UNLIKE many war heroes who had no intention
of ever becoming famous, George Patton decided during childhood that his
goal in life was to be a hero. This noble aim was first inspired by
listening to his father read aloud for hours about the exploits of the
heroes of ancient Greece. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey were particular
favourites of young Georgie, who could recite lines from both texts long
before he could even lift a sword. These classic images were filled out
by recent war stories of living soldiers, particularly those of John
Singleton ''Ranger'' Mosby. John often visited the Patton house and
would entertain Georgie for hours with tales of his Civil War
adventures. With this steady diet of combat regalia, Georgie was
convinced that the profession of arms was his calling.
Young George didn't want to be just any
soldier; he had his sights fixed on becoming a combat general. He had
one major obstacle to overcome, however. Though he was obviously
intelligent (his knowledge of classical literature was encyclopaedic and
he had learned to read military topographic maps by the age of 7),
George didn't learn to read until he was 12 years old. It was only at
age 12 when George was sent off to Stephen Cutter Clark's Classical
School that he began to catch up on his academic skills; he managed to
find plenty of time for athletics as well. While at school, the path
toward his goal became focused he planned on attending West Point as the
next major step in the pursuit of his general's stars.
When he graduated from high school,
however, there were no appointments open to West Point in his home state
of California, so he enrolled at his father's alma mater, Virginia
Military Institute. As a first year "rat" at VMI, young Patton
did quite well despite his late start at formal learning. However,
spelling and punctuation were to give him problems throughout his life.
An appointment to West Point opened the next year and George was awarded
it. He reported to ''Beast Barracks'' in 1904. During his career at the
Point, George developed into an expert fencer. His football career
suffered due to his aggressiveness he suffered three broken noses and
two broken arms playing end. Due to deficiencies in mathematics, he had
to spend an extra year at West Point, but this deficiency was no
detriment to his superb military skills which gained him the cadet
adjutancy his final year. When he graduated in the class of 1909 he
ranked 46th out of a class of 103. As would befit one with a love of
heroics, Lieutenant Patton chose the cavalry as his special branch, no
doubt picturing himself leading hell-for-leather charges against the
enemy. He also married Bee Ayer, whom he met while at the Point, in
1910. The next two years saw the dashing young cavalry of officer become
one of the Army's best polo players.
Patton also represented the United States
in the 1912 Olympics at Stockholm in the Modern Pentathlon. This event,
which includes five traditional military skills shooting, fencing,
swimming, riding, and running was considered a rigorous test of those
skills most necessary for an officer. Patton did quite well, but lost
points on perhaps his best event shooting. The competitors were allowed
to choose whatever pistol they wished, and most used .22 revolvers.
Patton, however, felt that he should use a true military weapon, which
at that time was a .38 revolver. Consequently, Patton's handgun punched
larger holes in the target, which probably cost him points in the
shooting finals since he supposedly missed with one round; in actuality
the "missing" round had passed through a cluster of holes he
had already put in the target. Still, Patton finished fifth overall, an
excellent finish in an event traditionally dominated by European
After the Olympics, Patton kept busy by
visiting the French cavalry school as an observer and studying French
sword drill. The latter studies helped him become the U.S. Army's Master
of the Sword when he was assigned to teach the use of the blade to
fellow officers. Patton, also designed a new U. S cavalry saber the
M1913 and authored a training manual for its use, the Army's Saber
Regulations 1914. Patton's future fame as a general was based on his
emphasis on aggressive attack. True to that form, the Patton saber was
designed to serve better on the offensive. He also eliminated the parry
manoeuvre from his manual since he thought it made the user too
vulnerable to attack.
These activities kept Patton busy, but he
wanted to go to war, so when World War I started in 1914, Patton asked
permission to serve with the French cavalry, but the War Department
turned him down. In 1915 Lt. Patton was sent to Fort Bliss along the
Mexican border where he led routine cavalry patrols until 1916 when he
accompanied General Pershing as an aide on his punitive expedition
against Pancho Villa into Mexico. While on a foraging mission for the
expeditionary force, Patton killed General Cardenas, the head of Villa's
bodyguard, and another Villista using the single-action Colt he had
purchased in March, 1915. This revolver would become a Patton trademark
during World War II. As a result of this action, Patton was promoted to
first lieutenant. He also added two notches to his revolver, notches
which he would later show to the King and Queen of Great Britain during
World War II while recounting to them his adventures as a young officer.
After the United States declared war on
Germany, Gen. Pershing, who had been impressed with Patton in Mexico,
promoted him to captain and asked him to command his headquarters troop.
When Pershing and his staff arrived in England, Patton and his
cavalrymen became the first foreign troops to ever be quartered in the
Tower of London. Soon, however, Pershing and Patton were in France,
where George requested transfer to a combat command. His request was
granted and Patton became the first American assigned to the new U. S
Tank Corps. With his usual impetuousness, Patton treaded to victory with
the British tankers at Cambrai, the world's first major tank battle. A
short time later he went through the French tank course. Using his newly
acquired knowledge of tanks, Patton organized the American tank school
at Langres, France, and trained the first 500 American tankers. During
the next few months, Patton received two promotions to lieutenant
colonel. Prior to the battle of St.Mihiel, his tankers carried out
reconnaissance missions. During the battle itself, Lt. Col. Patton
foreshadowed his later armoured thrusts as he pushed deep into enemy
territory ahead of the American infantry with his primitive Renault
tanks, receiving a Silver Star for his efforts.
During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive,
Patton led his tankers into battle once again but was wounded by machine
gun fire while looking for help to rescue some tanks which were mired in
the mud. For the Meuse-Argonne operations, Patton received a Purple
Heart, a Distinguished Service Cross and a promotion to colonel. While
Col. Patton was recuperating, However, the war ended. He resumed to the
U.S. a few months later to command the U.S. Tank Corps.
Although Patton was an outspoken advocate
of the tank as a modern combat weapon, he found that Congress was not
willing to appropriate funds to build a large armoured force. Still, he
carried out experiments to improve radio communications between tanks
and helped invent the co-axial tank mount for cannon and machine gun.
Despite all of his efforts, however, Patton reverted to his regular rank
of captain in 1920. The Tank Corps was dissolved as a separate entity at
the same time, with the tanks being assigned to the infantry. Patton was
almost immediately promoted to the permanent rank of major and returned
to the cavalry and polo.
Finding himself with time on his hands in
the early 1920s, Patton decided to acquire another useful military skill
he learned to fly. He also displayed his valour off the battlefield in
several episodes during these years. Typical of such actions was when he
saw three men abducting a woman. Though on his way to a formal dinner
and wearing a tuxedo, he leaped out of the car and drew his pistol to
rescue her. He carried out another rescue of three boys from a capsized
boat in Salem Harbor, which won him the Congressional Life Saving Medal,
By 1925, Patton was serving in Hawaii.
After Hawaii he finished out the 1920s in Washington, where he pressed
for getting increased armour assigned along with horse cavalry the two
would complement each other depending on the mission and the terrain. At
the time, his arguments made very good sense. He kept fighting for more
and better armoured vehicles, too. By 1935 Patton had risen to the
permanent rank of lieutenant colonel and had returned to Hawaii, this
time sailing all the way there on his own boat. While in Hawaii, Patton
warned of possible problems from spies among the civilian Japanese
Posted to Fort Clark in Texas, Patton,
who believed that the U.S. would be involved in a war before long,
rigorously trained the men under his command. As the 1930s drew to a
close, Patton took command of Fort Myer. When the German Blitzkrieg was
unleashed on Europe, he finally convinced Congress that the U.S. needed
a more powerful armoured striking force and Patton finally got his star.
He was promoted to brigadier general and put in command of the new
armoured brigade, which he had to create by training the men in obsolete
As Patton's force expanded, it became the
2nd Armoured Division and Patton earned the rank of major general.
Patton's famous "blood and guts" speeches of World War II
began at this time in an amphitheater he had built to accommodate the
entire division. His ability to turn up unexpectedly anywhere in the
divisional training area became legendary at this time, too, as it would
later in the 3rd Army. Using his Stimson Voyager he often commanded on
manoeuvre while flying overhead where he could observe the entire area.
Much of the credit for light observation planes coming into use in the
Army can be attributed to this training technique of Patton's. He soon
turned the 2nd Armoured Division into a formidable fighting implement,
at one point keeping them in the field almost constantly for 17 weeks.
They also carried the stamp of high
morale and drive for which Patton's units were to become famous. Even
Patton's wife Bee got in on the act by writing The March Song of the
Armoured Force for the unit.
As the armoured forces expanded, so did
Patton's responsibilities as he was given command of the Ist U. S.
Armoured Corps. While plans for Operation Torch (the Allied invasion of
North Africa) progressed early in 1942, Patton was sent to the American
southwest to train his tankers for desert warfare. Patton drove the
tankers hard, sometimes expecting them to go without sleep for 36 hours
at a stretch, but they learned their craft his tankers would be used to
deliver the first American jolt to the Germans.
In November 1942, Patton and his men
participated in the invasion of North Africa. Before an all-out assault
by Patton's tanks proved necessary, however, the French surrendered. As
much as Patton loved battle, he was happy not to have to fight his old
friends the French. Both the French and the Sultan of Morocco were
impressed by Patton's style, which helped gain their cooperation after
the American forces had occupied Morocco.
After the disastrous American defeat at
the Kasserine Pass, Gen. Eisenhower knew that a hard driver was needed
to recoup American morale and to force back the Germans. He immediately
promoted Patton to lieutenant general and put him in charge of the 2nd
Corps, which had suffered the defeat. Patton's first job was to restore
the morale and discipline of the dispirited troops of his new command.
He set about this mission with a vengeance. He began at the bottom by
mandating strict enforcement of military rules governing hygiene and
attire. Also, officers in the 2nd Corps were now ordered to set an
example for their troops and lead them from the front, rather than
safely from the rear.
According to Patton, "A man of
diffident manner will never inspire confidence."' Patton's
hard-nosed discipline and flamboyance succeeded in "waking up'' his
men and won him their respect. He always wore his ivory-handled
revolvers and medals, partly because he was a great showman, but
primarily because having his men see all the trappings of rank let them
know they were commanded by a fighting general. Patton also knew that
loyalty to a leader would inspire men to take on objectives against all
odds; his troops proved this theory correct again and again. Within a
few months of taking over the 2nd Corps, Patton had galvanized them and
by March 1943 their counteroffensive had pushed the Germans back, while
Patton's British arch-rival Montgomery hit the Germans from the East.
In recognition of his accomplishments,
Patton was given command of the new U.S. 7th Army in April 1943. He
immediately threw himself into training his new command for the
amphibious invasion of Sicily. When the invasion was launched, Patton's
7th Army was given the job of liberating the western half of the island,
while Montgomery's 8th British Army took the eastern half. When a German
counterattack delayed the advance, Patton put his command principles
into practice by going ashore and personally taking command on the
beach. Moving as far forward as possible, he joined a group of Rangers
and helped engage the advancing Germans. With Patton driving them, the
7th broke out of the beachhead and advanced ahead of schedule, capturing
Palermo and then driving on to Messina ahead of Montgomery.
Despite this victory, Patton found
himself in trouble with military leaders after he slapped a soldier whom
he considered a coward and a malingerer. There was pressure from some
superiors in Washington and an ignorant public to have Patton relieved
of duty. No one bothered to ask the men of the 7th Army what they
thought. To a man, they considered the criticisms unjustified. Despite
Patton's aggressiveness, they trusted him in combat. And trust in a
commander wins more battles than all the world's hearts and minds put
together. Fortunately, Eisenhower and Chief of Staff Marshall recognised
Patton's virtues as a fighting general, too, and refused to dismiss him.
In the end, Patton made a courageous public apology for the incident.
While most of the 7th Army's divisions
were transferred to the 5th Army for the fighting in Italy, Patton was
in Palermo awaiting a new assignment. He still proved useful, though,
since the Germans feared him above all other Allied generals. They
expected him to lead a major invasion. When he was sent to Corsica, the
Germans were convinced he would lead an invasion of southern France.
When he was sent to Cairo, they feared for an invasion through the
Balkans. These diversions caused the Germans to tie down a great many
troops to counter the Patton bogeyman.
In January 1944, Patton was finally
ordered to England to form his new 3rd Army which he would lead to glory
during the campaign to liberate Europe. Now an old hand at getting his
troops in fighting trim, he began to mould the fledgling 3rd Army into
one of the greatest fighting forces in American history. The 3rd Army
was not used during Operation Overlord (the invasion of France) but
still served a useful purpose, since Hitler and many members of the
Abwehr (German military intelligence) believed that Normandy could not
be the primary invasion site if Patton was not committed to the battle.
The German command, therefore, held back critical Panzer divisions which
could have opposed the landings. Eisenhower, knowing Patton's value at
exploiting an enemy's weakness and driving through it, was holding
Patton in reserve to breakout from the beachhead.
While the 3rd Army trained in Britain,
Patton studied the terrain of Normandy first hand. Actually, Patton had
already mapped much of the area on jaunts when he was in France
previously, so he was already familiar with the battlefield which would
make the 3rd Army famous. Finally, on 28 July, Eisenhower turned Patton
loose and the 3rd Army came sweeping across Northern France spearheaded
by the 4th Armoured Division. Patton and his 3rd Army were turning the
German's famed Blitzkrieg tactics against them, covering 600 miles in
two weeks. During the first four weeks of the breakout, Patton was all
over the front as his 3rd Army advanced so fast that entire German
divisions were often bypassed to be mopped up by following elements.
One example of Patton's personal heroism
occurred when a tanker was knocked off his vehicle by a shell fragment.
Patton applied pressure to an artery on the man's arm until a corpsman
arrived, probably saving the tanker's life. Another time he personally
saved two Frenchmen from a collapsed building. Finally, as the 3rd Army
approached the fortified city of Metz, their fuel and ammunition began
to run out and the advance ground to a halt. Eventually, however' Metz
fell to the 3rd Army-the first time in modern history the fortress had
fallen. After the fall of Metz, the 3rd Army pushed on into the Saar
Basin. When the German Ardennes offensive hit to the north and
threatened to slice through the U.S. lines and drive to the sea, it was
Patton who, at the gloomy meeting called by Eisenhower to evaluate the
situation, saw that the German attack could be turned into an American
victory if the Germans could be hit from the rear.
Calling upon the iron will and discipline
he had instilled in his troops, Patton disengaged elements of the 3rd
Army and hurled them northward into the worst winter to descend upon
Europe in years. He did this in an attempt to hit the Germans in the
flank and relieve Bastogne. Everyone outside the 3rd Army had felt this
feat was impossible, but this was where the willingness of the 3rd Army
to perform the impossible for their leader paid off. By 5 February 1945,
the 3rd Army was back on the offensive all along the Saar front as
Patton drove into Germany. Patton's oft-quoted dictum, "Grab 'em by
the nose and kick 'em in the ass" was in full play. His tactic was
to hit the Germans in the front lines and then drive into their flanks
and rear with his armoured units. In so doing, his troops succeeded in
cutting off entire German divisions during this advance. Hundreds of
thousands of German troops were taken prisoner.
When the 3rd Army liberated Buchenwald
concentration camp, though, Patton slowed his pace. He instituted the
policy, later adopted by other commanders, of forcing local German
civilians to tour the camps. By the time the armistice finally came, the
3rd Army, now consisting of more than a half-million men, had liberated
or conquered 81,522 square miles of territory and inflicted 1,443,888
casualties on the enemy.
Patton, however, was not ready to rest on
his laurels. He requested a transfer to the Pacific theatre so he could
fight the Japanese. The request was, of course, denied, respectfully.
The mind boggles at the thought of Patton serving under Macarthur! One
congressman even proposed that Patton be made Secretary of War, but
Patton's lack of diplomacy guaranteed the suggestion was never taken
seriously. Back in Germany, while on occupation duty after a visit to
the States during which he was welcomed with parades as a conquering
hero, Patton's outspokenness got him into trouble yet again when he
tried justifying the use of ex-Nazis in important administrative
positions during the occupation of Bavaria. Patton had also been willing
to make known his view that the United States and Britain should re-arm
the Germans and fight the Russians.
As a result of his ''unofficial''
remarks, he was relieved of the command of his beloved 3rd Army. Though
he had been showered with honours when he had returned to the United
States, there was obviously a great deal of discussion in Washington
about what to do with Patton now that the war was over. Invaluable in
war, Patton's temperament was somewhat of a liability in peacetime. In
many ways, it would have been fitting for Patton the warrior to have
died on the battlefield, but that was not to be. Despite the fact that
throughout his military career he had constantly exposed himself to
danger, it was a traffic accident, not a bullet, which took Patton's
life. In December 1945, his car was hit by a truck and he was severely
injured. On 21 December he died from these injures and was buried in
Luxembourg a country which still considers George S. Patton its
Since his death, Patton's reputation has
continued to grow until he is now considered by many the greatest
military commander in U. S history. The praise levered on him by the men
of 3rd Army has nearly drowned out any lingering criticisms about his
brashness. Even today, 3rd Army veterans are proud to make it known that
they served under Patton. George Patton's ambition as a boy was to be a
general, a hero and a warrior. History has proven that he succeeded
magnificently at all three.
The Famous Patton Speech
by Charles M. Province
General Patton's Address
to the Troops
The Background Research
who has ever viewed the motion picture PATTON will never forget the
opening. George Campbell Scott, portraying Patton, standing in front of an
immensely huge American flag, delivers his version of Patton's
"Speech to the Third Army" on June 5th, 1944, the eve of the
Allied invasion of France, code-named "Overlord".
Scott's rendition of the
speech was highly sanitized so as not to offend too many fainthearted
Americans. Luckily, the soldiers of the American Army who fought World War
II were not so fainthearted.
After one of my lectures on
the subject of General Patton, I spoke with a retired Major-General who
was a close friend of Patton and who had been stationed with him in the
1930's in the Cavalry. He explained to me that the movie was a very good
portrayal of Patton in that it was the way he wanted his men and the
public to see him, as a rugged, colorful commander. There was one
exception, however, according to the Major General. In reality, Patton was
a much more profane speaker than the movie dared to exhibit.
Patton had a unique ability
regarding profanity. During a normal conversation, he could liberally
sprinkle four letter words into what he was saying and the listeners would
hardly take notice of it. He spoke so easily and used those words in such
a way that it just seemed natural for him to talk that way.
He could, when necessary, open
up with both barrels and let forth such blue-flamed phrases that they
seemed almost eloquent in their delivery. When asked by his nephew about
his profanity, Patton remarked, "When I want my men to remember
something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double
dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an
afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can't run
an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army
without profanity couldn't fight it's way out of a piss-soaked paper
"As for the types of
comments I make", he continued with a wry smile, "Sometimes I
just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence."
When I appeared on a local San
Diego television show to discuss my Patton Collection a viewer living in a
suburb of San Diego, was very interested for personal reasons. Her husband
had been a lieutenant assigned to General Patton's Third Army
Headquarters, code named "Lucky Forward" and he had known
General Patton quite well.
He had recently died and had
left to his wife a box that he had brought home with him from the European
Theater of Operations.
The lady invited me to her
home to inspect the box to see if there was anything in it that might be
useful to me in my search for "collectibles".
Opening the box, I immediately
thanked her. Inside was one of only a couple hundred copies printed of the
Official United States Third Army After-Action Reports. It is a huge two
volume history of the Third Army throughout their 281 days of combat in
Europe. She said that she had no use for it and that I could have it. I
left with my new treasure.
When I arrived at my office
and removed the foot-thick, oversized books from the box, I had an even
greater surprise. Under the Reports lay a small stack of original Third
Army memos, orders, AND a carbon copy of the original speech that had been
typed by some unknown clerk at Lucky Forward and had been widely
distributed throughout Third Army.
A few years earlier, I had
discovered an almost illegible xerox of a carbon copy of a similar speech.
This one came from the Army War College and was donated to their
Historical Library Section in 1957.
I decided to do some research
on the speech to obtain the best one possible and to make an attempt to
locate the identity of the "unknown soldier" who had
clandestinely typed and distributed the famous document. I began by
looking in my collection of old magazines, newspapers, books that have
been written about Patton since his death, and dozens of other books which
had references to Patton and his speech.
I discovered some interesting
facts. The most interesting probably being that George C. Scott was not
the first actor to perform the speech.
In 1951, the New American
Mercury Magazine had printed a version of the speech which was almost
exactly the same version printed by John O'Donnell in his "Capitol
Stuff" column for the New York Daily News on May 31, 1945. According
to the editors of the New American Mercury, their copy was obtained from
Congressman Joseph Clark Baldwin who had returned from a visit to Patton's
Headquarters in Czechoslovakia.
After publication, the
magazine received such a large reader response asking for reprints of the
speech that the editors decided to go one step further.
They hired a
"famous" actor to make an "unexpurgated" recording of
the Patton speech. This recording was to be made available to veterans of
Third Army and anyone else who would like to have one. The term
"famous" was the only reference made by the editors about the
actor who recorded the speech. In a later column they explained, "We
hired an excellent actor whose voice, on records, is almost
indistinguishable from Patton's, and with RCA's best equipment we made two
recordings; one just as Patton delivered it, with all the pungent language
of a cavalryman, and in the other we toned down a few of the more
offensive words. Our plan was to offer our readers, at cost, either
Unfortunately, a few years
ago, their was a fire in the editorial offices of the magazine which
destroyed almost all of their old records. The name of the actor was lost
in that accident.
Only one master recording of
the speech was made. The magazine Editors, not wanting to offend either
Mrs. Patton or her family, asked for her sanction of the project. The
Editors explained the situation thusly, "While we had only the master
recordings, we submitted them to our friend, Mrs. Patton, and asked her to
approve our plan. It was not a commercial venture and no profits were
involved. We just wanted to preserve what to us seems a worthwhile bit of
memorabilia of the Second World War. Our attorneys advised us that legally
we did not need Mrs. Patton's approval, but we wanted it."
"Mrs. Patton considered
the matter graciously and thoroughly, and gave us a disappointing
decision. She took the position that this speeches was made by the General
only to the men who were going to fight and die with him; it was,
therefore, not a speech for the public or for posterity."
"We think Mrs. Patton is
wrong; we think that what is great and worth preserving about General
Patton was expressed in that invasion speech. The fact that he employed
four letter words was proper; four letter words are the language of war;
without them wars would be quite impossible."
When Mrs. Patton's approval
was not forthcoming, the entire project was then scrapped, and the master
recordings were destroyed.
Patton always knew exactly
what he wanted to say to his soldiers and he never needed notes. He always
spoke to his troops extemporaneously. As a general rule of thumb, it is
safe to say that Patton usually told his men some of his basic thoughts
and concepts regarding his ideas of war and tactics. Instead of the empty,
generalized rhetoric of no substance often used by Eisenhower, Patton
spoke to his men in simple, down to earth language that they understood.
He told them truthful lessons he had learned that would keep them alive.
As he traveled throughout
battle areas, he always took the time to speak to individual soldiers,
squads, platoons, companies, regiments, divisions or whatever size group
could be collected. About the only difference in the context of these
talks was that the smaller the unit, the more "tactical" the
talk would be. Often he would just give his men some sound, common sense
advice that they could follow in order to keep from being killed or
The speech which follows is a
third person narrative. From innumerable sources; magazine articles,
newspaper clippings, motion picture biographies and newsreels, and books,
I have put together the most complete version possible that encompasses
all of the material that is available to date.
Somewhere in England
June 5th, 1944
The big camp buzzed with a
tension. For hundreds of eager rookies, newly arrived from the states, it
was a great day in their lives. This day marked their first taste of the
"real thing". Now they were not merely puppets in brown
uniforms. They were not going through the motions of soldiering with three
thousand miles of ocean between them and English soil. They were actually
in the heart of England itself. They were waiting for the arrival of that
legendary figure, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr. Old "Blood
and Guts" himself, about whom many a colorful chapter would be
written for the school boys of tomorrow. Patton of the brisk, purposeful
stride. Patton of the harsh, compelling voice, the lurid vocabulary, the
grim and indomitable spirit that carried him and his Army to glory in
Africa and Sicily. They called him "America's Fightingest
General". He was no desk commando. He was the man who was sent for
when the going got rough and a fighter was needed. He was the most hated
and feared American of all on the part of the German Army.
Patton was coming and the
stage was being set. He would address a move which might have a far
reaching effect on the global war that, at the moment, was a TOP-SECRET in
the files in Washington, D.C.
The men saw the camp turn out
"en masse" for the first time and in full uniform, too. Today
their marching was not lackadaisical. It was serious and the men felt the
difference. From the lieutenants in charge of the companies on down in
rank they felt the difference.
In long columns they marched
down the hill from the barracks. They counted cadence while marching. They
turned off to the left, up the rise and so on down into the roped off
field where the General was to speak. Gold braid and stripes were
everywhere. Soon, company by company, the hillside was a solid mass of
brown. It was a beautiful fresh English morning. The tall trees lined the
road and swayed gently in the breeze. Across the field, a British farmer
calmly tilled his soil. High upon a nearby hill a group of British
soldiers huddled together, waiting for the coming of the General. Military
Police were everywhere wearing their white leggings, belts, and helmets.
They were brisk and grim. The twittering of the birds in the trees could
be heard above the dull murmur of the crowd and soft, white clouds floated
lazily overhead as the men settled themselves and lit cigarettes.
On the special platform near
the speakers stand, Colonels and Majors were a dime a dozen. Behind the
platform stood General Patton's "Guard of Honor"; all specially
chosen men. At their right was a band playing rousing marches while the
crowd waited and on the platform a nervous sergeant repeatedly tested the
loudspeaker. The moment grew near and the necks began to crane to view the
tiny winding road that led to Stourport-on-Severn. A captain stepped to
the microphone. "When the General arrives," he said sonorously,
"the band will play the Generals March and you will all stand at
By now the rumor had gotten
around that Lieutenant General Simpson, Commanding General of the Fourth
Army, was to be with General Patton. The men stirred expectantly. Two of
the big boys in one day!
At last, the long black car,
shining resplendently in the bright sun, roared up the road, preceded by a
jeep full of Military Police. A dead hush fell over the hillside. There he
was! Impeccably dressed. With knee high, brown, gleaming boots, shiny
helmet, and his Colt .45 Peacemaker swinging in its holster on his right
Patton strode down the incline
and then straight to the stiff backed "Guard of Honor". He
looked them up and down. He peered intently into their faces and surveyed
their backs. He moved through the ranks of the statuesque band like an
avenging wraith and, apparently satisfied, mounted the platform with
Lieutenant General Simpson and Major General Cook, the Corps Commander, at
Major General Cook then
introduced Lieutenant General Simpson, whose Army was still in America,
preparing for their part in the war.
"We are here", said
General Simpson, "to listen to the words of a great man. A man who
will lead you all into whatever you may face with heroism, ability, and
foresight. A man who has proven himself amid shot and shell. My greatest
hope is that some day soon, I will have my own Army fighting with his,
side by side."
General Patton arose and
strode swiftly to the microphone. The men snapped to their feet and stood
silently. Patton surveyed the sea of brown with a grim look. "Be
seated", he said. The words were not a request, but a command. The
General's voice rose high and clear.
"Men, this stuff that
some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not
wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit. Americans love to fight,
traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. You
are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend
your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self
respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else. Third, you are
here because you are real men and all real men like to fight. When you,
here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble
player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball
players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner.
Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans
play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who
lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose
a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American."
The General paused and looked
over the crowd. "You are not all going to die," he said slowly.
"Only two percent of you right here today would die in a major
battle. Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all men. Yes,
every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he's not, he's a liar.
Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men or they get
the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as scared as
they are. The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared.
Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire. For some, it takes
an hour. For some, it takes days. But a real man will never let his fear
of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his
innate manhood. Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a
human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all
that is base. Americans pride themselves on being He Men and they ARE He
Men. Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and
probably more so. They are not supermen."
"All through your Army
careers, you men have bitched about what you call "chicken shit
drilling". That, like everything else in this Army, has a definite
purpose. That purpose is alertness. Alertness must be bred into every
soldier. I don't give a fuck for a man who's not always on his toes. You
men are veterans or you wouldn't be here. You are ready for what's to
come. A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If
you're not alert, sometime, a German son-of-an-asshole-bitch is going to
sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a sockful of shit!"
The men roared in agreement.
Patton's grim expression did
not change. "There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in
Sicily", he roared into the microphone, "All because one man
went to sleep on the job". He paused and the men grew silent.
"But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep
before they did". The General clutched the microphone tightly, his
jaw out-thrust, and he continued, "An Army is a team. It lives,
sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is pure
horse shit. The bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the
Saturday Evening Post don't know any more about real fighting under fire
than they know about fucking!"
The men slapped their legs and
rolled in glee. This was Patton as the men had imagined him to be, and in
rare form, too. He hadn't let them down. He was all that he was cracked up
to be, and more. He had IT!
"We have the finest food,
the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the
world", Patton bellowed. He lowered his head and shook it pensively.
Suddenly he snapped erect, faced the men belligerently and thundered,
"Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-bitches we're going
up against. By God, I do". The men clapped and howled delightedly.
There would be many a barracks tale about the "Old Man's" choice
phrases. They would become part and parcel of Third Army's history and
they would become the bible of their slang.
"My men don't
surrender", Patton continued, "I don't want to hear of any
soldier under my command being captured unless he has been hit. Even if
you are hit, you can still fight back. That's not just bull shit either.
The kind of man that I want in my command is just like the lieutenant in
Libya, who, with a Luger against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept
the gun aside with one hand, and busted the hell out of the Kraut with his
helmet. Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another German
before they knew what the hell was coming off. And, all of that time, this
man had a bullet through a lung. There was a real man!"
Patton stopped and the crowd
waited. He continued more quietly, "All of the real heroes are not
storybook combat fighters, either. Every single man in this Army plays a
vital role. Don't ever let up. Don't ever think that your job is
unimportant. Every man has a job to do and he must do it. Every man is a
vital link in the great chain. What if every truck driver suddenly decided
that he didn't like the whine of those shells overhead, turned yellow, and
jumped headlong into a ditch? The cowardly bastard could say, "Hell,
they won't miss me, just one man in thousands". But, what if every
man thought that way? Where in the hell would we be now? What would our
country, our loved ones, our homes, even the world, be like? No, Goddamnit,
Americans don't think like that. Every man does his job. Every man serves
the whole. Every department, every unit, is important in the vast scheme
of this war. The ordnance men are needed to supply the guns and machinery
of war to keep us rolling. The Quartermaster is needed to bring up food
and clothes because where we are going there isn't a hell of a lot to
steal. Every last man on K.P. has a job to do, even the one who heats our
water to keep us from getting the 'G.I. Shits'."
Patton paused, took a deep
breath, and continued, "Each man must not think only of himself, but
also of his buddy fighting beside him. We don't want yellow cowards in
this Army. They should be killed off like rats. If not, they will go home
after this war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more brave
men. Kill off the Goddamned cowards and we will have a nation of brave
men. One of the bravest men that I ever saw was a fellow on top of a
telegraph pole in the midst of a furious fire fight in Tunisia. I stopped
and asked what the hell he was doing up there at a time like that. He
answered, "Fixing the wire, Sir". I asked, "Isn't that a
little unhealthy right about now?" He answered, "Yes Sir, but
the Goddamned wire has to be fixed". I asked, "Don't those
planes strafing the road bother you?" And he answered, "No, Sir,
but you sure as hell do!" Now, there was a real man. A real soldier.
There was a man who devoted all he had to his duty, no matter how
seemingly insignificant his duty might appear at the time, no matter how
great the odds. And you should have seen those trucks on the rode to
Tunisia. Those drivers were magnificent. All day and all night they rolled
over those son-of-a-bitching roads, never stopping, never faltering from
their course, with shells bursting all around them all of the time. We got
through on good old American guts. Many of those men drove for over forty
consecutive hours. These men weren't combat men, but they were soldiers
with a job to do. They did it, and in one hell of a way they did it. They
were part of a team. Without team effort, without them, the fight would
have been lost. All of the links in the chain pulled together and the
chain became unbreakable."
The General paused and stared
challengingly over the silent ocean of men. One could have heard a pin
drop anywhere on that vast hillside. The only sound was the stirring of
the breeze in the leaves of the bordering trees and the busy chirping of
the birds in the branches of the trees at the General's left.
Patton barked, "you men don't know that I'm here. No mention of that
fact is to be made in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what
the hell happened to me. I'm not supposed to be commanding this Army. I'm
not even supposed to be here in England. Let the first bastards to find
out be the Goddamned Germans. Some day I want to see them raise up on
their piss-soaked hind legs and howl, 'Jesus Christ, it's the Goddamned
Third Army again and that son-of-a-fucking-bitch Patton'."
"We want to get the hell
over there", Patton continued, "The quicker we clean up this
Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple
pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the Goddamned Marines
get all of the credit."
The men roared approval and
cheered delightedly. This statement had real significance behind it. Much
more than met the eye and the men instinctively sensed the fact. They knew
that they themselves were going to play a very great part in the making of
world history. They were being told as much right now. Deep sincerity and
seriousness lay behind the General's colorful words. The men knew and
understood it. They loved the way he put it, too, as only he could.
Patton continued quietly,
"Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest
way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The
quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way
home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin", he
yelled, "I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging
son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I'd shoot a snake!"
"When a man is lying in a
shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a German will get to him
eventually. The hell with that idea. The hell with taking it. My men don't
dig foxholes. I don't want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive.
Keep moving. And don't give the enemy time to dig one either. We'll win
this war, but we'll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans
that we've got more guts than they have; or ever will have. We're not
going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we're going to rip out their
living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks.
We're going to murder those lousy Hun cocksuckers by the
bushel-fucking-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You've got to
spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot
them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the
dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it's the blood and
guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you'll know what to
"I don't want to get any
messages saying, "I am holding my position." We are not holding
a Goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly
and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy's
balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him
all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on
advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the
enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like shit
through a tin horn!"
"From time to time there
will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don't
give a good Goddamn about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound
rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder WE
push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer
of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all
to remember that."
The General paused. His eagle
like eyes swept over the hillside. He said with pride, "There is one
great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over
and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from
now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee
and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON'T have to
cough, shift him to the other knee and say, "Well, your Granddaddy
shoveled shit in Louisiana." No, Sir, you can look him straight in
the eye and say, "Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army
and a Son-of-a-Goddamned-Bitch named Georgie Patton!"
to Michael Kay for this information