Patton

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Jonathan Ball, Dec 1, 2010.

  1. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    I'm posting this as George Patton was a man who fascinates me. I have never studied him in depth but this is soon to be rectified with the delivery of a biography on him from a writer I have the highest respect for.

    In the many books I have read on the campaigns he participated in I have seen him described as everything from a genius to being deranged. What I would enjoy to see is the range of opinion this man attracts from the forum.

    What will history remember him for? His personality? His tactics? His drive? Some or all of the previous? I have read extracts that state he was the Commander in the West who the Germans feared the most. Would you agree or disagree with this?

    Any thoughts would be most welcome.

    Thanks

    Jonathan
     
  2. Jon Jordan

    Jon Jordan Junior Member

    No shortage of opinions, good and bad. Martin Blumenson said that everything ever written about Patton is correct.
     
  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Jon,

    Hello and welcome to the forum.

    That just about sums up the man from what I have read.

    The museum named after him at Fort Knox is well worth a visit.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  4. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Martin Blumenson said that everything ever written about Patton is correct.

    Looks like a consensus is forming already! Thanks to you for that Jon and Smudger.

    P.S Too add to what Smudger said can I also offer you a warm welcome.

    Jonathan
     
  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Johnathon
    there is no question that the Germans feared him more than any other General - but the same holds true for the British and others as we simply didn't quite know what he would do next....
    Cheers
     
  6. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    My dad was in the Third Army and told me that he and everyone he served with really liked him.

    I read something he wrote that bothered me though. His father was running for an elected office in California, if I remember correctly. Patton wrote to him and told him to say anything necessary to win the election. I can't remember specifically if he used the word lie, but I think he did.

    I'll go on a bit of a trivia ramble now. He seldom wore two pistols at the same time but when he did the one on the right was one of the first .357 magnums commercially available. It is a Smith & Wesson double action. The left one is a Colt single action .45. He also occasionally carried a Colt .22 Woodman automatic. The .357 and .45 were in the West Point Museum for many years and are now in the Patton museum. Continuing on the trivia dump, the West Point Museum also has the pistol Goring is shown handing over upon his capture. It is a Smith & Wesson .38 Special.

    My cousin graduated from West Point and told me that he came across reference books in the library that had notes in the margins that Patton had made when he attended.
     
  7. Jon Jordan

    Jon Jordan Junior Member

    The museum named after him at Fort Knox is well worth a visit.


    Tom:

    It's a great museum, and its library, while lacking in large number of documents, has a great photo collection. (The photos can also be accessed and searched on-line.) The other fun thing is that it has a great collection of tanks for the kids to gawk at.

    Best,
    Jon
     
  8. Jon Jordan

    Jon Jordan Junior Member

    I read something he wrote that bothered me though. His father was running for an elected office in California, if I remember correctly. Patton wrote to him and told him to say anything necessary to win the election. I can't remember specifically if he used the word lie, but I think he did.

    His father was a lawyer and local official; I believe he also ran for Senate but lost. Patton would have been relatively young, probably newly-minted lieutenant at the time. That said, he was not a transparent individual around his superiors - he "bootlicked" a lot to Marshall, Eisenhower, Devers, and even Bradley and Beetle Smith, and he was sometimes deceptive when planning operations, to avoid getting a peremptory order to stop. I can't think of a signficant occasion when he lied, though.

    I'll go on a bit of a trivia ramble now. He seldom wore two pistols at the same time but when he did the one on the right was one of the first .357 magnums commercially available. It is a Smith & Wesson double action. The left one is a Colt single action .45. He also occasionally carried a Colt .22 Woodman automatic. The .357 and .45 were in the West Point Museum for many years and are now in the Patton museum.

    Hirshson's book (IIRC) says Patton carried a .45 Colt 1911 until, sometime around 1915, he nearly shot his leg off with it; after that, he stopped carrying one. Patton is seen in pictures with a model 1903(05?) hammerless with three stars on the grips. (Personally, if I were worried about an accident, I'd want an exposed hammer.)
     
  9. Jon Jordan

    Jon Jordan Junior Member

    Johnathon
    there is no question that the Germans feared him more than any other General - but the same holds true for the British and others as we simply didn't quite know what he would do next....
    Cheers

    That certainly is his persona!

    In general, though, Patton was pretty easily controlled by Eisenhower. He didn't like it, but Ike kept him on a short leash. In Tunis, he obeyed Alexander's orders not to drive to the Gulf of Gabes. In Sicily, he handed over Highway 124 to allow the Canadians to cut across his front towards Enna. In England, he kept as low a profile as his ungovernable mouth would allow, and in France he strictly obeyed Bradley's orders to keep to a short hook, remain south of Argentan, then drive for a long hook (which Patton had advocated in the first place). By the time he reached the Moselle, supply limitations kept him from doing anything SHAEF didn't want him to do, and he managed to keep very few divisions by engaging them in battle - though he often talked about it.

    His diaries, and George C. Scott, contribute more to the image of a guy who "would have gone to Berlin if orders hadn't stopped him" - he could not have done it.

    (Speaking of Scott, no film or TV portrayal of Patton ever gets his voice right -- it was a rather adnoidal hum, not Scott's gravely voice. EarthStation1.com has, somewhere, a Patton recording of remarks he gave after entering Messina.)
     
  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Hello Jon,

    I think those 1903s were issued to all men when they reached Brigadier General rank and that the person could select either a .32 or .380.

    Could I ask you how to use the quote feature that you used in your posts?

    Thanks
     
  11. Jon Jordan

    Jon Jordan Junior Member

    Dave:

    Thanks for the point about the 1903s. You see a lot of pictures of generals carrying them (e.g., Hodges, Patton), although you see others (like Middleton, Eddy and Bradley) with .45s in tanker holsters. Personally, I like shooting the .45, though I don't have to carry one around all day.

    I just use the "quote" button at the bottom RH corner to copy quotes. To break quotes up, I usually just copy "[/QUOTE]" and/or the bit at the beginning (for this one, "
     
  12. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    bracket what you wanted to be denoted as a quote with {quote} quoted passage {/quote}, replacing the { & } with [ & ].

    Multi-quote allows you to select several posts for comment in one post. Click on Multiquote at the bottom of each post you want to comment on then select the New Post button atthe bottom left of the page. Be sure to type between the tags [bracket words], staying between [/quote] and
     

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  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Jon Jordan
    You have the wrong end of the stick with that comment that " he obeyed Alexander's orders NOt to drive to the Gabes Gap "

    The whole point of the El Hamma battle was to destroy the 15th - 21st Panzers and the 164 Infantry divisions on the "ANVIL" created by a defensive line across from around Kasserine to Gabes by the US 2nd Corps now led by both Patton and Bradley - and the destruction was to be by the "Hammer" of the New Zealand
    division led by Freyberg - and 1st British Armoured Division and the 201 Guards bde led by Horrocks - an ancillery order to Patton was to keep the 10th Panzers of Von Ahrnim's army OUT of the battle after their mauling by 8th Army at Medenine.

    The US 2nd Corps of Patton failed to do this and were mauled by a half strength 10th panzers - failed to close the defensive "Anvil" line thus allowing the 15th-21st Panzers and 164th Infantry to escape to fight on at Wadi Akirit and Enfidaville - prolonging the campaign- and the joint 1st and 8th British armies had to combine to finish off the African campaign at Tunis and Cap Bon while the US 2nd Corp looked after Bizerta.
    The combined thrust by the joint armies from Medjez El Bab to Cap bon was from 1st army - 6th Armoured - 4th Infantry and the two Tank bdes of 21st and 25th with 78th Inf between them and the US Corps on the coast and from 8th army was 7th Armoured - 4th Indian - 201 Guards bde

    Thems the facts Jon - no matter what revised History claims...

    PS - Patton didn't GIVE up Hwy 124 - Monty took it- expecting Patton to cover his left flank - instead - Patton took off to "liberate" Palermo - leaving 8th Army's flank wide open while fighting all the Germans !
    Cheers
     
  14. Jon Jordan

    Jon Jordan Junior Member

    Jon Jordan
    You have the wrong end of the stick with that comment that " he obeyed Alexander's orders NOt to drive to the Gabes Gap "

    The whole point of the El Hamma battle was to destroy the 15th - 21st Panzers and the 164 Infantry divisions on the "ANVIL" created by a defensive line across from around Kasserine to Gabes by the US 2nd Corps now led by both Patton and Bradley - and the destruction was to be by the "Hammer" of the New Zealand
    division led by Freyberg - and 1st British Armoured Division and the 201 Guards bde led by Horrocks - an ancillery order to Patton was to keep the 10th Panzers of Von Ahrnim's army OUT of the battle after their mauling by 8th Army at Medenine.

    The US 2nd Corps of Patton failed to do this and were mauled by a half strength 10th panzers - failed to close the defensive "Anvil" line

    Thems the facts Jon - no matter what revised History claims...

    PS - Patton didn't GIVE up Hwy 124 - Monty took it- expecting Patton to cover his left flank - instead - Patton took off to "liberate" Palermo - leaving 8th Army's flank wide open while fighting all the Germans !
    Cheers

    Taking this in reverse order: here's the facts... (apologize for the length - I didn't want to give the impression I was taking quotes from sources out of context):

    Sicily:

    1. Alexander ordered Patton to give up the highway Bradley's corps was using to move north on 13 July. It was at Monty's instigation, but it was Alex's order, and my point was that Patton complied with the order and gave up the highway to Leese.

    2. Eighth Army was not outflanked by attacking Germans. Montgomery had hit a brick wall at the Etna Line. On 13 July he wanted the army boundaries adjusted so he could outflank it. In the end, Leese's troops bypassed Enna and US forces ended up filling this gap.

    Additionally, Patton did not pull his troops off Montgomery's flank to take Palermo - Montgomery's flank (up to said Etna Line) was covered by Bradley's II Corps, which, having been pushed further west, moved directly north in accordance with Alexander's orders. I don't recall even Montgomery complaining about lack of flank protection from Seventh Army.

    3. Montgomery did not start out fighting all the Germans. Landing at Syracusa, he had the most advantageous position from the outset, as the Hermann Goering panzers were north of Gela and the 15th Panzergrenadiers were near Palermo. Alexander had predicted that Seventh Army would have the tougher assignment, and Eighth Army would have a fairly open shot at Messina. Had Montgomery not stalled before Catania, he would be dining in Messina, not fighting all the Germans.


    Tunis:

    Patton's orders were simply to attack but not proceed east of the Dorsals. That he did. He pushed to get beyond Maknassy, which was beyond his original orders, in the hopes that Alexander would allow him to drive further. He was unable to do so. Alex's intention was to draw off forces from Eighth Army, not destroy them with Patton's one armored division and three infantry divisions. Patton wanted to act as an anvil, but Alexander expressly prohibited it. Patton complied.

    Here is the US Army's official history on the subject, which I've never heard called revisionist (Seizing the Initiative, 543-44):


    The operations by II Corps in March were intended to accomplish a threefold purpose. Headquarters, First Army, issued a formal directive prescribing the corps mission shortly before II Corps passed to 18 Army Group's direct control.1 The II Corps was to draw off reserves from the enemy forces facing the Eighth Army; to regain firm control of forward airfields from which to furnish assistance to Eighth Army; and to establish a forward maintenance center from which mobile forces of Eighth Army could draw supplies in order to maintain the momentum of their advance. This prospective supply point was to be established at Gafsa, which the II Corps was to retrieve from an Italian garrison by an attack to start not later than 15 March. Troops not required for the defense of Gafsa could then demonstrate toward Maknassy as a menace to the enemy's line of communications along the coast. In the meantime, the passes in the Western Dorsal from Sbiba southwestward to El Ma el Abiod were to be firmly held, while the airfields at Thélepte, in front of the Allied defensive line, were to be regained for the use of Allied fighter units. Of the enemy's combat troops, AFHQ estimated that 45,100 Germans and 28,000 Italians were in the Mareth-Matmata defenses, and 11,400 German and 12,800 Italians in the Gabès-Gafsa-Chott Position area. The garrison at Gafsa, with security forces to the west of it, amounted, AFHQ thought, to 7,100 Italians of the Centauro Division; eastward, from Sened to Maknassy were only 800 German and 750 Italian combat troops.2 If this appraisal of the opposing forces was correct, the enemy would be forced to send reserves to try to stop the II Corps. The American forces had chiefly to avoid being caught in a weak situation during an enemy spoiling attack or by a counterattack provoked by an initial American success.3 They were not expected to advance southeast of Gafsa.
    The plans of 18 Army Group for the II Corps prescribed a subsidiary role which naturally disappointed its more confident American officers. The directive in effect prohibited an American advance to the sea and envisaged a hesitating movement subject at all times to 18 Army Group's approval, a program which indicated lack of confidence in the capacity of II Corps to execute a full-scale operation on its own responsibility. The higher echelons of command apparently considered the capabilities of the American units to be only partly developed. The February setback had revealed deficiencies and had presumably shaken the morale of participants. The forthcoming operations were therefore designed to permit small successes and the application of training lessons taught in battle schools instituted by 18 Army Group during the preceding fortnight. A few such victories, it was hoped, even though minor, would bring the performance of American units up to the required level by developing their capacities and fortifying their self-respect. But the Americans, particularly the more aggressive ones like the new corps commander, General Patton, tugged against the restraining leash from the start.4

    1. Ltr of Instruc, 2 Mar 43, in II Corps AAR, 15 Mar-10 Apr 43.
    2. AFHQ G-2 Est 6, Axis Order of Battle, 12 Mar 43.
    3. (1) AFHQ G-2 Rpt 129, 16 Mar 43. (2) II Corps G-2 Est 18, 16 Mar 43. 4. (1) Alexander, "The African Campaign," p. 874. (2) Patton Diary, 25 Mar 43.

    Now, after this operation was set in motion, Alexander changed his mind and ordered Patton to move further east, but not to Gabes. Id. at 550:

    On 19 March, Patton returned to his headquarters in Fériana after his rain-drenched visit to the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division to find General McCreery, Chief of Staff, 18 Army Group, with General Alexander's new plans and orders for II Corps. The Corps was now to seize the high ground east of Maknassy and to send a light armored raiding party to the Mezzouna airfields to destroy enemy installations there. No large forces, however, were to pass beyond a line extending from Gafsa through Maknassy heights, Faïd, and Fondouk el Aouareb. Later, after the British Eighth Army had passed up the coast beyond Maknassy, the II Corps was to be reduced by the transfer of its U.S. 9th Infantry Division to relieve the British 46th Division on the far northern flank and to operate under British 5 Corps within British First Army. The 34th Infantry Division would at about the same time side-slip to the north in order to attack Fondouk el Aouareb gap along the axis Maktar-Pichon. It thus appeared that after the enemy had moved north of Fondouk el Aouareb, the II Corps would be faced with the ignominious prospect of being pinched out of the Allied line. These instructions would not only prohibit any American advance to the sea but would confine the role of II Corps to merely threatening the enemy's western flank without ever actually attempting to cut him off; they would also prevent the corps, except for 9th Infantry Division, from participating in the last stage of the campaign. In accordance with orders, the II Corps sent attacking forces not only to Maknassy but to a defile east of El Guettar, on the southern side of Djebel Orbata...

    Two days later, Alexander again modified II Corps orders, again, authorizing no push to the sea (id. at 551):

    On 21 March General Montgomery, when he recognized that the Eighth Army would be engaged for several days in trying to breach the main Mareth Position near the coast, and before he decided to shift the principal effort to the El Hamma gap, suggested to General Alexander that the U.S. II Corps could be of substantial assistance by a strong armored thrust through Maknassy to cut the Sfax-Gabès road. At 18 Army Group, such a project was considered to be too ambitious, particularly in view of the likelihood that the 10th Panzer Division would intervene during its execution. But General Alexander issued instructions to II Corps on 22 March to prepare for a possible effort to disrupt the enemy's line of communications and destroy his supply dumps southwest of Maharès. General Patton was to make ready a strong mobile column for such a mission. Meanwhile, the limited missions of the 1st Armored Division east of Maknassy and of the 1st Infantry Division east of El Guettar remained unchanged.

    At this point, Kesselring released the 10th Panzer from his group reserve, and said 10th Panzers were mauled badly on 23 March by Allen's 1st Infantry Division. Alexander then issued orders, moving Patton further east but not to the coast, as follows (id. 564):

    General Alexander accordingly brought to General Patton at noon, 25 March, a new directive for the II Corps. The corps base line was to be advanced from the Western Dorsal to extend between Gafsa and Sbeïtla.

    Note through all this that Patton followed Alexander's orders assiduously.
    Six days later, Alexander issued specific orders as if he were the II Corps commander (id. 568-69):

    Late on 29 March, 18 Army Group for the fourth time revised its directive to the U.S. II Corps. The situation was critical. The attack at Fondouk el Aouareb was failing.The one at Maknassy had been abandoned. The infantry operations to open a gap for the armor southeast of El Guettar

    were making no progress. At this juncture, therefore, General Alexander instructed General Patton to organize the defense of Maknassy, Sened, and Gafsa in accordance with a most detailed assignment of Patton's units, and to launch an armored force next morning to break its own way through the enemy's barrier on the El Guettar-Gabès road ahead of the infantry.

    Finally, Alexander revised these orders with an "infantry-first" directive (id. at 571-72) (I will note this has more editorialization about Alexander's orders than the rest of the account):


    The enemy had by then brought about another change in 18 Army Group's instructions to General Patton. Enemy antitank fire had for three days thwarted the attempt by Benson's armored force to smash through his lines. Enemy air attacks by 1 April were almost incessant, amounting to at least 163 sorties in 51 distinct attacks, killing fifteen and wounding fifty-five. Late that day, General Alexander therefore ordered that the tank attacks be discontinued, and he revived instead the original scheme of 25 March that infantry operations should open the way, with the tanks in support. The second phase, that of securing positions as far forward as the pass between Djebel Chemsi and Djebel Ben Kheïr, was now to begin.26
    Strict compliance with even these instructions was not yet possible, for the enemy still held Hill 772 and Hill 369, and dominated the pass to the north. It was already painfully apparent that II Corps' progress toward the coast had suffered severely from the cautious restraint and frequent changes in instructions imposed by 18 Army Group at the beginning of Operation WOP. Its restraining influence had permitted the enemy to occupy extremely defensible ground while the Americans were tethered to Gafsa and El Guettar. It was now obvious how unfortunate had been the withdrawal of the right flank on Djebel Berda on the night of 25 and 26 March. Yet it must be remembered that the object of these operations remained primarily to divert enemy reserves rather than to advance onto the coastal plain against the enemy's principal force. Even if the American armored column had been in a position to gain access, either by infantry action or its own bludgeoning attack, to the enemy's rear area, General Alexander would then have had to decide whether he thought such an operation was advisable. As General Patton explained to General Marshall, Alexander specified the scope of each operation. "All I have is actual conduct of the operations prescribed."27

    Bradley's memoirs and Patton's contemporary diary and letters home are consistent with the above.

    My point simply was that Patton was much less cavalier than Montgomery about disregarding orders from superiors. Montgomery's famous comment "When you receive an order you don't like, do what I do. Ignore it." was made to more than just Patton (can't recall who the other person was).
     
  15. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    You're presenting too much documented support for your statements, Jon. The "facts" were presented in Post 13.
     
  16. Jon Jordan

    Jon Jordan Junior Member

    You're presenting too much documented support for your statements, Jon. The "facts" were presented in Post 13.

    Yes, but now I figure I can rest on my laurels and generate editorial opinions as if they were established, uncontroverable facts....

    I will make one last caveat: I doubt any of us could do any better than Patton, Anderson, or Montgomery under the circumstances they had to contend with. It's easy to criticize any of them, British or American, when we have little more than a vague idea of what they were up against.
     
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Jon - I would agree for once with Slipdigit - all the "facts" were presented in my posting # 13 - thank you Jeff for your support as I know you to be an honest- polite and dignified man - not given to sarcasm -!

    While it may be easy for you to say - and Jeff to agree with you - that we don't know the conditions that Patton - Anderson and Montgomery fought under -

    I would once again disagree - as I served in North Africa - true just after the fighting ceased as I was just 19 at that time - before heading off to Italy for another long session of fighting cut short by being wounded at the Gothic Line - so I do know wherof I speak on various events and personalities involved in those areas at that particular time - which beats the hell out of reading books et al - you will have noted that I do not comment on the Burma - Pacific areas as I was not there and have done little study of those areas.....
    Cheers
     
  18. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Jon
    I will make one last caveat: I doubt any of us could do any better than Patton, Anderson, or Montgomery under the circumstances they had to contend with. It's easy to criticize any of them, British or American, when we have little more than a vague idea of what they were up against.


    HALLELUJAH !!!!!!!

    Ron
     
  19. Jon Jordan

    Jon Jordan Junior Member

    While it may be easy for you to say - and Jeff to agree with you - that we don't know the conditions that Patton - Anderson and Montgomery fought under -I would once again disagree - as I served in North Africa - true just after the fighting ceased as I was just 19 at that time - before heading off to Italy for another long session of fighting cut short by being wounded at the Gothic Line - so I do know wherof I speak on various events and personalities involved in those areas at that particular time - which beats the hell out of reading books et al -

    I would definitely bow to your personal experience on matters in which you were a participant. Undoubtedly you have a soldier's-eye view of the terrain, weather, and other conditions in which your unit served. I honor that travail and sacrifice, and would be loathe to contradict your recollections, absent contrary remembrances from similarly-situated men. In this I am quite sincere--not only as a matter of patriotism for the Allied cause, but as a matter of cold, fact-finding logic.

    But having served at 19 in North Africa in a fighting unit does not make one knowledgeable about command decisions in higher echelon headquarters units at that time; or the complicated reasons for those decisions; or the personalities who were involved in those decisions. From Aeschylus (who was but a rower during the war on which he based The Persae) to the Light Brigade and beyond, soldiers have been marching, fighting, and camping without necessarily knowing the why. Their movements equip them to describe the terrain, weather and immediate supply situation, which may give insight into command decisions, but often don't tell enough to pass judgment on the wisdom of an order. Such is the nature of hierarchy.

    If you have personal experience with Alexander, Patton, Anderson, Montgomery, or their views of the war or reasons for their decisions, then I'd love to hear it. If not, then you and I are both limited to "reading books et al" to find out why you were moved to the Gothic Line, or why Alexander ordered Patton to go no farther than Maknassy on the 19th of March, or why Montgomery wanted army boundaries adjusted on the 13th of July, and the conditions confronting those men at that time. Sadly, there are very few men left who can say "I was there when the decision was made."

    Cheers,
    Jon
     
    Slipdigit likes this.
  20. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    In case anyone is planning a visit to the Patton Museum, please be aware that the tank collection is in the process of being moved to Fort Benning, Georgia.

    That's only a couple of hours drive from where I live. I can't wait to see the T-28 (American style vs the Soviet T-28 :) )

    T-28 Superheavy Tank Destroyer image - Mod DB
     

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