Patton Movie Question about Invasion of Sicily

Discussion in 'Italy' started by c00lguy, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. c00lguy

    c00lguy Junior Member

    Hi everyone. I’m new to this forum but have been looking at posts for a couple of years now and finally have a question of my own.

    Patton is one of my favorite movies of all time but there’s always been this one question I’ve had that’s been killing me. It’s about the strategy that British General Montgomery imposed for the Allied invasion of Sicily. In the movie, Montgomery states that if Gen. Patton’s plan is followed then it’ll lead to an absolute disaster. He then famously fogs up the bathroom mirror and states that if he lands at Syracuse and Patton lands in Palermo (like Patton wants) then things will fall apart because their forces would be separated and chopped up. However, if everyone follows his plan which calls for Montgomery to land in Syracuse as planned and Patton to land at Gala and protect his flank as they both drive North to Messina then their forces could be closer together to provide support and things would run more smoothly.


    However, my question is this: why does Montgomery even mention that the American and British forces will be chopped up if they follow Patton’s plan? It seems to me that their forces can be chopped up just as bad if Montgomery’s plan is followed, the only difference being that their forces would be closer together. After all, this is war, and forces just don’t travel all together in a straight line from point A to point B. They get into battles, ambushes, etc. and most of the time parts of a force will be separated from the main flank. That’s how you get MIA’s and such and that’s where stories like Saving Private Ryan (another one of my all-time favorite WW2 movies) come from. So why does Montgomery even mention that forces will get chopped up if they follow Patton’s plan and implicitly imply that they won’t if they follow his? I know this is getting a little in depth but this has been really bugging me for some time and I figured that you guys might be able to shed some light on this for me.

    I thank you for reading and appreciate any reply I can get.
  2. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Hi Coolguy and welcome to the forums. First of all I would say that Films can tend to "dramatize" certain events in order to put across the Film Crew's opinions of events. I have no idea whether or not Montgomery actually did say it but if another source can be presented about this story, then we might be able to discuss it. Otherwise we are assuming that the script is what actually was said and in my humble opinion I have rarely found this to be the case. Perhaps a reading of some books on Monty's strategies might have some bearing on this. I'm more of an Eastern Front man so I'm not the best person to answer this but lads, can we recommend some works about Montgomery and Sicily to throw some light on this???
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    IF - you would be good enough to stay out of the cinema or switch off the Tv for while - and pick up some history books - then - you might find some answers to your questions must recall that the films that you have mentioned were made in Hollywood and that Hollywood is in the USA - BUT assuming you know all that you might also find that while Montgomery was winning all his battles in the desert - He was the big hero in the USA newspapers - the minute that a joint US - British force landed in North Africa -in November 1942 ( the war started in 1939) Montgomery became less of a hero - until that is the US 11 corps ran into Rommel at Kasserine and Eisenhower yelled for Monty's boss Alexander to help out - which he did - had the US. Gen. Fredendal fired and Patton entered the scene - with Bradley as deputy.

    They both then made a pigs ear out of their instructions to keep the German 10th Panzer division out of the Battle for El hamma in the South of Tunisia and the 15th and 21st panzers escaped to fight another day - which they did very well at Wadi Akirit and Enfidaville caused great casualties to Monty's 8th army - which did NOt amuse Monty.

    As a consequence yet another battle had to be fought with a joint 1st and 8th army force from Medez El Bab to Tunis -Cap Bon - to finish off the North African Campaign with more full cemeteries at Medjez and Tebarka.

    So when it came to Sicily - Monty was a bit leery of Patton being in charge of his partners forces as all he seemed to want was Palermo - which was not all that important - what was important was the capture of the Airfields around Catania
    to allow the RAF and others to help out with the bombing of the enemy, and for that to happen - there was need of a stronger force that Monty's four divisions- side by side to take on the strong German forces around that area !

    Monty was something of a prophet for sure enough - when he asked Patton to help out at Catania - Patton weaselled off to Palermo where there were no Germans to fight - instead he fought his own men and subsequently was also fired !

    And thus- Patton was the BIG hero for winning the race to Messina


    Cheers - at least that's how I see it - biased - ? - not really- just true HISTORY - try reading "Monty- Master of the Battlefield" by Hamilton for a better view of that part of history - or the American Carlo DeEste's "Bitter Victory" .....
  4. RJL

    RJL Senior Member

    Hello Coolguy. Welcome on board. I like that film too but I'd have to agree with Gotthard on the dramatization of events by movie studios etc. Just as an example, another famous episode in that film is 'the race to Messina' where Patton's 7th Army beats Montgomery's 8th Army to take the town ....

    Well according to retired US Army Lt Col and historian Carlo D'Este, the race to Messina never took place except in Patton's head. The two Generals met on July 25th and the job of capturing Messina was given to 7th Army. "The only rivalry was in the mind of Patton, who simply never accepted that Montgomery would willingly grant an American army the prize of Messina."

    "A Genius for War: A life of General George S Patton." by Carlo D'Este. pp 522 - 523
  5. c00lguy

    c00lguy Junior Member

    Hey guys. Thanks for responding. I understand that Hollywood almost never depicts historical events correctly but I guess my general war question is that even if two forces do stay together, they could still be torn apart (chopped up) by the act of combat, right? So why even mention that in the first place (as Montgomery does in the movie), it seems pointless? That's all I mean by my post, i'm just trying to understand war strategy and why that chopped up concept is even mentioned in the movie.
  6. RJL

    RJL Senior Member

    Yes, they could still be chopped up but it's X times harder for the enemy to chop you up when your flanks are protected.
  7. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Try and think in terms of attack and defence - to attack successfuly it needs - usually a force of 3-1 - the defending force has always the advantage of being there for some time preparing his defences.....

    Now as we knew at the time - the Germans had two very strong divisions in place - the 1st paras and the Herman Goering Panzer Div. plus umpteen Italian troops and Luftwaffe 2

    Monty was landing after an all night sea voyage with less than four Divisions - Patton had two -even together they did not make a 3-1 advantage and so they were LIABLE to be defeated in DETAIL.......OR chopped up individually..... for NO good reason except Patton's obsession with having Palermo - which was NOT it made more MILITARY sense to land closer together and kill Germans and it was - when Patton took off for Palermo - we had more casualties that was necessary - all you have to do is have a look at the Catania and Agira cemeteries to check that out.....meanwhile Patton was acting the big shot in landing further up the coast toward Messina - was he met by the German/Italian defending troops ? ...... well no ...he was met by Gens, Bradley and Walker wondering what the hell he was up to......instead of helping out over at Catania where the real fighting was going on - it was Gen Walker who said at the time - " we were on a pleasant ride to Palermo - Monty - well he was fighting Germans" .....

    Seems to sum it the way - the German 1st paras were not a bunch of has beens as they gave us hell at the Primosole bridge - later on at Ortona - then Cassino and finally at the Gothic Line...those men were as tough as our paras - they never quit !

    So again I would ask you to forget the Hollywood version of History - try some good history books - then you might learn something of strategy as well as tactics - then you too can lead an army in the field !

    kfz and Za Rodinu like this.
  8. c00lguy

    c00lguy Junior Member

    Thanks everybody for responding. You basically answered my question. I was just a little confused because in the movie Montgomery was talking about forces getting chopped up by following Patton’s plan and seemed to implicitly imply that in his plan the allied forces wouldn’t get chopped up at all. I guess what he SHOULD have said was that their forces would be chopped up with greater ease if Patton’s plan was followed. He made a very general statement about forces being chopped up and I was thinking that I must have been missing some background military strategy information that prevented me from understanding his argument against Patton’s plan. I now understand (thanks to you guys) that Montgomery was simply saying that his plan would make the allied forces less vulnerable to being broken apart. I’ve just come to the conclusion that that part of the script is stupid and confusing [​IMG].

    Thank you again to everyone who responded.
  9. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    As said above, forget Hollywood, instead read a couple of decent history books to start along.

    COMMANDO Senior Member

  11. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Please, just watch the movie in the same way you watch Guns of Navarone !

    Now that's what I call a serious WW2 movie! Same rate of 'Schmeisser' prevalence as in Where Eagles Dare!

    "The Horror! The Horror!"

  12. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    If that filme were to be believed, the Germans had only short range weapons!!! No rifles!! And as for that Blond "Do" the SS guy is sporting............ :P

Share This Page