Person: General George S. Patton

Clearly, General George Patton wasn't a happy man unless he was either planning combat or in the midst of it. Uploaded by lobelinepr.com.

General Patton was politically incorrect before the phrase existed. His strong opinions and unorthodox tactics were the reasons why he was valued as a fighting general and unable to assume the highest levels of command that his military success would otherwise have entitled him.

Patton attended VMI for a year before entering West Point, from which he graduated in 1909. His first major military action was in Mexico, chasing Pancho Villa with General John J. Pershing. During World War I he was assigned to the newly created U.S. Tank Corps, and led troops in the world’s first tank battle in the Battle of Cambrai.

That experience led to the command of the 2nd Armored Division at the outset of World War II. He was soon promoted to lieutenant general due to his success in the North Africa campaign, and then received command of the Seventh Army in preparation for the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Well, I feel like I’m just reciting the movie now. The film starring George S. Scott is apparently very true to the facts and character of the famous general. Instead of more biography, let’s see some of Patton’s stirring – and controversial – statements:

*** “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
*** “A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.”
*** “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
*** “If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.”
*** “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, I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!”

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4 responses to “Person: General George S. Patton

  1. Very intriguing man. The film seems to have been a very accurate depiction of Patton. If you have not seen the Patton 360 series on the History Channel, check it out. It gives a very in-depth look into his tactics and personality.

  2. George S. Patton Jr. did not lead any U.S. Tanks or troops at the Battle of Cambrai. He was almost certainly not even there. The U.S. Tank Corps was formed at the end of December 1917, a month after the battle, with Samuel Rockenbach in command. At the time of Cambrai the USA had no Tanks, and the only American troops involved were some railroad engineers who got caught in a German counter-attack. On the morning of the attack Patton’s Diaries state that he was at the French Tank Training School at Champlieu, 75 miles away. Ten days later, after the offensive had stalled, he visited British Tank H.Q. at Albert, 30 miles from Cambrai. His diaries make no mention of his having observed or in any way participated in the battle.

    Cambrai was not the world’s first tank battle. Tanks were first used in September 1915. Nor was it the first large-scale or “significant” one – merely the largest so far. The French used over 130 of their own in April 1917, and the British 200+ in July. Nor was it a victory. After an initial success, almost all the ground gained was retaken by German counter-attacks and more than 70 tanks captured. After 17 days the Front remained almost exactly where it had been.

    • James, thanks for your informed response. My source material led me to different conclusions, but after reading more it’s clear that Patton did not “lead troops” at Cambrai. You rely on his diaries, but the book General George Patton: Old Blood and Guts states that he was there as an observer. In any case, it’s a small detail in Patton’s life, but I’m happy to have your comments to help shed additional light on his career. Hope you enjoyed visiting the blog.

      Robin

  3. James H. Reeve

    Robin,
    Belated thanks for your kind reply. I’m afraid that these misleading accounts are reproduced in several books and all over the Internet, mostly based on ill-informed and secondary sources. All of the above is from Patton’s Diaries and various U.S. and U.K. Official and Regimental Histories. His Diaries, of course, do not say, “Didn’t go to Cambrai again today,” but since he was at the time in charge of setting up the U.S. Light Tank Training School and studying Tank tactics and organisation it is reasonable to assume that he might have mentioned it if he had. I have no idea how these misconceptions arose, but I can assure you that they can be safely discounted.
    Regards,
    J

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