By B.E. Boland
The Untold Story of how the Greatest American General was Disgraced by Scheming Politicians and Jealous Generals
Copyright 2002 by Barbara E. Boland
Pages 4-5: “The commander of the Third Army, General George S. Patton, Jr., looked every inch a conqueror. He was tall, 6 foot 2, and sixty years old—old for an American general. His whole life had been spent preparing for this moment. His whole career had been devoted to war. Leading a victorious army in battle had been his one ambition.”
“To his commanders, Patton was always a liability. He was too honest and too talkative. What was worse, he was extremely successful. They needed him militarily. But politically he was their worst nightmare. One never knew when he might tell people what was actually happening at Eisenhower’s headquarters.
“Always completely honest, Patton was nevertheless not naïve. He was surrounded by evil, corrupt and dishonest men, and he was not oblivious. A keen observer of human nature, Patton recorded all of his thoughts in his diary. It remains the only thoroughly honest, unabridged and pure source to emerge from WWII. It is true that it shows us only Patton’s perception of the war; but this is his wholly honest opinion, not a manufactured after-war coverup.”
“Patton was destined to lead the Third Army in some of the most spectacular victories of military history. This army would trap eleven German divisions at Falaise, save the Allies from disaster during the Battle of the Bulge and rescue the stranded Americans at Bastogne, surround and cut off ten complete German divisions in the Hunsruck Mountains, cross the Rhine with a mere 28 casualties, uncover the barbarity of the Nazis by liberating the first concentration camp, and discover the German gold reserve. This unheard of and inexperienced army, by virtue of its unmatched commander, would liberate France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Bavaria, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
“No other commander, before or since, can match Patton’s record. In spite of this, Patton was still denied supplies and forced to beg for permission to advance through undefended enemy territory. Because of his honor and despite his incredible military performance, Patton would be removed, demoted, disgraced and relieved.”
Pages 9-10: “On the personal level, Patton and Alexander had become close friends. Patton was one of the very few educated and well-read Americans. Most of the American generals claimed to be poor boys who had been given a second chance in the military, and none seemed to have learned or read anything since West Point. But Patton was different. He had an almost aristocratic background combined with an amazingly sharp intellect. For him the army was more than the calling he had chosen; it was the profession he had been called for; he had not entered it for monetary reasons like his fellow generals. He was a real warrior who read, studied, lived and breathed war, yet also a student of history who possessed an almost uncanny perception into human nature. He seemed to understand about Europe, and what made it different from America, rather than simply assuming that all people were the same. For all these reasons, Patton became the favorite American general among the British.
“But Alexander had uncovered another facet of Patton’s personality, one rare on the British side, and almost nonexistent in the American high command. Patton was a deeply religious, highly moral man. Early on Patton’s honesty, justice, sense of duty, personal bravery and unimpeachable honor had manifested themselves. Though the two had only known each other for a few months, they had covered topics Patton couldn’t even speak about with Americans. In fact, Patton noted in his diary that Alexander ‘is a good soldier and much more talkative than he’s supposed to be.’ The rumors of Eisenhower’s illicit liaison with Kay Summersby, his driver, had undoubtedly been the subject of their conversation when Patton told Alexander how wrong and unwise it was for a soldier of high standing to have any intimate association with women during wartime. Patton went to church every Sunday, read the Bible and believed that it was God, and God alone, who could bestow victory. He believed that God was watching everything that happened, and that when he died he would be personally accountable for all of his actions. This was what made him so scrupulously honest and honorable, and it was also what caused his downfall.”
Page 23: “Contrary to popular belief, Patton did not know Eisenhower well. The two were never friends, although they had known each other briefly in the past. Too much was different between the two men for them to have ever been close; and gradually their attitudes, about both war and peace, would take sharply different paths. Patton would come to condemn Ike as a weak and traitorous politician, while Eisenhower would adopt a condescending and haughty attitude when speaking or writing about ‘Georgie.’”
“Another more disturbing problem was that Eisenhower had never fought, in any war. He had simply begun a meteoric rise in rank starting in 1942, which averaged to be a new rank every 6 months. Because he had never had any actual experience, he relied too heavily on the advice of others. He could not judge the merit of their advice because he was not a student of war, like Patton.”
Page 26: “Oddly enough, of all the great commanders that have led in battle, few have had the great faith in God that Patton had. He believed that it was God which made an army victorious, and for that reason he prayed and read the Bible every night. Before the Gafsa attack in N. Africa, Patton had made his now famous announcement, ‘Gentlemen, tomorrow we attack. If we are not victorious, let no man come back alive.’ He then retired to pray.
Bradley, who had been present, remarked later in his book that he found this one of Patton’s contradictions. ‘For while he was profane, he was also reverent. And while he strutted imperiously as a commander, he knelt humbly before his God.’ In fact it is no contradiction at all. Patton was a man who knew his place and his worth. While never doubting his own capabilities, he also never underestimated God’s hand in the world.”
Page 49: “Palermo’s capture had not gone unnoticed. Roosevelt had sent Patton a signed picture, Churchill had sent Congratulations, and so had General Alexander. Eisenhower, however, seemed determined to remain silent. In a letter to his wife on July 27th, Patton wrote,
‘The war is far from over but we are going to win it in a big way. At the moment we are having a hard race with our cousins. I think we have an edge on them. I am quite curious to see what comes out at home. BBC just barely admits that we exist. I have not the least notion what will happen next time [after Sicily] but I don’t care where, when, or who I fight so long as I keep fighting. It is the greatest of all games. FDR sent me a signed picture of he and I, and the PM has wired congrats, but Divine Destiny [Eisenhower] is still mute.’”
Pages 77-79: “The next morning Patton gave his most famous orders to the Seventh Army.
‘Soldiers of the Seventh Army: Born at sea, baptized in blood, and crowned in victory, in the course of 38 days of incessant battle and unceasing labor, you have added a glorious chapter to the history of war. Pitted against the best the Germans and Italians could offer, you have been unfailingly successful. The rapidity of your dash, which culminated in the capture of Palermo, was equaled by the dogged tenacity with which you stormed Troina and captured Messina. Every man in the Army deserves equal credit. The enduring valor of the Infantry, and the impetuous ferocity of the tanks were matched by the tireless clamor of the destroying guns. The engineers… Maintenance and Supply… Signal Corps… Medical Department… The Navy… our Air. As a result of this combined effort, you have killed or captured 113,350 enemy troops. You have destroyed 265 of his tanks, 2,324 vehicles, and 1,162 large guns, and in addition, have collected a mass of military booty running into hundreds of tons. But your victory has a significance above and beyond its physical aspect—you have destroyed the prestige of the enemy. Your fame shall never die.’
Patton’s reaction to the mental and physical exhilaration and its sudden ending can only be imagined. He was also worried about Eisenhower’s reaction to the slapping incidents, though he thought that volunteering to apologize ought to make him more lenient. That day he wrote to Beatrice, ‘As usual I seem to have made Divine Destiny a little mad but that will pass, I suppose. It [Eisenhower] has a lot of worries which it has to pass on…’ He again commented on Eisenhower’s silence in regard to his stunning victory, although he seemed to have resigned himself. ‘I have had telegrams from George [Marshall] and Harry [Stimson] and a host of others, all but from D who is, I suppose, too international.’ Patton could see clearly Eisenhower’s progression from soldier to politician. He could see even clearer how Eisenhower was not a ‘simple soldier,’ or, if he was, he certainly was not ‘simply a soldier.’ Patton could see even before Berlin or France that Eisenhower had quickly made the leap from ‘Supreme Allied Commander’ to ‘Inter-Allied Mediator.’ Seeing a man who had never fought rise to command millions of men was probably similar to the Germans astonishment that Hitler, a corporal, would command their armies. But then, at least Hitler had some battle experience!”
“Meanwhile, he was busy trying to find out what the battle experiences of the rank and file had been so as to ‘get the real dope from people who actually did the close in fighting. If I succeed, it will be the first time in history where the ideas of the little fellow will have a chance to be articulated.’ Here is where Patton showed his true prowess, and his true calling as a democracy’s war leader.
“He also understood the faults of generals, how many stressed loyalty from the bottom up, but that loyalty from the top down was much more valuable and even rarer. He knew that generals could be timid. It was important, he said, that they should not consult their fears. Of all traits, Patton valued daring and audacity most. Patton always knew the terrain where his men would fight, and made his plans to fit the area, not the other way around. He said that many generals would make a plan and just use it on any terrain, rather than making a plan with the terrain in mind.
“Patton also felt that in generals, ‘I find moral courage is the most valuable and most usually absent characteristic. Much of our trouble is directly attributable to “The fear of they.”’ Audacity, daring and boldness were the trademarks of Patton’s plans, and it was these three characteristics which made him so successful.”
Page 89: “Patton had been relieved. He wrote in his diary that night that the last telegram from Marshall announcing the end of this command of Seventh Army had ruined him. ‘It is very heartbreaking. The only time I have felt worse was the night of December 9th, 1942, when Clark got the Fifth Army. I feel like death but will survive I always have.’ Patton called in his chiefs of staff and had the telegram from Marshall read to them. He told them, ‘Gentlemen, what you have heard is secret and will not be discussed nor mentioned to your assistants. I believe in destiny and that nothing can destroy the future of the Seventh Army. However, some of you may not believe in destiny, so if you can find a better job, get it and I will help you all I can. You may be backing the wrong horse or hitched your wagon to the wrong stars. In any event, we must go right on like we knew nothing, so that the enemy will fear the potential threat of the Seventh Army.’ Patton was giving his staff leave to go, even though he believed that none of his staff would leave him. He was right, none of them did.”
Pages 91-92: “The Italian armistice had just been declared, and Patton noted that ‘I fear that as a soldier I have too little faith in political war. Suppose the Italians can’t or don’t capitulate? It’s a great mistake to inform the troops, as has been done, of the signing of an armistice. Should they get resistance instead of friendship [during the amphibious landings at Salerno], it would have a very bad effect.’
“Once again Patton ‘prophesied’ correctly. Although the soldiers were warned that Germans on the mainland would oppose them, they let down their guard and suffered many casualties. While Clark’s Fifth Army landed ashore, Patton worked all day on his report of operations in Sicily.
“Patton had been left out of all future invasions, left to ponder his fate in the ancient palace where he had landed. Eisenhower and Stimson said there ‘was important military reasons’ for Patton’s detainment, but to Patton they seemed vague. Because allied intelligence showed German fear and respect towards Patton, Eisenhower said that Patton was detained in Sicily to ‘mislead’ the Germans.”
Page 97: “As Patton said, ‘If the fate of the only successful general in this war depends on the statement of a discredited writer like Drew Pearson, we are in a bad fix. Of course I am worried, but I am quite confident that the Lord will see me through… I am perfectly certain that this is not the end of me.’ Patton, as usual, was right.”
Page 103: “Patton had been Pershing’s aide in WWI. Pershing was Patton’s idol, the antithesis of Eisenhower, the man whom Patton told his wife would know how to handle the British where Eisenhower had miserably failed. But now came a crushing blow. Pershing, who was going senile, had openly denounced Patton’s behavior in the slapping incidents. When Patton heard, he stopped writing to him. “How I dislike Drew P[earson],’ Patton mourned to his wife. Beatrice, for her part, wrote at the time to a friend, ‘I wonder that Pearson does not die of his own poison. The only excuse, and it is not an excuse, that I can see for his existence, is that the world is made up of forces of good and forces of evil, and that without the latter there would be no struggle, and people might get soft. I cannot explain him any other way. I have followed his predictions now for some time, and am convinced that he is a traitor to America.’ She was right.”
Pages 107-110: “There are those who say that Eisenhower was very gracious in not relieving Patton on the spot after the incidents. They portray this as an example of the gallant and chivalrous Eisenhower defending his friend against the onslaught of the press. The movie Patton expresses a similar outlook, and there are hundreds of books that say the same. They overlook, however, that Eisenhower was planning on becoming president, even at this early date. Every move he made in Europe was carefully done so as to be politically correct. A Gallup Poll that was conducted at the time said 77% of Americans liked Patton, 19% did not, and 4% were uncertain. So even though what had happened was grossly misportrayed in the newspapers at home, 77% of Americans still liked Patton, and for Eisenhower to have opposed the wishes of that mass of voters would have been unthinkable. The books that state Eisenhower stood up for Patton against the press and also against the outraged American people are not accurately portraying events. The only outraged people were certain senators and the press corps.”
“Even if Eisenhower had decided to save Patton before the poll was conducted, it was hardly a courageous deed. Patton was Eisenhower’s best general; Patton was much more experienced and better able than Eisenhower. Patton had fought against Pancho Villa, he had fought in WWI as Pershing’s aide; where the fighting was, Patton had always been. Patton was also, according to the Germans, the Americans most modern general, a man who applied the tactics of mobile warfare even better than the Germans themselves. No matter what may be said for Eisenhower or Bradley, they were hopelessly tied to the idea of a ‘broad front;’ they had never ventured beyond traditional West Point caution; the idea of a swift advance or unguarded flanks frightened them.
“Patton was also the oldest American general; he had the most experience and he should have had Eisenhower’s position. The only convincing argument I have heard as to why he did not have it is that the Supreme Allied Commander needed to be tactful and make decisions with important political consequences. Basically, they wanted (and got) a politician. The fact that a politician would make tactical and strategic decisions would have struck us as absurd, so they found a man who was a graduate of West Point. They could tell people that he was a ‘simple solder’ and, incidentally, they always did so when he made terrible political decisions. But the millions of men who lost their lives due to poor military management have Eisenhower to thank. He didn’t even listen to sound military advice from Patton. And if one of his generals said something politically incorrect—why, look at Patton! He relieved the general who had saved him.
“Patton was the general when a situation arose that was desperate. Although Eisenhower was constantly taking armies from Patton and ignoring his advice, when the Battle of the Bulge became serious, Eisenhower’s first reaction was, ‘Get Patton and give him as many armies as you can.’ If Eisenhower had relieved Patton after the slapping incidents, the war would certainly have been many years longer. Eisenhower himself would have been relieved (because of the Battle of the Bulge) and there would have been many similar costly battles like the Bulge. Eisenhower didn’t ‘rescue’ Patton from the attacks of the Press, saving him from destruction for some gracious reason: the reason was that Eisenhower needed Patton more than Patton ever needed Eisenhower. In fact, this was duly recorded by someone in London. He was walking along the corridor at Eisenhower’s headquarters and he overheard a heated discussion between General Wedemeyer and General Eisenhower about Patton. Eisenhower was telling the story, oft-repeated by historians, of his having saved Patton, when General Wedemeyer burst out, ‘Heck, get on to yourself, Ike; you didn’t make him, he made you.’
“The British influence on Patton’s retainment is larger than supposed. The fiasco at Anzio proved that not all American generals knew the technique of a swift advance. When Churchill said he had wanted a lion, but had been given a whale floundering on the beach, he meant that what he had needed was a Patton. And even though the British generals could not replicate Patton’s daring themselves, they admired those tactics, like they admired Rommel. The Royal Air Force and Navy men especially like him. Had Patton been relieved, the only one who would have been happy would have been Montgomery.
“The statement that Patton was a better general is proven by the fact that in France, when Patton was merely an army commander, his name was mentioned in headlines along with those of Montgomery and Bradley who were Army group commanders. None of Patton’s equal ranks excelled in the way he did, their names didn’t even appear in the headlines. This proves that Patton was put in a position far below his true worth.”
Page 111: “Patton’s command since the start of the war had captured, wounded, or killed 177,000 Germans, Italians and French. The Seventh Army’s average losses had been one American for 13 ½ of the enemy. ‘It would be a national calamity to lose an Army commander with such a record,’ Patton observed sadly in his diary.”
Page 112: “Many decisions that would have impact on Patton’s career were taking place now in Teheran. The ‘Big Three,’ Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met on the 28th of November, 1943 in Teheran. It would be Roosevelt and Stalin’s first meeting. Churchill had no illusions about Stalin’s intentions, but Roosevelt believed that he could ‘control’ Stalin. Ever since WWI, Churchill had campaigned for armies to invade the Soviet Union. At a time when many people were awed by what they thought were its achievements, Churchill openly denounced them. The only deal he ever made with Stalin was that each would not make a separate peace. In the speech he made explaining why he did it, Churchill said that he had not changed any of his opinions on Stalin, and that he felt Hitler and Stalin were equally evil, but that the most aggressive evil had to be dealt with first. Churchill was, quite frankly, extremely desperate, for they were in the dark days of the battle of Britain. Now, however, with the Americans on their side, they could not fail, and Hitler knew it.”
Page 121: “Patton was also thinking about people. What would their reaction be at the end of the war? Would they react as they had at the end of WWI? Already they seemed to be heading in that direction. ‘I have already met several quite intelligent men who say ‘Now we will have no more wars.’… The avowed purpose of the treaty of Vienna in 1814 was to see that that was the last war. Around 1700 BC, the Hittites, Cretans, and Egyptians had a tri-party treaty to avert wars, and we lerned [sic] about it in 1914. Some explorers discovered the Hittite capital and in the library discovered the bricks with the treaty on them—yet before the mud had dried, the Egyptians and Cretans had ganged up and destroyed the Hitites [sic]. If we again think that wars are over, we will surely have another one and damned quick. Man is WAR and we had better remember that.’”
Pages 126-127: “The man who came up with blitzkrieg, Liddell Hart, was British, but his countrymen for the most part detested the strategy and ignored him throughout the 1920’s. The Germans read his books and realized the sense in his strategy. Instead of fixed or ‘set piece’ battle plans, Liddell Hart realized that the next war would be a fluid one, with the lines in constant motion. He pioneered the fast tank advance and quick, pincer drives where the enemy was not. In comparison with WWI, this was revolutionary. But military colleges like West Point and Sandhurst laughed at his theories. Some bright military minds, however, were reading his books. Rommel was one, Patton another. Patton read every book by Liddell Hart between wars, and developed his own attacking method from it.
“But for the most part, men like Napoleon and Clausewitz were the anointed ‘geniuses’ that the officers followed. It was their strategy to attack the enemy head-on, it was Liddell Hart’s strategy to take his land and cut him off. Napoleon had revolutionized war, and since his time, war has been associated with mass murder. His strategy made it so. Patton’s strategy, by contrast, had relatively few casualties with huge dividends in land and munitions. Where Napoleon would say defeat the enemy by killing his men, Patton defeated the enemy by capturing his land and armories, and forcing him to surrender.”
Page 135: “In the Wehrmacht High Command’s ‘Kriegstagebuch’ (War Diary), Patton was the first general (other than Eisenhower) to be specifically mentioned so early on. It stated on March 20th that ‘General Patton, who was formerly employed in North Africa and is highly regarded for his proficiency, is now in England.’ Highly regarded by the Germans, certainly. Throughout the war Patton—a lieutenant general—would be mentioned in German memorandums expressing more fear about the location of his army than the armies of Group Commanders.”
Page 141: “My final thought on the matter is that I am destined to achieve some great thing—what, I don’t know, but this last incident was so trivial in its nature, but so terrible in its effect, that it is not the result of an accident but the work of God. His will be done.”
Pages 150-151: “D Day was an incredibly disappointing day for Patton. The soldiers were landing in Normandy and he wasn’t fighting. He wasn’t even planning. He was merely waiting, waiting, waiting as always. For a high-strung soldier like Patton waiting was close to impossible. ‘It is terrible to be on the side lines and see all the glory eluding me, but I guess there will be enough for all. I guess I will read the Bible.’
“It was at this time, while Patton sat anxiously on the sidelines, that Summerall defended Patton. He wrote that Patton was,
‘…a general in the hearts of his soldiers and will be the leading figure in history by virtue of his own superiority. I would have wished for him an independent command in the south of France, but he will dominate wherever he is. The men will resent the treatment he has received and will fight for him all the harder. He stands alone in all the world in knowledge, ability, and leadership.’ Patton Papers, edited by Martin Blumenson
Freedom to Bear Arms
Alvin C. York
Carrying the Gun
“There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that's working. But between the plan and the operation, there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part or margin in everything, That's where prayer comes in.”
--General George S. Patton