Educated at West Point, George S. Patton (1885-1945) began his military career leading cavalry troops against Mexican forces and became the first officer assigned to the new U.S. Army Tank Corps during World War I. Promoted through the ranks over the next several decades, he reached the high point of his career during World War II, when he led the U.S. 7th Army in its invasion of Sicily and swept across northern France at the head of the 3rd Army in the summer of 1944. Late that same year, Patton’s forces played a key role in defeating the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge, after which he led them across the Rhine River and into Germany, capturing 10,000 miles of territory and liberating the country from the Nazi regime. Patton died in Germany in December 1945 of pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure following an automobile accident.
George Patton’s Early Life and Career
George Smith Patton was born in 1885 in San Gabriel, California. His family, originally from Virginia, had a long military heritage, including service in the Civil War. Patton decided early on that he wanted to carry on the tradition, and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1909. Patton gained his first real battle experience in 1915, when he was assigned to lead cavalry troops against Mexican forces led by Pancho Villa along the U.S.-Mexico border. He served as aide-de-camp to General John J. Pershing, commander of American forces in Mexico, and accompanied the general on his unsuccessful 1916 expedition against Villa.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Patton went along with Pershing to Europe, where he became the first officer assigned to the newly established U.S. Tank Corps. He soon earned a reputation for his leadership skill and knowledge of tank warfare. After the war, Patton served positions in tank and cavalry units at various posts in the United States. By the time the country began to rearm itself in 1940, he had risen through the ranks to colonel.
General Patton in World War II: North Africa and Sicily
Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Patton was given command of the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions and organized a training center in the California desert. Patton headed to North Africa late in 1942 at the head of an American force; before the initial landings on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, he presented his troops with an expression of his now-legendary philosophy of battle: “We shall attack and attack until we are exhausted, and then we shall attack again.” Patton’s lust for battle would earn him the colorful nickname “Old Blood and Guts” among his troops, whom he ruled with an iron fist. With this formidable aggression and unrelenting discipline, the general managed to put U.S. forces back on the offensive after a series of defeats and win the war’s first major American victory against Nazi-led forces in the Battle of El Guettar in March 1943.
A month later, Patton turned over his command in North Africa to Gen. Omar Bradley in order to prepare the U.S. 7th Army for its planned invasion of Sicily. The operation was a smashing success, but Patton’s reputation suffered greatly after an incident in an Italian field hospital in which he slapped a soldier suffering from shell shock and accused him of cowardice. He was forced to issue a public apology and earned a sharp reprimand from General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
General Patton in World War II: France and Germany
Though he had greatly hoped to lead the Allied invasion of Normandy, Patton was instead publicly assigned command of a fictitious force that was supposedly preparing for an invasion in southeastern England. With the German command distracted by a phantom invasion of Pas de Calais, France, the Allies were able to make their actual landings on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day (June 6, 1944). After the 1st Army broke the German line, Patton’s 3rd Army swept through the breach into northern France in pursuit of Nazi forces. Late that year, it played a key role in frustrating the German counterattack in the Ardennes during the massive Battle of the Bulge.
In early 1945, Patton led his army across the Rhine River and into Germany, capturing 10,000 miles of territory and helping to liberate the country from Nazi rule. In the months following Germany’s surrender, the outspoken general caused another firestorm of controversy when he gave an interview criticizing the Allies’ rigid de-Nazification policies in the defeated country; Eisenhower removed him from command of the 3rd Army in October 1945. That December, Patton broke his neck in an automobile accident near Mannheim, Germany. He sustained spinal cord and neck injuries and passed away from pulmonary embolism as a result of the accident in a Heidelberg hospital 12 days later.
Patton’s memoir, titled “War As I Knew It,” was published posthumously in 1947; his larger-than-life persona later made its way to the silver screen in an Academy Award-winning 1970 biopic starring George C. Scott.
Controversies and appraisal of George Patton
In time Patton’s legacy has come to be defined by his controversial and sometimes erratic behaviour almost as much as by his martial prowess. When a pair of mules blocked a bridge during the Sicily offensive in 1943, halting his armoured convoy and making it vulnerable to enemy fire, Patton personally shot the animals and ordered them pushed off the bridge. Two of Patton’s men were tried in connection with the killing of dozens of Italian and German prisoners of war in southern Sicily on July 14, 1943, which came to be known as the Biscari Massacre. Both claimed that they were following orders not to take prisoners that Patton himself had set forth in a fiery speech to their division a month earlier. Patton denied responsibility, and he was exonerated of any crime.
Patton was sharply criticized for a pair of incidents in August 1943, when he physically struck hospitalized soldiers who exhibited no outward signs of injury. On August 3 Patton visited the 15th Evacuation Hospital outside Nicosia, Sicily, where he encountered Pvt. Charles Kuhl, who appeared to be unwounded. When asked what he suffered from, the soldier replied, “I guess I just can’t take it.” Patton cursed at the soldier, berating him as a coward, and then slapped his face with his glove and kicked him out of the tent. Kuhl was later diagnosed with chronic dysentery and malaria. On August 10 Patton repeated the scene at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital near San Stefano, Sicily. Pvt. Paul Bennett had been diagnosed with combat fatigue, and upon seeing Bennett cry, Patton repeatedly slapped him, cursed him, and threatened to either send him to the front lines or have him killed by firing squad. Medical officers and a number of journalists quickly reported the incidents to Eisenhower, who reprimanded Patton by letter and ordered him to apologize to all concerned. Patton grudgingly did so, and Eisenhower, who could ill afford to lose Patton, asked reporters to bury the story for the sake of the war effort. News of the incidents broke in late November 1943, however, causing the uproar that Eisenhower had hoped to avoid. Many in the U.S. Congress and the press called for Patton to be sacked, and the Senate delayed Patton’s promotion to permanent major general. Although Patton kept his job, those incidents likely cost him a command role of ground forces in the Normandy Invasion in June 1944.
Historians generally agree that Patton was not only one of the greatest military leaders that the United States has ever produced but also one of the most complex and contradictory. Patton believed that it was critical for a general to stand out and to be seen by his troops, a philosophy that conveniently coincided with his ego. He dressed impeccably in a colourful uniform and knee-high boots, sporting ivory-handled pistols. Whether one liked him or loathed him, no one forgot him. He was a devout Christian who prayed morning and night, yet he was liberal with his use of profanity he was also a staunch believer in reincarnation who was convinced that he had lived many previous lives as a warrior. Although he had many black soldiers under his command—notably, the 761st Tank Battalion, a segregated armoured unit known as the “Black Panthers” that won distinction on the battlefield—he nevertheless saw African Americans as inferior and disparaged their performance in combat. He helped to liberate numerous concentration camps, but he privately made virulently anti-Semitic statements during the occupation of Germany. Whatever demons he struggled with, and likely there were many, Patton possessed a genius for war like few others in history.
Born in San Gaberiel, California in 1885, Patton graduated from West Point in 1909. Α] He was on the U.S. 1912 Olympic pentathlon team and also designed the U.S. Cavalry's last combat saber: the "Patton Saber". In 1916 he led the first-ever U.S. motorized-vehicle attack during the Mexican Border Campaign. In World War I, he was the first officer assigned to the new United States Tank Corps and saw action in France. In World War II, he commanded corps and armies in North Africa, Sicily, and the European Theater of Operations. In 1944, Patton assumed command of the U.S. Third Army, which under his leadership advanced farther, captured more enemy prisoners, and liberated more territory in less time than any other army in history. A German field marshal speaking to American reporters called Patton "your best".
During the buildup of the United States Army prior to its entry into World War II, Patton commanded the United States Third Army, which performed with mixed results in 1941 in both the Louisiana Maneuvers and Carolina Maneuvers. The Third Army was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, until the unit, along with its commander was ordered to the newly established Desert Training Center in the Colorado Desert of California and Arizona, by the Chief of the Armored Force, Major General Jacob L. Devers. Patton was subsequently appointed commander of the newly activated Armored Corps by Devers, and he was in this position when the corps was assigned to Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. In preparation, Patton trained his troops in the Imperial Valley. He commenced these exercises in late 1941 and continued them well into the summer of 1942. Patton chose a 10,000-acre (40 km2) expanse of unforgiving desert, known for its blistering temperatures, sandy arroyos and absolute desolation. It was a close match for the terrain Patton and his men would encounter during the campaigns in North Africa. Tank tracks, foxholes and spent shell casings can still be found in an area about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Palm Springs.
From his first days as a commander, Patton strongly emphasized the need for armoured forces to stay in constant contact with the enemy, concluding that aggressive, fast-moving mechanized and armored forces disrupted enemy defensive preparations while presenting less of a target to enemy gunners. His instinctive preference for relentless offensive movement was typified by an answer Patton gave to war correspondents in a 1944 press conference. In response to a question on whether the Third Army's rapid offensive across France should be slowed to reduce the number of U.S. casualties, Patton replied "Whenever you slow anything down, you waste human lives." [N 1]
Patton was fatally wounded in a motor accident near Mannheim, Germany, in 1945. Α]
Back in the United States, Patton met D. Eisenhower, who would prove highly important for Patton’s future. Considering his rather blunt personality, his acquaintance with people at the top was going to be a great asset to his career.
A year after the Great War ended, “Bandito”- one of his nicknames – was promoted to the rank of Major. Patton’s foresight often caused him troubles. While seeing how the modern battlefield had changed and in what direction it was going, Major Patton tried to develop an armored arsenal back in the United States.
Wedding Photograph of George Patton and Beatrice Ayer
However, the military doctrine of the US Army was in direct contrast to what Patton believed, as at the time no one wanted to admit the growing role of tanks at the expense of infantry. Additionally, the technological problems with constructing the first American tank weren’t a motivation either. However, he was determined to create theories combining infantry with armored warfare. Unfortunately, the US Congress left the armored branch without funding, and the development of an armored force was postponed.
George S Patton on horseback, Fort Sheridan, Illinois, USA.
Nevertheless, his career was still progressing. After being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1934 in Hawaii, he foresaw the possibility of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with a quite remarkable degree of foresight and sent a note about it four years before the actual event occurred.
Again, no one was listening to his predictions. His personal life and career rolled along but the father of three found peacetime frustrating and not always easy to deal with. In 1939, that changed.
Patton as a young officer
George S. Patton - Death, WWII and Education - HISTORY
By Major General Michael Reynolds
By early 1945, less than a year before General George S. Patton’s mysterious death, Adolf Hitler’s armies were almost exhausted. With most of Poland in Soviet hands and the Ruhr in ruins from Allied air attacks, the replenishment of fuel, ammunition, and weapon stocks had almost come to a halt, and coal and steel production had been reduced to a fifth of what it had been only six months earlier.
On the Eastern Front, the Soviet winter offensive had reached a line less than 100 miles from Berlin, and although in the West the Siegfried Line was still basically intact and the Rhine had yet to be crossed, it was clear that with American divisions arriving in Europe at the rate of one a week it was only a matter of time before the Third Reich collapsed in chaos and disaster. Still, Hitler refused to consider surrender. (You can get a more in-depth look at the final months and days of the Second World War inside WWII History magazine.)
Pressure to Cross the Rhine
The success and speed of the Soviet advance had in fact presented the Western Allies with a serious problem: unless they broke through to the North German plain within a few weeks, Stalin would almost certainly seize control of virtually the whole of Germany, including its Baltic and North Sea ports.
The Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had issued his outline plan for the first phase of the advance into Germany on the last day of 1944. It called first for the destruction of the German forces west of the Rhine, following which Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group (British and Canadian) was to make the main drive to the North German Plain, north of the Ruhr, while General Omar Bradley’s 12th Army Group (American and French) made a complementary, but secondary, attack from the Mainz–Frankfurt area northeast to Kassel. The overall objective of the plan was to effect “a massive double envelopment of the Ruhr to be followed by a great thrust to join up with the Russians.”
After studying it, Monty came to the conclusion that it did all he wanted in that it put the weight in the north and put the Ninth American Army under his command. Even more amazingly, it gave him the power of decision in the event of disagreement with Bradley on the boundary between the 12th and 21st Army Groups.
Ike’s detailed plan for the Rhineland campaign, which was to precede the thrust into Germany proper, saw Monty’s 21st Army Group, with the Ninth U.S. Army under command, seizing the west bank of the Rhine from Nijmegen to Düsseldorf. During this phase, Bradley’s 12th Army Group was to maintain an aggressive defense. Then, while Monty prepared to cross the lower Rhine, Bradley was to secure the river from Düsseldorf to Köln, following which General George S. Patton’s Third Army would “take up the ball” and thrust eastward from Prüm to Koblenz. At the same time, the Third and Seventh U.S. Armies would be responsible for securing crossings over the Rhine between Mainz and Karlsruhe for the forces destined to carry out the thrust south of the Ruhr.
Needless to say, Bradley was far from happy to see Monty being given not only the main role, but also a complete U.S. army. With two-thirds of the Allied Expeditionary Force now made up of American troops, he had wanted, not surprisingly, the main effort to be made by American troops under American command. Indeed, he envisaged all four U.S. armies driving into central Germany with the British, Canadian, and French armies being relegated to flank protection. He was bitterly disappointed when his plea fell on deaf ears.
Inevitably, Patton was furious when he was told that his Third U.S. Army was to adopt a posture of “aggressive defense,” while Monty’s 21st Army Group launched a major offensive. On February 4, he wrote to his wife, Beatrice, telling her that if she heard he was on the defensive, “It was not the enemy who put me there. I don’t see much future for me in this war. There are too many safety-first people running it.”
Third Army commander General George S. Patton Jr. completed World War II as a four-star general. He began the war wearing two stars.
Patton was certainly not going to be defeated by the safety-first people, and he chose to view the order to adopt a posture of aggressive defense as meaning that he could “keep moving towards the Rhine with a low profile.” He told his staff that the Third Army was going to carry out an “armored reconnaissance,” but that it would be done with seven divisions and that the initial objectives were Prüm, Bitburg, and the vital city of Trier on the Mosel River. Furthermore, he told his commanders to make sure that their units were always fully committed so that they could not be removed from his command and placed in Eisenhower’s new theater reserve. He wrote in his diary: “Reserve against what?…Certainly at this point in the war no reserve is needed—simply violent attacks everywhere with everything.”
Draining Patton’s Force
On February 10, Bradley telephoned Patton to tell him that Ike was transferring divisions from the 12th Army Group to General Bill Simpson’s Ninth U.S. Army. The latter was now, of course, part of Monty’s army group. Patton replied that as the oldest and most experienced serving general in the theater he was damned if he would release any of his divisions or go onto the defensive, and that he would resign rather than comply with such orders. He clearly had no intention of really resigning, but he withdrew his threat anyway when Bradley suggested that he owed too much to his troops to even consider it. Nevertheless, in early February Patton lost the 17th Airborne and 95th Infantry Divisions to Simpson and Monty.
The area in which the Third Army was operating during February 1945, the Eifel, is hilly, heavily forested, and bisected by three fast- flowing rivers, which at that time were swollen by the snow and rains of the worst winter in 38 years. Patton wrote later, “The crossing of … these rivers was a magnificent feat of arms.”
The campaign, carried out in appalling conditions, cost a total of 42,217 battle casualties and a staggering 20,790 nonbattle casualties, but it was eventually successful. By March 1, Patton’s troops had captured Prüm and Bitburg Trier fell a day later. Ike’s headquarters had estimated that it would take four divisions to capture the former Roman provincial capital of Trier, but Patton was able to send a message saying, “Have taken Trier with two divisions. Do you want me to give it back?”
Third Army soldiers pile out of a half-track to search for a German sniper. As German resistance began to crumble, the American found themselves fighting lone snipers and children with antitank weapons.
On March 5, General Courtney Hodges’s First U.S. Army finally went on the offensive. Köln fell on the 6th, and to everyone’s amazement, by 4 pm on the 7th a bridge had been secured over the Rhine, roughly halfway between Köln and Koblenz—the Ludendorff railway bridge at Remagen. “We were quite happy over it, but just a little envious,” wrote Patton later.
American bravery and initiative had ensured that the bridge, although prepared for demolition, was secured intact. But the euphoria soon disappeared the following day when, sadly for Bradley, Eisenhower gave orders that to provide the necessary number of divisions to Simpson’s Ninth Army for Monty’s northern push, no more than four were to be committed at Remagen and that for the time being at least the bridgehead was to be held but not developed.
This, in fact, also made sense tactically since beyond the bridge for about 12 miles were heavily forested mountains crossed by poor roads, making further advance against any kind of determined resistance extremely difficult. Even so, by the 17th, when the bridge finally collapsed, there were six American divisions in a bridgehead 10 miles deep and 30 miles wide.
“Take the Rhine on the Run”
On March 5, as the First U.S. Army launched its attack, General George S. Patton finally obtained Eisenhower’s authority to advance into the rest of the Rhineland Palatinate. Bradley told him to “take the Rhine on the run,” and on March 10, just three days after the Remagen bridge was captured by the First Army, Patton’s 4th Armored Division reached the river north of Koblenz. It had advanced 55 miles in less than 48 hours. On the 13th, Patton ordered his divisions across the Mosel and through the Hunsrück, a mountainous area to the east of Trier thought by SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) to be too difficult for armor. Nevertheless, by the 22nd he had eight divisions on the Rhine from Koblenz to Ludwigshafen.
General Patton celebrates crossing the Rhine River by relieving himself in it. “The pause that refreshes,” he called it.
With that, Patton’s campaign west of the Rhine was over. It had cost another 7,287 casualties, but the Third Army engineers were ready, and Patton, desperate to cross the great river before Monty, decided that his men should make a feint at Mainz and cross at once at Oppenheim. By daylight on the 23rd, six battalions were over the river for a loss of only 28 men killed and wounded, while other infantry and engineer units had crossed just to the north, at Nierstein, without opposition. Patton telephoned Bradley: “Brad, don’t tell anyone but I’m across … there are so few Krauts around there they don’t know it yet. So don’t make any announcement. We’ll keep it secret until we see how it goes.”
However, the Germans soon became aware of the crossings and after heavy Luftwaffe raids on the Third Army pontoon bridges during the day, Patton called Bradley again that evening: “For God’s sake tell the world we’re across … I want the world to know Third Army made it before Monty.”
In fact, the world already knew. At Bradley’s headquarters that morning, Patton’s representative had announced that the Third Army had crossed the Rhine at 10 pm on March 22, “without benefit of aerial bombing, ground smoke, artillery preparation and airborne assistance.” Clearly, this was a dig at Montgomery, who was using all these assets at that very moment to assist his crossing of the same river.
General Order Number 70
On the day his first troops crossed the Rhine, Patton issued General Order Number 70 to his Third Army and to his supporting XIX Tactical Air Command: “In the period from January 29 to March 22, 1945, you have wrested 6,484 square miles of territory from the enemy. You have taken 3,072 cities, towns, and villages, including among the former: Trier, Coblenz, Bingen, Worms, Mainz, Kaiserslautern, and Ludwigshafen. You have captured 140,112 enemy soldiers and have killed or wounded an additional 99,000, thereby eliminating practically all of the German 7th and 1st Armies. History records no greater achievement in so limited a time … The world rings with your praises better still General Marshall, General Eisenhower, and General Bradley have all personally commended you. The highest honor I have ever attained is that of having my name coupled with yours in these great events.”
The following day George Patton crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge at Oppenheim. Halfway across he undid his trousers “to take a piss in the Rhine. I have been looking forward to this for a long time,” he wrote in his diary. Another report says that he added, “I didn’t even piss this morning when I got up so I would have a really full load. Yes, sir, the pause that refreshes.” He had not only beaten Monty across the famous river, he had relieved himself in it two days before Winston Churchill! On arrival on the eastern bank he deliberately stubbed his toe and “fell, picking up a handful of German soil, in emulation of … William the Conqueror,” who allegedly did the same thing on arriving on the shore of England in 1066.
The Raid on Hammelburg
On March 23, after gaining his first bridgeheads over the Rhine, Patton had written to his wife, “I am scared by my good luck. This operation is stupendous.” But alas, his luck was about to run out, at least temporarily, in what became known as the Hammelburg raid.
Patton’s son-in-law, Lt. Col. John Waters, had been captured in North Africa in February 1943. It seems that Patton learned on or shortly before March 23 that Waters was being held in a German prison camp, Oflag XIIIB, three miles south of Hammelburg and some 60 miles east of Frankfurt. How he found out remains a mystery. The camp in fact held some 1,230 Americans and about 3,000 Serbian officers, former members of the Royal Yugoslav Army.
On March 25, Brig. Gen. William Hoge, the commander of the 4th Armored Division, received an order from his corps commander, Maj. Gen. Manton Eddy, telling him to mount a special task force (TF) to liberate Oflag XIIIB. On the same day, Patton’s general factotum and bodyguard and a former sergeant in Patton’s headquarters in World War I, Major Al Stiller, arrived at Hoge’s headquarters and announced that he had been ordered by Patton to accompany the TF. Not surprisingly, both Eddy and Hoge were unhappy with the idea of a raid some 40 miles behind enemy lines, and they expressed their concerns. This brought Patton to XII Corps on the 26th, and he ended up giving Hoge a direct order over the telephone “to cross the Main River and get over to Hammelburg.” Apparently it was at this point that Hoge turned to Stiller, who had been listening, and was told that Patton’s son-in-law was one of the prisoners in the camp.
The TF organized for the raid came from Lt. Col. Creighton Abrams’s Combat Command B (CCB) of the 4th Armored Division. Its commander was a young captain named Abraham Baum, and it comprised 16 tanks, 27 half-tracks, three 105mm self-propelled guns, and a total of 294 officers and men, including Al Stiller. Quite how the TF was meant to carry back some 1,200 released American prisoners remains a mystery—the total seating capacity of the vehicles was well under 500. Be that as it may, the basic plan was relatively simple. CCB would cross the Main River and make a hole in the German defenses, following which TF Baum would drive flat out for the camp. It was hoped that the raiding party would be safely back behind U.S. lines in less than 24 hours.
A Disastrous Outcome
A Sherman tank smashes through the gate of the POW camp at Hammelburg as American and British soldiers wave and celebrate.
Task Force Baum set out at 7 pm on the 26th, and by first light on the 28th it had ceased to exist. Although the American prisoners were freed for a time, the raid ended up in chaos. Nine members of TF Baum were killed, 32 wounded, including Baum, and 16 were never seen again. Every vehicle was lost, and most of the prisoners and the raiding party ended up back in the camp, including the reason for the raid, John Waters, who was badly wounded. He was still in Oflag XIIIB when a unit of the 14th Armored Division, part of the Seventh Army, reached the camp on April 5.
Waters’s life had been saved by a Serbian doctor. Patton sent his personal doctor, Charles Odom, to look after him and arranged for him to be airlifted to Frankfurt. This preferential treatment apparently caused resentment among some of the other wounded. On April 5, Patton wrote to his wife, “I feel terrible. I tried hard to save him and may be the cause of his death. Al Stiller was in the column and I fear he is dead. I don’t know what you and B [his daughter] will think. Don’t tell her yet … We have liberated a lot of PW camps but not the one I wanted.” On May 1, Stiller was found unharmed in another PW camp at Moosburg in southern Germany.
Officially, the Hammelburg raid never happened. When Patton visited Baum in the hospital to award him a Distinguished Service Cross, he told him he had done “one helluva job.” Baum replied that he could not believe the general would send his men on a mission like that to rescue one man.
Patton allegedly replied, “That’s right, Abe, I wouldn’t.” After Patton left, his aide told Baum the raid had been classified Top Secret and that he was to use discretion when discussing it. Baum interpreted this to mean that his TF would get no recognition and that he and his men had been “screwed again.”
Revealing Patton’s Motivations
Needless to say, Patton blamed everybody except himself for the failure of the Hammelburg raid, including Bradley, Eddy, and Hoge. In his April 5 letter to his wife, he wrote, “My first thought was to send a combat command but I was talked out of it by Omar and others.”
Patton went even further in his diary, where he claimed that he sent only two companies instead of a complete combat command “on account of strenuous objections of General Bradley.”
This accusation, however, seems to have been contradicted by Bradley who wrote later, “It was a story that began as a wild goose chase and ended in tragedy. I did not rebuke him for it. Failure itself was George’s own worst reprimand.” In his own book, War As I Knew It, Patton certainly blamed Eddy and Hoge. “I intended to send one combat command of the 4th Armored, but, unfortunately, was talked out of it by Eddy and Hoge.”
But for all Patton’s subsequent claims that he had no knowledge of Waters’s presence in Oflag XIIIB until nine days after the raid, and that it had been launched only to divert German attention and ease his army’s advance, those most closely involved at the top level—Hoge, Abrams, Baum, and Stiller—all believed that the raid had been launched for one reason only and that was to rescue Patton’s son-in-law. They remained silent at the time to protect their army commander, and it was long after the war, in 1967, before one of them, Creighton Abrams, stated openly that the raid had been launched solely because Waters was in the camp.
It is quite clear from Patton’s letters to his wife that this was true. Three days before the raid he wrote, “We are headed right for John’s place and may get there before he is moved, he had better escape or he will end up in Bavaria….” On the day of the raid he wrote again, “Last night I sent an armored column to a place 40 miles east of Frankfurt where John and some 900 PW are said to be. I have been as nervous as a cat all day as everyone but me thought it was too great a risk I hope it works. Al Stiller went along. If I lose the column it will possibly be a new incident but I won’t.”
The Hammelburg raid was another potentially disastrous point in George Patton’s career, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death on April 12 diverted the attention of his superiors and, perhaps more importantly, the press. As Patton put it so delicately in his diary two days later, “With the President’s death you could execute buggery in the streets and get no further than the fourth page.”
Third Army on the Move
On March 27, Patton had moved his headquarters from Luxembourg City to Oberstein, 20 miles east of Kassel. It was its first move for 14 weeks, but at last he was commanding from German soil, and in that period his army had fought its way through nearly 300 miles of German territory. He continued to “beg, coax, demand and threaten” his commanders in his desire to drive ever deeper into Hitler’s Reich, and he was constantly on the move, visiting his commanders and troops and attending meetings with other army commanders and his superiors.
During his travels in April, Patton noticed several things that displeased him. One was that his “Army was going to hell on uniform. During the extremely cold weather it had been permissible, and even necessary, to permit certain variations, but with the approach of summer I got out another uniform order.”
Another thing he noticed was “great carelessness in leaving gasoline cans along the road, so issued an order that the Assistant Quartermaster General of the Third Army was personally to drive along the road, followed by two trucks, and pick up all the cans he found.”
Patton also noted “that practically every enlisted member of the Medical Corps had captured a civilian automobile or motorcycle, with the result that we were wasting gasoline at a magnificent rate and cluttering up the road. . . We therefore issued an order for the sequestration of these vehicles.”
On April 10, Patton’s intelligence staff warned him that the Germans were setting up a partisan movement, the so-called Werewolves, and that they might well try to land a small glider-borne force near his forward HQ with the mission of killing him. His reaction was typical. “I never put much faith in this rumor, but did take my carbine to my truck every night.”
Two Shocking Finds
On the 12th, Patton had two unusual experiences—one exciting and one distressing. Five days earlier, Manton Eddy had told him that one of his XII Corps units had discovered a number of sealed vaults 2,000 feet deep in a salt mine at Merkers, 60 miles west of Erfurt. When Eddy went on to say he had no idea what was in the vaults, Patton allegedly responded, “General Eddy. You blow open that…vault and see what’s in it.”
General Omar Bradley (far left), Patton, and Dwight D. Eisenhower examine precious paintings in the Merkers salt mines Patton’s assistant, Charles Codman, can be seen in the background.
Eddy did as ordered and found the entire German bullion reserve—4,500 bars of gold with an estimated value of more than $57 million along with millions of reichsmarks and dollar bills, paintings by great masters such as Titian and Van Dyck, some of which Patton thought were worth “about $2.50, and were of the type normally seen in bars in America,” and many other treasures. Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton visited the mine on April 12. As they were lowered down the mine shaft, Patton, according to his aide, said, “If that clothesline (the elevator cable) should part, promotions in the U.S. Army would be considerably stimulated.”
To which Ike replied, “OK, George, that’s enough! No more cracks until we are above ground again.”
Afterward, the three commanders went on to the recently liberated concentration camp at Ohrdruf, less than 30 miles west of Erfurt, where the scenes inevitably shocked and disgusted them. Eisenhower and Bradley spent that night at Patton’s headquarters, and after dinner Ike told Patton that he planned to halt the First and Ninth Armies on the Elbe and direct his Third Army southeastward toward Czechoslovakia. But as Patton was getting ready for bed, he turned on the radio and heard a BBC announcer report the death of President Roosevelt. He immediately informed Ike and Bradley, and they discussed what might happen. It seemed to them very unfortunate that at so critical a period in their history they should have to “change horses.” Actually, subsequent events demonstrated that it made no difference at all.
Eisenhower, again with Patton (left) and Bradley, listens as a translator explains some of the torture techniques used at the Ohrdruf concentration camp.
On April 15, Patton visited the Buchenwald death camp, 10 miles to the east of Erfurt and only three miles from the famous town of Weimar, where he “could not stomach the sights he saw … [and] went off to a corner thoroughly sick.” As a result he gave orders that the inhabitants of Weimar were to be made to walk through the camp and see for themselves the results of the bestiality of their countrymen.
A Short Rest in Paris
On April 16, Bradley gave Patton the order he had been expecting since his conversation with Ike on the 12th. His army was to change the direction of its advance from east to southeast and move toward the so-called German national redoubt. This meant it would be moving parallel to the Czechoslovakian border. Patton did not believe in the national redoubt any more than he believed in the Werewolf movement, but he gave the necessary orders. Then, on the 17th, he flew to Paris for a 24-hour break.
On arrival, he visited his son-in-law, John Waters, in the hospital and found him much improved and being prepared for evacuation to the United States. According to his lifelong friend, Everett Hughes, Patton stayed in the George V Hotel and they had dinner together and drank “until the weesome hours.”
At breakfast on the 18th, Patton learned from the Stars and Stripes newspaper that he had been promoted to the rank of full general. He wrote later, “While I was, of course, glad to get the rank, the fact that I was not in the initial group (Bradley and Devers) and was therefore an ‘also ran’ removed some of the pleasure.”
At the time, though, he was thrilled to find that when he arrived at Orly Airport to fly back to Germany, not only had his aide, Colonel Charles Codman, found four-star collar insignia for him to wear, but also his plane had a four-star pennant flying outside and a four-star general’s flag and a bottle of four-star cognac inside.
The Third Army War Memorial Project
Third Army soldiers march past a German woman in Frankfurt am Main on their way to Czechoslovakia.
The Third Army’s final offensive began on April 19. By then the Second British Army had reached the Elbe at Lauenburg, the First U.S. Army had crossed the Elbe at Magdeburg and taken Leipzig, and the Ninth U.S. Army had crossed the same river and taken Brunswick.
For his last offensive, Patton developed a system known as the Third Army War Memorial Project. It consisted of firing a few salvos into every town approached, before even asking for surrender. According to Patton, “The object of this was to let the inhabitants have something to show future generations of Germans by way of proof that the Third Army had passed that way.”
The beautiful city of Passau, Germany, was one of the last victims. It was bombarded for 36 hours before Patton’s men entered the smoldering ruins.
On the 20th, Patton flew to XII Corps to say goodbye to his great friend Manton Eddy, who was being evacuated with very high blood pressure, first to Paris and then, like Waters, on to the States. On his return journey he had a very narrow escape from death himself. In order to cover the long distances involved in commanding his army and attending conferences with his superiors, Patton had, since arriving in Normandy, often flown to his destinations in a Piper Cub light aircraft. Usually a reasonably safe way to travel, this was not so on this particular day.
Patton suddenly “noticed some tracers coming by the right side of our plane which, at the same instant, dove for the ground, very nearly colliding with a plane that looked like a Spitfire. This plane made a second pass, again firing and missing … On the third pass, our attacker came in so fast and we were so close to the ground that he was unable to pull out of his dive and crashed, to our great satisfaction.”
It turned out that the pilot of the Spitfire was a Polish officer serving with the RAF. He had presumably mistaken the Cub for a German Fieseler Storch. A second life-threatening incident occurred on May 3, when an oxcart “came out of a side street so that the pole missed us (in a jeep) by about an inch.”
Patton is alleged to have exclaimed, “God, what a fate that would have been. To have gone through all the war I’ve seen and been killed by an ox.”
Pushing into the East
By April 26, Patton’s headquarters was located 75 miles northwest of Regensburg. His leading units had entered the city that same day and had quickly established bridgeheads over the Danube. The Third Army was thus poised to move into either Czechoslovakia or Austria. Both the American and British chiefs of staff had agreed that Czechoslovakia was a political prize that should be denied to Stalin, but Eisenhower, ever fearful of a major “blue on blue” incident with the Red Army, said he did not believe Patton could get to Prague before the Soviets and ordered a halt at the border some 100 miles southwest of the capital.
Bradley, and of course Patton, believed Prague could have been liberated within 24 hours. On May 2, Patton was told that the Seventh U.S. Army was to take over responsibility for reducing the national redoubt and that his army was to halt. His headquarters had moved 19 times since arriving in Normandy and had covered 1,225 miles. Two days later, at 7:30 pm on the 4th, Ike finally agreed that his army could cross the Czech border—but he was to halt again at Plzen, 55 miles from Prague. At this time the Third Army was, according to Patton, at its greatest strength in the war—18 divisions of just over 540,000 men. On the 6th, Bradley telephoned Patton. He was worried that, having heard of an uprising in Prague against the Germans, he might ignore the order to halt.
“You hear me, George … halt!” he yelled. Patton wrote later, “I was very much chagrined, because I felt, and still feel, that we should have gone on to the Moldau river [in Prague] and, if the Russians didn’t like it, let them go to hell.”
The last German holdouts surrender to Patton’s soldiers in Vseruby, Czechoslovakia, on may 4, 1945. There are four days left in the war.
Early on the morning of May 7, Bradley called Patton and told him the Germans had surrendered. “It takes effect at midnight, May 8th. We’re to hold in place everywhere up and down the line. There’s no sense in taking any more casualties now.”
On the same day, together with the Under Secretary of War, Robert Patterson, who was staying with him, Patton flew to a village near the Austro-German border about 100 miles east of Munich, to see a group of Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. They had been handed over to one of his units for safe keeping from the Russians.
Although Patton agreed, “These horses will be wards of the U.S. Army until they can be returned to the new Austria,” his private view of the whole event, expressed in his diary, is interesting and, in view of his love of horses and riding ability, perhaps surprising. “It struck me as rather strange that, in the middle of a world at war, some twenty young and middle-aged men in great physical condition, together with about thirty grooms, had spent their entire time teaching a group of horses to wiggle their butts and raise their feet in consonance with certain signals from the heels and reins. Much as I like horses, this seemed to me wasted energy. On the other hand, … to me the high-schooling of horses is certainly more interesting than either painting or music.”
The War According to Patton
At his normal morning briefing on the 8th, exactly two and a half years since he had landed in Morocco, Patton told his staff this would be the last such meeting in Europe. “I think most of them realized I was hoping to have some more briefings in Asia,” he said.
The day after the fighting officially ended, Patton issued General Order Number 98, which outlined the Third Army’s successes and claimed that it had advanced farther in less time than any other army in history—just over 1,300 miles in 281 days. He had, of course, either conveniently forgotten or purposely ignored the fact that Monty’s Eighth Army had advanced some 1,850 miles from Alamein to Tunis in 201 days!
Patton went on to claim that his army had killed or wounded at least half a million Germans and captured another 956,000. The general order ended, “During the course of this war I have received promotion and decorations far above and beyond my individual merit. You won them I as your representative wear them. The one honor which is mine and mine alone is that of having commanded such an incomparable group of Americans, the record of whose fortitude, audacity, and valor will endure as long as history lasts.”
Patton’s postscript to the war in Europe was written later. “I can say this, that throughout the campaign in Europe I know of no error I made except that of failing to send a Combat Command to take Hammelburg. Otherwise, my operations were, to me, strictly satisfactory. In every case, practically throughout the campaign, I was under wraps from the High Command. This may have been a good thing, as perhaps I am too impetuous. However, I do not believe I was and feel that had I been permitted to go all out, the war would have ended sooner and more lives would have been saved. Particularly I think this statement applies to the time when, in the early days of September, we were halted, owing to the desire, or necessity, on the part of General Eisenhower in backing Montgomery’s move to the north. At that time there is no question of doubt but that we could have gone through and across the Rhine within ten days. This would have saved a great many thousand men.”
The claim that he could have crossed the Rhine within 10 days in early September 1944 is typical of Patton, and one that neither of his direct superiors, Ike or Bradley, believed possible.
Patton and the Soviets
Patton held a press conference on VE Day, during which he forcibly expressed his views on the Soviets. Pointing to a map of Central Europe he said, “What the tin-soldier politicians in Washington and Paris have managed to do today is … to kick hell out of one bastard and at the same time forced us to help establish a second one as evil or more evil than the first … This day we have missed another date with our destiny, and this time we’ll need Almighty God’s constant help if we’re to live in the same world with Stalin and his murdering cutthroats.”
Later that day in a farewell meeting with Cornelius Ryan and another correspondent, he confirmed his views on this subject. “You cannot lay [sic] down with a diseased jackal. Neither can you do business with the Russians … I just couldn’t stand being around and taking any lip from those SOBs.”
General George S. Patton took no great pleasure in the events of VE Day. He already knew that despite his lobbying of many influential figures in Washington, he had no hope of being assigned to the Pacific Theater. As he put it to his III Corps commander, Maj. Gen. James Van Fleet, “There is already a star [MacArthur] in that theater and you can only have one star in a show.”
Patton was also depressed because he knew there would be a rapid reduction in the strength of the U.S. Army in Europe, and he believed this was inviting disaster. On May 7, he had pleaded with the visiting Under Secretary of War, Robert Patterson, “Let’s keep our boots polished, bayonets sharpened and present a picture of force and strength to these people [the Soviets]. This is the only language they understand and respect. If you fail to do this, then I would like to say to you that we have had a victory over the Germans and have disarmed them, but have lost the war.”
When Patterson told him that he did not understand the “big picture,” but asked Patton what he would do about the Russians, he allegedly replied that he would keep the U.S. Army in Europe intact, delineate the border with the Soviets, and if they did not withdraw behind it “push them back across it …We did not come over here to acquire jurisdiction over either the people or their countries. We came to give them back the right to govern themselves. We must either finish the job now—while we are here and ready—or later in less favorable circumstances.”
Needless to say, such ideas were totally unacceptable to the politicians in Washington—and indeed to most of the American soldiers in Europe. All they wanted to do was to go home.
The Order to Have General Patton Murdered
On the day of Patton’s car accident, Bazata and his accomplice followed the general’s car, and when Patton stopped at a Roman ruin along the roadside, Bazata put something into the window of Patton’s auto that would leave an opening for a rifle shot to the target. He said that they had an Army truck that would run parallel to Patton’s car (the one that Horace Woodring was in) and then would deliberately turn into it. When the truck hit Patton’s car, a shot was fired, severely wounding Patton but not killing him. “Basically, they botched it, as happens more often than not, in such operations,” he said. Bazata said that in the confusion of the moment he went to the aid of the wounded general and then left among the confusion of the unfolding events. He then said that he went to Patton’s hospital with a poison concoction that had been made by both he and the Pole but that he was unable to get into Patton’s room. In his interview with Spotlight, Bazata said that the man who killed Patton went into his hospital room and killed him with a form of cyanide, which was made in Czechoslovakia and could cause heart failure or an embolism. It should be noted that after the general’s death, his wife Beatrice did not order an autopsy on her husband’s body. Therefore, if the cyanide theory is correct, and a substance was covertly put into Patton’s system, it went with him to the grave.
Bazata said that he had eight meetings with Donovan before and after the war. In one of these meetings, he said that Donovan asked him to kill Patton. Author Wilcox writes that he found a “restricted” OSS order while searching files at the National Archives that said that Bazata, Joseph La Gattuta, an Army officer and friend of Bazata’s during the war, and other unnamed American officers met with Donovan in Washington, D.C. The meetings with Donovan and Bazata occurred in 1943 in a hotel so as not to attract any unwanted attention.
This story can be found in theJanuary 2015 issue of Military Heritage Magazine. Pick up your copy today!
General George S. Patton was Deeply Anti-Semitic & Believed in Superiority of the ‘Nordic Race’
“… Patton at the end of World War II disparaged the Jewish inmates of Hitler’s death camps who had been re-interned in Displaced Person (DP) camps maintained by the U.S. Army in the Allied Zone of Occupation. He also expressed the injudicious opinion that the United States fought the wrong enemy, meaning that he would rather have had the country allied with Hitler’s Germany for a fight against Stalin’s Soviet Union. …”
The Dark Side of George S. Patton (Excerpt)
His Diaries and Official Actions Reveal that the General was Deeply Anti-Semitic
- George S. Patton was an anti-Semite who wrote in his diary that Jews were “sub-human”
- Patton’s slapping incidents likely signaled to Ike that he was on the verge of a mental breakdown
- Patton opposed the Morgenthau Plan that sought to “pastoralize” Germany
… A reading of his grandson Robert H. Patton’s family memoir, The Pattons: A Personal History of an American Family (Crown, 1994) reveals that George S. Patton, Jr. … likely was dyslexic and suffered from bipolar disorder. This created a sense of inferiority in the young Patton and engendered emotional instability. He was not a good student and had to be tutored to read, a skill that came late to him. His mood swings were prodigious, and during the interwar period of 1918-1941, Patton was hellish to live with for his wife and children as he lusted for combat.
As a cavalry major, Patton has to share the ignominy of putting down the Bonus March in Washington in 1932 along with his superiors, Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur and MacArthur’s aide-de-camp, Major Dwight David Eisenhower, a friend of Patton’s. The pompous and egotistical Patton, who had redesigned the U.S. Army cavalry saber based on European designs, twice rushed the crowd of unarmed veterans and their wives and children at the head of his mounted horse. The U.S. Army’s cavalry force was still bifurcated into horse and armor, with horse cavalry enjoying a higher status. Tanks also were on hand to quash the crowd, who had come to the District in the depths of the Great Depression to lobby Congress for an immediate payment of the World War I bonus promised to veterans of the “Great War”.
Part of the crowd targeted in the second charge included former private Joe Angelo, who served as Patton’s orderly during World War I. The veteran won the Distinguished Service Cross for saving Patton’s life during the war.
MacArthur, and Patton himself, believed that the veterans were “Reds” — communists. This must be understood in the context of the times, best encapsulated by the philosophy of one of John Steinbeck’s characters: “A communist is somebody who wants 25 cents an hour when we’re paying 15.” That MacArthur’s won intelligence service estimated that only three of 26 leaders were communists didn’t deter MacArthur from labeling the March as a communist conspiracy to overthrow the government.
“Pacifism and its bedfellow communism are all around us,” MacArthur declared about his fellow World War I vets. Patton, an anti-communist, shared MacArthur’s distaste for “Reds”. With a penchant for pre-battle speeches, Patton counseled his troops, “If you must fire do a good job — a few casualties become martyrs, a large number an object lesson. … When a mob starts to move keep it on the run. …Use a bayonet to encourage its retreat. If they are running, a few good wounds in the buttocks will encourage them. If they resist, they must be killed.”
In World War II, Patton would encourage his troops to take no prisoners and to murder surrendering enemy troops in cold blood. MacArthur was ordered by President Herbert Hoover to allow the Bonus Army to retreat, as he didn’t want any violence. …
Patton’s Speech “God of Our Fathers”
From General Patton’s speech to he Second Armored Division, December 1941:
I shall be delighted to lead you against any enemy, confident in the fact that your disciplined valor and high training will bring vic-tory.
Put your heart and soul into being expert killers with your weap-ons. The only good enemy is a dead enemy. Misses do not kill, but a bullet in the heart or a bayonet in the guts do. Let every bullet find its billet—it is the body of your foes. . . . Battle is not a terrifying ordeal to be endured. It is a magnificent experience wherein all the elements that have made man superior to the beasts are present: courage, self-sacrifice, loyalty, help to others, devotion to duty.
Remember that these enemies, whom we shall have the honor to destroy, are good soldiers and stark fighters. To beat such men, you must not despise their ability, but you must be confident in your own superiority. . . . Remember too that your God is with you.
God of our Fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine
The earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath,
The Nations in their harness
Ere yet we loose the legions—
Ere yet we draw the blade,
E’en now their vanguard gathers,
As Thou didst help our fathers,
Fulfilled of signs and wonders,
In life, in death made clear—
George S. Patton - Death, WWII and Education - HISTORY
George S. Patton
Source: Library of Congress
Where did George Patton grow up?
George Patton was born in San Gabriel, California on November 11, 1885. He grew up on his family's large ranch in California near Los Angeles where his dad worked as a lawyer. As a child, George loved to read and go horseback riding. He also liked to hear stories of his famous ancestors who fought during the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.
From an early age, George decided he would enter the military. He dreamed of one day becoming a war hero like his grandfather. After high school, George went to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) for a year and then entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from West Point in 1909 and entered the army.
Patton began to make a name for himself early in his military career. He became the personal aide to commander John J. Pershing. He also led an attack during the Pancho Villa Expedition in New Mexico that led to the killing of Pancho Villa's second in command.
George S. Patton
Source: World War I Signal Corps Photograph Collection
When World War I began, Patton was promoted to captain and travelled to Europe with General Pershing. During the war, Patton became an expert on tanks, which were a new invention during World War I. He led a tank brigade into battle and was wounded. By the end of the war he had been promoted to major.
When World War II broke out in Europe, Patton became an advocate for tank warfare. He was promoted to general and began to prepare the U.S. armored tank divisions for war. He even earned a pilot's license so he could observe his tanks from the air and improve on his tactics. Patton became famous during this time for his tough motivating speeches to his troupes and earned the nickname "old blood and guts."
After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. entered World War II. Patton's first action was to take control of North Africa and Morocco. After successfully gaining control of Morocco, he then led the invasion into Sicily, Italy. The invasion was a success as Patton took control of the island and took more than 100,000 enemy troops captive.
Patton was a very demanding commander. He required strict discipline and obedience from his soldiers. He got into trouble at one point for verbally abusing and slapping soldiers. He had to apologize and didn't command an army in battle for nearly a year.
Patton was given command of the Third Army in 1944. After the Invasion of Normandy, Patton led his army across France pushing back the Germans. One of Patton's greatest achievements as a commander occurred when the Germans counterattacked at the Battle of the Bulge. Patton was able to quickly disengage his army from their current battle and move to reinforce the Allied lines with incredible speed. His speed and decisiveness led to the rescue of the troops at Bastogne and helped to crush the Germans in this final major battle.
Patton at Brolo, Italy
Source: National Archives
Patton then led his army into Germany where they advanced with great speed. They captured over 80,000 square miles of territory. Patton's 300,000 man strong army also captured, killed, or wounded around 1.5 million German soldiers.
Patton died a few days after a car crash on December 21, 1945. He was buried in Hamm, Luxembourg.
(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.