughout its entire service. He really inspired everybody with the idea that when you have gone just as far as you can go, you can still go a little bit further. He also I think instilled the division with the idea that no mission was too difficult to accomplish. You might not have loved him but you respected him and admired him and you wanted to put out for him. Every unit in the division developed a very fierce and intense pride in its accomplishments."
(9) George Patton, speech to his troops (3rd November, 1942)
When the great day of battle comes, remember your training. You must succeed, for to retreat is as cowardly as it is fatal. Americans do not surrender. During the first days and nights ashore you must work unceasingly, regardless of sleep, regardless of food. A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The eyes of the world are watching us. The heart of America beats for us. God is with us. On our victory depends the freedom or slavery of the human race. We shall surely win.
(10) General Alan Brooke first met George Patton in 1942. He wrote down his views on Patton after the war in Notes on My Life.
My meeting with Patton had been of great interest. I had already heard of him, but must confess that his swashbuckling personality exceeded my expectation. I did not form any high opinion of him, nor had I any reason to alter this view at any later date. A dashing, courageous, wild and unbalanced leader, good for operations requiring thrust and push but at a loss in any operation requiring skill and judgment.
(11) Paul Robinett, Armour Command (1959)
A rare sense of showmanship supported his qualities of leadership. Patton raced through the countryside. He radiated action, glamor, determination, and hearty but reserved comradeship. He came with a Marsian speech and a song of hate; gross, vulgar, and profane, although touchingly beautiful and spiritual at times. The old soldiers, who knew him as 'Gorgeous Georgie' or 'Flash Gordon', rejoiced at his coming, even though they feared his rashness. They knew that he would demand much, but that there would be a pat on the back for every kick in the pants and that their interests would be his interests.
Of all the senior commanders in World War II, General Patton understood best the teachings of one of the very greatest American soldiers. Gen. William T. Sherman: "No man can properly command an army from the rear, he must be at the front... at the very head of the army - (he) must be seen there, and the effect of his mind and personal energy must be felt by every officer and man present with it."
(12) General Albert C. Wedemeyer wrote about George Patton's views on how to deal with German and Italian soldiers surrendering in his book, Wedemeyer Reports (1958)
He admonished them to be very careful when the Germans or Italians raised their arms as if they wanted to surrender. He stated that sometimes the enemy would do this, throwing our men off guard. The enemy soldiers had on several occasions shot our unsuspecting men or had thrown grenades at them. Patton warned the members of the 45th Division to watch out for this treachery and to "kill the s.o.b.'s" unless they were certain of their real intention to surrender.
(13) George Patton, memo to all commanders in the 7th Army (5th August, 1943)
It has come to my attention that a very small number of soldiers are going to the hospital on the pretext that they are nervously incapable of combat. Such men are cowards and bring discredit on the army and disgrace to their comrades, whom they heartlessly leave to endure the dangers of battle while they, themselves, use the hospital as a means of escape. You will take measures to see that such cases are not sent to the hospital but are dealt with in their units. Those who are not willing to fight will be tried by court-martial for cowardice in the face of the enemy.
(14) Studs Terkel interviewed Frieda Wolff, a Red Cross nurse, about his experiences during the Second World War for his book, The Good War (1985)
Just because they were listed as self-inflicted wounds does not mean they were self-inflicted. Many of them had faulty weapons and accidentally discharged and shot a foot or leg. There were many. They were all called SIWs, if there was even a suspicion that they had been responsible for their own wounds. They would sometimes wait for as much as six months before they were court-martialed. And you know what the maximum penalty was for an SIW. Imagine the state of mind of those GIs labeled SIWs, waiting all those months before they came to trial.
Patton always asked for the SIWs to be pointed out to him. On this one day, there was an SIW, so called, lying in this bed. There was a young man lying beside him. He was told that the second young man had been wounded by enemy fire. Here was the so-called SIW lying next to him. Patton went to the first boy's table and ripped him up one side and down the other. He said that hanging and drawing and quartering were too good for him. That his fingernails should be ripped out. I mean, I heard him say this. This SIW, this traitor, this thing that should not be called an American. Next to him lies an American hero, who he personally was going to recommend for the Silver Star.
After he left, I went to this American hero, who wouldn't talk to me. I kept saying, "I'm not going to insist, but if you have a mother or sister or somebody you want to know that you're okay, I'll be glad to write the letter. Just let me know." Finally, after several trips to him, he said, "You don't wanna talk to me. If you knew the story, you wouldn't wanna talk to me."
He says, "General Patton was right here and said I was an American hero. He's gonna recommend me for the Silver Star. I didn't even have the guts of the guy next to me, if he did shoot himself. I wanted to. I was so scared, I stood up there. I didn't know what else to do. I stood up and exposed myself and that's how I got wounded. I didn't have the courage to shoot my toe."
(15) General Omar Bradley saw George Patton soon after the incident at 93rd Evacuation Hospital on 10th August 1943.
He was bragging how he had treated this man to snap him out of being a coward. Thought that if he made the man mad, he would be mad enough to fight. That men were showing a yellow streak. He didn't agree with me that every man has a breaking point. Some are low, some are high. We call the low points cowards. To George anyone who didn't want to fight was a coward. He honestly thought he was putting fight into these men. He was pleased with what he had done. He was bragging about the incident. Next day the surgeon of that hospital handed a written report to Brigadier General William B. Kean (the II Corps Chief of Staff). Kean brought it to me. After reading it, I told Kean to put it in a sealed envelope in the safe - only to be opened by Kean or me. I didn't forward the report to Eisenhower because Patton was my Army commander - I couldn't go over Patton's head.
(16) General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter to George Patton on 5th August, 1943, about the incident at 93rd Evacuation Hospital.
I am aware that firm and drastic measures were at times necessary, it did not excuse brutality, abuse of the sick, nor exhibition of uncontrollable temper in front of subordinates. If this true, then I must so seriously question your good judgment and your self-discipline, as to raise serious doubt in my mind as to your future usefulness.
No letter that I have been called upon to write in my military career has caused me the mental anguish of this one, not only because of my deep personal friendship for you but because of admiration for your military qualities; but I assure you that such conduct will not be tolerated in this theater no matter who the offender may be.
(17) General Omar Bradley wrote about George Patton's character after the Second World War.
Why does he use profanity? Certainly he thinks of himself as a destined war leader. Whenever he addressed men he lapsed into violent, obscene language. He always talked down to his troops. When Patton talked to officers and men in the field, his language was studded with profanity and obscenity. I was shocked. He liked to be spectacular, he wanted men to talk about him and to think of him. "I'd rather be looked at than overlooked." Yet when Patton was hosting at the dinner table, his conversation was erudite and he was well-read, intellectual and cultured. Patton was two persons: a Jekyll and Hyde. He was living a role he had set for himself twenty or thirty years before. An amazing figure!
I would have relieved him instantly (after the incident at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital) and would have had nothing more to do with him. He was colorful but he was impetuous, full of temper, bluster, inclined to treat the troops and subordinates as morons. His whole concept of command was opposite to mine. He was primarily a showman. The show always seemed to come first.
(18) Harry C. Butcher, Naval Aide to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, wrote about how his boss dealt with George Patton over the incident at 93rd Evacuation Hospital (21st August, 1943)
Ike (Eisenhower) makes a point that in any army one-third of the soldiers are natural fighters and brave; two-thirds inherently are cowards and skulkers. By making the two-thirds fear the possible public upbraiding such as Patton gave during the campaign, the skulkers are forced to fight. Ike said Patton's method was deplorable but his result was excellent. He cited history to show that great military leaders had practically gone crazy on the battlefield in their zeal to win the fight. Patton is like this. Yet Ike feels that Patton is motivated by selfishness. He thinks Patton would prefer to have the war go on if it meant further aggrandizement for him. Neither does he mind sacrificing lives if by so doing he can gain greater fame. So Ike is in a tough spot; Patton is one of his best friends but friendships must be brushed aside.
(19) General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter to General George Marshall where he commented on George Patton's time in Sicily (24th August, 1943)
Patton's brilliant successes in the Sicily campaign must be attributed directly to his energy, determination and unflagging aggressiveness. In spite of all this - George Patton continues to exhibit some of those unfortunate personal traits of which you and I have always known and which during this campaign caused me some most uncomfortable days. His habit of impulsive bawling out of subordinates, extending even to the personal abuse of individuals, was noted in at least two specific cases. I have had to take the most drastic steps; and if he is not cured now, there is no hope for him. Personally, I believe that he is cured - not only because of his great personal loyalty to you and to me but because fundamentally he is so avid for recognition as a great military commander that he will ruthlessly suppress any habit of his own that will tend to jeopardize it.
(20) George Patton wrote in his diary about Drew Pearson (25th January, 1943)
My men are crazy about me, and that is what makes me most angry with Drew Pearson. I will live to see him die. As a matter of fact, the ability to survive this has had a good effect on America, and on me. My destiny is sure and I am a fool and a coward ever to have doubted it. I don't any more. Some people are needed to do things and they have to be tempered by adversity as well as thrilled by success. I have had both. Now for some more success.
(21) George Patton, speech to the Third Army (January, 1944)
I have been given command of Third Army. I am here because of the confidence of two men: the President of the United States and the Theater Commander. They have confidence in me because they don't believe a lot of goddamned lies that have been printed about me and also because they know I mean business when I fight. I don't fight for fun and I won't tolerate anyone on my Staff who does. You are here to fight. Ahead of you lies battle. That means just one thing. You can't afford to be a goddamned fool, because in battle fools mean dead men. It is inevitable for men to be killed and wounded in battle. But there is no reason why such losses should be increased because of the incompetence and carelessness of some stupid son-of-a-bitch. I don't tolerate such men on my Staff. Some crazy German bastards decided they were supermen and decided it was their mission to rule the world. They've been pushing people around all over the world, looting, killing, and abusing millions of innocent men, women and children. They were getting set to do the same to us. We are fighting to defeat and wipe out the Nazis who started all this goddamned son-of-a-bitchery.
(22) General Dwight D. Eisenhower letter to George Patton (29th April 1944)
I have warned you time and again against your impulsiveness and have flatly instructed you to say nothing that could possibly be misinterpreted. You first came into my command at my own insistence because I believed in your fighting qualities and your ability to lead troops in battle. At the same time I have always been fully aware of your habit of dramatizing yourself and of committing indiscretions for no other apparent purpose than of calling attention to yourself. I am thoroughly weary of your failure to control your tongue and have begun to doubt your all-around judgment, so essential in high military position. My decision in the present case will not become final until I have heard from the War Department. I want to tell you officially and definitely that if you are again guilty of any indiscretion in speech or action. I will relieve you instantly from command.
(23) H. Essame, Patton: The Commander (1974)
Patton was unquestionably the outstanding exponent of armored warfare produced by the Allies in the Second World War. In terms of blood and iron he personified the national genius which had raised the United States from humble beginnings to world power: the eagerness to seize opportunities and to exploit them to the full, the ruthless overriding of opposition, the love of the unconventional, the ingenious and the unorthodox, the will to win whatever the cost and, above all, in the shortest possible time.
(24) Brian Horrocks wrote about George Patton in his autobiography A Full Life (1960)
My first visit to Tripoli came on 15th February when Montgomery laid on a series of lectures, demonstrations and discussions so that the successful battle technique developed by the 8th Army, and particularly our system for joint Army/R.A.F. control, could be passed on to everyone. This was a great get-together for all of us, but my chief memory is of meeting for the first time that remarkable character, General George Patton of the U.S. Army. I found myself walking back to our hotel with Patton after Monty's initial address on " How to make war," so I asked him that he thought of it. He replied in a southern drawl, with a twinkle in his eye: " I may be old, I may be slow, I may be stupid, but it just don't mean nothing to me!"
It was soon quite obvious that he was neither slow nor stupid. One of the remarkable things about him was the way in which, seemingly at will, he could put on two entirely different acts. Either the fine old southern gentleman and cavalry officer with his polo ponies, or the real tough guy with a steel helmet and two revolvers stuck in his belt. He was unquestionably a very strong personality and had terrific drive. His pet phrase, however sticky the battle might be, was "keep them rolling forward."
(25) George Patton had studied the tactics that William Sherman had used during the American Civil War. In 1944 Patton spoke about this to the military writer, Basil Liddel Hart.
Sherman's methods also fired General Patton's imagination - particularly with regard to the way that they exploited the indirect approach and the value of cutting down impedimenta in order to gain mobility. When I met Patton in 1944, shortly before he took his army across to Normandy, he told me how he had earlier spent a long leave studying Sherman s campaigns on the ground with my book in hand, and we discussed the possibilities of applying such methods in modem warfare. They were demonstrated in his subsequent sweep from Normandy to the Moselle.
(26) In 1945 George Patton attempted to get the Stars and Stripes newspaper from publishing the cartoons of Bill Maudlin. When the editor refused, Patton threatened to ban the newspaper. In an attempt to solve the problem General Dwight D. Eisenhower arranged a meeting between Maudlin and Patton. Maudlin wrote about the meeting in his book, The Brass Ring (1971)
There he sat, big as life even at that distance. His hair was silver, his face was pink, his collar and shoulders glittered with more stars than I could count, his fingers sparkled with rings, and an incredible mass of ribbons started around desktop level and spread upward in a flood over his chest to the very top of his shoulder, as if preparing to march down his back too. His face was rugged, with an odd, strangely shapeless outline; his eyes were pale, almost colorless, with a choleric bulge. His small, compressed mouth was sharply downturned at the comers, with a lower lip which suggested a pouting child as much as a no-nonsense martinet. It was a welcome, rather human touch. Beside him, lying in a big chair, was Willie, the bull terrier. If ever dog was suited to master this one was. Willie had his beloved boss's expression and lacked only the ribbons and stars. I stood in that door staring into the four meanest eyes I'd ever seen.
Patton demanded: "What are you trying to do, incite a goddamn mutiny?" Patton then launched into a lengthy dissertation about armies and leaders of the past, of rank and its importance. Patton was a master of his subject felt truly privileged, as if I were hearing Michelangelo on painting. I had been too long enchanted by the army myself to be anything but impressed by this magnificent old performer's monologue. Just as when I had first saluted him, I felt whatever martial spirit was left in me being lifted out and fanned into flame.
If you're a leader, you don't push wet spaghetti, you pull it. The US Army still has to learn that. The British understand it. Patton understood it. I always admired Patton. Oh, sure, the stupid bastard was crazy. He was insane. He thought he was living in the Dark Ages. Soldiers were peasants to him. I didn't like that attitude, but I certainly respected his theories and the techniques he used to get his men out of their foxholes.
(27) Harold Alexander worked closely with General Omar Bradley and General George Patton during the invasion of Sicily. He wrote about the men in his autobiography, Memoirs: 1940-1945 (1961)
They were two completely contrasted military characters; the one impatient of inaction, the other unwilling to commit himself to active operations unless he could clearly see their purpose. On one of my visits to the American headquarters, I was fascinated to hear this characteristic exchange:
Patton: Why are we sitting down doing nothing? We must do something!
Bradley: Wait a minute, George! What do you propose we do?
Patton: Anything rather than just sit on our backsides!
Both were good soldiers. Patton was a thruster, prepared to take any risks; Bradley, as I have indicated, was more cautious. Patton should have lived during the Napoleonic wars - he would have been a splendid Marshal under Napoleon.
In spite of all his bravura and toughness and terrific drive General George Patton was a very emotional man. He loved his men and they loved him. I have been with him at the front when he was greeted with demonstrations of affection by his soldiers, and there were - as I saw for myself - tears running down his cheeks.
(28) George Patton received a report written by Earl G. Harrison about the way the Jews in Germany were being treated by the US Army after the war. Patton wrote about the report in his diary on 15th September, 1945.
One of the chief complaints is that the DP (Displaced Person) are kept in camps under guard. Of course Harrison is ignorant of the fact that if they were not kept under guard they would not stay in the camps, would spread over the country like locusts and should eventually have to be rounded up after quite a few of them had been shot and quite a few Germans murdered and pillaged.
The brilliant Mr. Harrison further objected to the sanitary conditions. Again being ignorant of the fact that we frequently have to use force in order to prevent the inmates - Germans, Jews and other people - from defecating on the floor when ample facilities are provided outside.
Evidently the virus started by Morgenthau and Baruch of a Semitic revenge against all Germans is still working. Harrison and his associates indicate that they feel German civilians should be removed from houses for the purpose of housing Displaced Persons. There are two errors in this assumption. First, when we remove an individual German, we punish an individual German while the punishment is not intended for the individual but for the race. Furthermore, it is against my Anglo-Saxon conscience to remove a person from a house, which is a punishment, without due process of law. In the second place, Harrison and his ilk believe that the Displaced Person is a human being which he is not, and this applies particularly to the Jews who are lower than animals. I remember once at Troina in Sicily, General Gay said that it wasn't a question of the people living with the dirty animals but of the animals living with the dirty people. At that time he had never seen a Displaced Jew.
(29) New York Times (22nd December, 1945)
History has reached out and embraced General George Patton. His place is secure. He will be ranked in the forefront of America's great military leaders. The enemy who reached their judgment the hard way, so ranked him. This country, which he served so well, will honor him no less.
George Patton had a premonition he would die in battle. It is a wonder he did not, for he took chances in the heat of the fight that made even his hard-bitten soldiers shudder. Long before the war ended, Patton was a legend. Spectacular, swaggering, pistol-packing, deeply religious and violently profane, easily moved to anger because he was first of all a fighting man, easily moved to tears, because underneath all his mannered irascibility he had a kind heart, he was a strange combination of fire and ice. Hot in battle and ruthless too, he was icy in his inflexibility of purpose. He was no mere hell for leather tank commander but a profound and thoughtful military student. He has been compared with Jeb Stuart, Nathan Bedford Forrest and Phil Sheridan, but he fought his battles in a bigger field than any of them.
He was not a man of peace. Perhaps he would have preferred to die at the height of his fame, when his men, whom he loved, were following him with devotion His nation will accord his memory a full measure of that devotion.
(30) General Dwight D. Eisenhower was interviewed by Brenton Wallace for his book Patton and his Third Army (1981)
He was one of those men born to be a soldier, an ideal combat leader whose gallantry and dramatic personality inspired all he commanded to great deeds of valor. His presence gave me the certainty that the boldest plan would be even more daringly executed. It is no exaggeration to say that Patton's name struck terror at the hearts of the enemy.
(31) Dwight Macdonald, The Ordeal of George Patton, New York Review of Books (31st December, 1964)
Patton was a swaggering bigmouth, a Fascist-minded aristocrat, the last of our generals to call the Germans "the Hun." His horizons were limited; he was born for war, as he freely confessed. As a very young man, safely attached to the headquarters of a less valiant army than his, I knew that I feared and despised him. If you drove in the Third Army sector without steel helmet, sidearms, necktie, dogtags, everything arranged according to some forgotten manual, Patton's fiercely loyal M.P. gorillas would grab you. You could protest, but say one word against their pigheaded general? There is no doubting his sincerity, and no doubt that compared to the dreary run of us, General Patton was quite mad.
(32) Andy Rooney was a reporter for the Stars and Tripes newspaper during the Second World War. He talked about George Patton to the author, Carlo D'Este, about his book, A Genius for War: A Life of General George S. Patton (1995)
I detested Patton and everything about the way he was. It was because we had so few soldiers like him that we won the war. Patton was the kind of officer that our wartime enlisted men were smarter than. It was the independent action of the average GI that made our Army so successful, not the result of the kind of blind, thoughtless devotion to the next higher authority that Patton demanded.
(33) Studs Terkel interviewed Robert Rasnus about his experiences in the US Army in Germany for his book, The Good War (1985)
We were aware that the Russians had taken enormous losses on the eastern front, that they really had broken the back of the German army. We would have been in for infinitely worse casualties and misery had it not been for them. We were well disposed toward them. I remember saying if we happen to link up with 'em, I wouldn't hesitate to kiss 'em.
I didn't hear any anti-Russian talk. I think we were realistic enough to know that if we were going to fight them, we would come out second best. We hadn't even heard of the atomic bomb yet. We'd just have to assume that it would be masses of armies, and their willingness to sacrifice millions of troops. We were aware that our leaders were sparing our lives. Even though somebody would have to do the dirty work in the infantry, our leaders would try to pummel the enemy with artillery and tanks and overpower them before sending the infantry in. If that was possible.
In the final campaign down through Bavaria, we were in Patton's army. Patton said we ought to keep going. To me, that was an unthinkable idea. The Russians would have slaughtered us, because of their willingness to give up so many lives. I don't think the rank of the GIs had any stomach for fighting the Russians. We were informed enough through press and newsreels to know about Stalingrad. I saw the actual evidence in those black-bordered pictures in every German household I visited. Black border, eastern front, nine out of ten.
© John Simkin, March 2013