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George Smith Patton III
November 11, 1885 (1885-11-11)December 21, 1945 (1945-12-22) (aged 60)
George S Patton Signature.svg
Then Lieutenant General George S. Patton
Nickname Old Blood and Guts
Place of birth San Gabriel, California
Place of death Heidelberg, Germany
Place of burial American Cemetery and Memorial
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1909–1945
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held Machinegun Platoon/3/15th Cavalry Regiment
K/3/15th Cavalry Regiment
A/1/7th Cavalry Regiment
HQs Troop/American Expeditionary Force
302nd Tank Center
1st Light Tank Battalion
1st Light Tank Regiment
1st Tank Brigade
304th Tank Brigade
3/3rd Cavalry Regiment
5th Cavalry Regiment
3rd Cavalry Regiment
2/2nd Armored Division
2nd Armored Division
US 1st Armored Corps
Desert Training Center
US 1st Armored Corps
U.S. II Corps
US 1st Armored Corps
U.S. Seventh Army
U.S. Third Army
U.S. Fifteenth Army
Battles/wars Mexican Revolution
  • Battle of San Miguelito

World War I

World War II

Awards Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Order of the Bath
Order of the British Empire
Relations Major General George Patton IV (son)
General John K. Waters (Son in law)

George Smith Patton, Jr. (also George Smith Patton III) (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945) was a United States Army officer most famous for his leadership commanding corps and armies as a general in World War II. He was also widely known for his controversial outspokenness and strong opinions.

Patton was commissioned in the army in 1909, and participated in the unsuccessful attempt to capture Pancho Villa in 1916–17. In World War I, he was the first officer assigned to the new United States Tank Corps[1][2] and saw action in France. After the war, he was a strong advocate of armored warfare.

In World War II, he commanded corps and armies in North Africa, Sicily, and the European Theater of Operations. Near the end of the Sicilian campaign, Patton jeopardized his career by slapping a soldier recuperating from battle fatigue at a hospital; Patton considered him a coward. The well-publicized incident caused General Dwight D. Eisenhower to relieve him of command. Thus, instead of playing a major part in the Normandy Landings and Operation Overlord, he was relegated to acting as a decoy in Operation Quicksilver. However, he was later given command of the U.S. Third Army and ably led it in breaking out of the hedgerows of Normandy and across France. A surprise German offensive at the Battle of the Bulge resulted in American units being surrounded in Bastogne, but Patton rapidly disengaged his army from fighting in another sector and moved it over 100 miles in 48 hours to relieve the siege.

Patton often got into trouble. In addition to the slapping incident, towards the end of the war he voiced his detestation and mistrust of the Soviet Union and his desire to fight it. However, he was greeted warmly by the public when he returned to the United States in June 1945. He died in December of that year after an automobile accident.



George Smith Patton was born in San Gabriel Township, California (in what is now the city of San Marino), to George Smith Patton, Sr. (1856–1927) and Ruth Wilson (1861–1928). Although he was technically the third George Smith Patton, he was given the name Junior. The Pattons were an affluent family of Scottish descent.

As a boy, Patton read widely in classics and military history. Patton's father was an acquaintance of John Singleton Mosby, a noted cavalry leader of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War who served first under J.E.B. Stuart and then as a guerrilla fighter. The younger Patton grew up hearing Mosby's stories of military glory. From an early age, the young Patton sought to become a general and hero in his own right.

Patton came from a long line of soldiers, including General Hugh Mercer of the American Revolution.[3] A great-grandfather, John M. Patton, was a governor of Virginia. His grandfather, Colonel George S. Patton, was killed during the Battle of Opequon. Colonel Patton was promoted to brigadier general by the Confederate Congress, but, at the time, had already died of battle wounds, so that the promotion was never official. A great-uncle, Waller T. Patton, died of wounds received in Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. Two other great-uncles, John M. Patton and Isaac Patton, served as colonels in the Confederate States Army, while yet another great uncle, William T. Glassell, was a Confederate States Navy officer. Another relative, Hugh Weedon Mercer, was a Confederate general.

His seventh great-grandfather was Louis Dubois, a French Huguenot immigrant, who with 11 others founded the town of New Paltz, New York. Another of Patton's ancestors was Francis Gregory, a first cousin of George Washington. Gregory married Francis Thornton III, a first cousin twice removed from James Madison and three times removed from Zachary Taylor.

Patton's paternal grandparents were Colonel George Smith Patton and Susan Thornton Glassell. Patton's grandfather, born in Fredericksburg, graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Class of 1852, second in a class of 24. After graduation, George Smith Patton studied law and practiced in Charleston. When the American Civil War broke out, he served in the 22nd Virginia Infantry of the Confederate States of America.

A younger Benjamin Davis Wilson ca. 1850.

Patton's grandfather left behind a namesake son, born in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia). The second George Smith Patton (born George William Patton in 1856, changing his name to honor his late father in 1868) was one of four children. Graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 1877, Patton's father served as L.A. County District Attorney and the first City Attorney for the city of Pasadena, California and the first mayor of San Marino, California. He was a Wilsonian Democrat.

His maternal grandparents were Benjamin Davis Wilson, (December 1, 1811 to March 11, 1878), the namesake of Southern California's Mount Wilson, and his second wife, Margaret Hereford. Wilson was a self-made man who was orphaned in Nashville, Tennessee, and made his fortune as a fur trapper and adventurer during the Indian Wars and the war against Mexico, before marrying the daughter of a Mexican land baron and settling in what would become California's San Gabriel Valley.

Patton married Beatrice Banning Ayer (January 12, 1886–September 30, 1953), the daughter of wealthy textile baron Frederick Ayer, on May 26, 1910. They had three children, Beatrice Smith (March 19, 1911–October 24, 1952), Ruth Ellen Patton Totten (February 28, 1915–November 25, 1993), who wrote The Button Box: A Loving Daughter's Memoir of Mrs. George S. Patton, and George Patton IV (December 24, 1923–June 27, 2004), who rose to the rank of major general. A cousin of George S.Patton was Democratic Congressman from Georgia Larry McDonald who was aboard Korean Air Lines Flight 007 when it was shot down by the Soviets just west of Sakhalin Island on September 1, 1983.

Education and early military service

Patton attended Virginia Military Institute for one year, where he rushed VMI's chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order. He then transferred to the United States Military Academy. The Academy compelled him to repeat his first "plebe" year because of his poor performance in mathematics. He repeated his plebe year with honors and was appointed Cadet Adjutant (the second highest position for a cadet), eventually graduating in 1909 instead of 1908 and receiving his commission as a cavalry officer.[4]


Fifth Olympiad

Patton participated in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm in the first-ever modern pentathalon. He placed sixth out of 37 contestants in 300 meter freestyle swimming. Patton was third out of 29 fencers. In the equestrian cross-country steeplechase, he was among the three riders who turned in perfect performances, but he placed third because of his time. Patton "hit the wall" 50 yards (46 m) from the finish line of the four kilometer cross-country footrace, then fainted after crossing the line at a walk. He finished third out of 15 contestants. He finished fifth overall.

Pistol shooting controversy

In pistol shooting, Patton placed 20th out of 32 contestants. He used a .38 caliber pistol, while most of the other competitors chose .22 caliber firearms. He claimed that the holes in the paper from early shots were so large that some of his later bullets passed through them, but the judges decided he missed the target completely once. Modern competitions on this level frequently now employ a moving background to specifically track multiple shots through the same hole.[5] There was much controversy, but the judges’ ruling was upheld. Patton neither complained, nor made excuses. Patton's only comment was

...the high spirit of sportsmanship and generosity manifested throughout speaks volumes for the character of the officers of the present day. There was not a single incident of a protest or any unsportsmanlike quibbling or fighting for points which I regret to say marred some of the other civilian competitions at the Olympic Games. Each man did his best and took what fortune sent them like a true soldier, and at the end we all felt more like good friends and comrades than rivals in a severe competition, yet this spirit of friendship in no manner detracted from the zeal with which all strove for success.[citation needed]

Master of the Sword and the Patton Saber

Following the 1912 Olympics, Patton traveled with his family to Dresden, Berlin, and Nuremberg. Seeking the greatest swordsman in Europe to study with, Patton was told the “beau sabreur” of the French Army would be the one. Adjutant M. Clèry was a French “master of arms” and instructor of fencing at the Cavalry School at Saumur. Patton went to Saumur for intense study with the master. Upon his return, Patton wrote a report that was revised for the Army and Navy Journal. Patton’s first article for the Cavalry Journal appeared in the March 1913 issue. In the summer of 1913, after he advised the Ordnance Department on sword redesign, Patton was allowed to return to Saumur to study once again under Clèry.

Lieutenant Patton was made the Army's youngest-ever "Master of the Sword" at the Mounted Service School at Fort Riley, Kansas. While Master of the Sword, Patton became an instructor at Fort Riley and improved and modernized the Army's cavalry saber fencing techniques.

Earlier in the year, he assisted in the design of the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber. It had a large, basket-shaped hilt mounting a straight, double-edged, thrusting blade designed for use by light cavalry. Patton's 1914 manual "Saber Exercise" outlined a system of training for both mounted and on foot use of the saber. The weapon came to be known as the "Patton Saber." There is no one sword that this saber was modeled after. Patton suggested the revision from a curved sword and edge and cutting technique to a thrusting style of attack, following his extensive training in France. Patton's thoughts were expressed in his 1913 report "The Form and Use of the Saber":

In the Peninsula War the English nearly always used the sword for cutting. The French dragoons, on the contrary, used only the point which, with their long straight swords caused almost always a fatal wound. This made the English say that the French did not fight fair. Marshal Saxe wished to arm the French cavalry with a blade of a triangular cross section so as to make the use of the point obligatory. At Wagram, when the cavalry of the guard passed in review before a charge, Napoleon called to them, "Don't cut! The point! The point!" [6]

The weapon was never used as intended. At the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War I, several American cavalry units armed with sabers were sent to the front but they were held back; the nature of war had changed, making horse-mounted troops easy prey for enemy troops equipped with Gewehr 98 rifles and MG08 machine guns. However, Patton took his style of move forward and attack technique to his use of the tank in battle. This would become his trademark combat style.

Punitive Expedition into Mexico

Generals Villa, Obregón, and Pershing after meeting at Fort Bliss, Texas. Patton is immediately behind Pershing.

During the Punitive Expedition of 1916, Patton was assigned to the 8th Cavalry Regiment[7] at Fort Bliss, Texas. He served as aide to then-Brigadier General John J. Pershing in his pursuit of Pancho Villa, after Villa's forces had crossed into New Mexico, raided and looted the town of Columbus, and killed several Americans. Patton, accompanied by ten soldiers of the 6th Infantry Regiment, and using three armored cars, conducted the United States' first armored vehicle attack, and in the process killed two Mexican leaders, including "General" Julio Cardenas, commander of Villa's personal bodyguard. The bodies were brought back from San Miguelito to Pershing's headquarters strapped to the hoods of the vehicles in a manner similar to game animals brought back by hunters. For this action, as well as Patton's affinity for the Colt Peacemaker, Pershing titled Patton his "Bandito." Patton's success in this regard gained him a level of fame in the United States, and he was featured in newspapers across the nation.[8]

World War I

Patton in France in 1918

At the outset of the U.S. entry into World War I, then-Major General Pershing promoted Patton to the rank of captain. While in France, Patton requested a combat command. Pershing assigned him to the newly formed United States Tank Corps. In November 1917, Patton left Paris and reported to General Garrard of the French Army. At Champlieu, Patton drove a Renault char d’assault tank and tested its trench-crossing ability. Depending on the source, he either led the U.S. tanks or was an observer at the 1917 Battle of Cambrai, where tanks were first used in significant numbers. As the U.S. Tank Corps did not take part in this battle, the role of observer is the more likely. However, in The Patton Papers: 1885–1940, author Martin Blumenson makes no mention of Patton being at Cambrai, stating only that on December 1, Patton went to Albert, not too far from Cambrai, to discuss the ongoing battle with the chief of staff of the British Tank Corps, Colonel J. F. C. Fuller.[9] Patton received his first ten tanks on March 23, 1918 at the Tank School and Centre, which he commanded, at Langres, Haute-Marne department. The only one with tank driving experience, Patton himself, backed seven of the light, two-man Renault FT-17 tanks off the train.[10]

For his successes and his organization of the training school, Patton was promoted to major, lieutenant colonel and then colonel, U.S. National Army. In August 1918, he was placed in charge of the 1st Provisional Tank Brigade, redesignated the 304th Tank Brigade on November 6, 1918. Patton’s Light Tank Brigade was part of Colonel Samuel Rockenbach’s Tank Corps, which was in turn part of the American Expeditionary Force. (Patton was not in charge of the Tank Corps as has often been misreported.) The 304th Tank Brigade fought as part of the First United States Army.

On September 26, 1918, Patton was wounded in the left leg while leading six men in an attack on German machine guns during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. The only survivors were Patton and his orderly Private First Class Joe Angelo, who saved Patton and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.[11] While Patton was recuperating from his wounds, hostilities ended.

For his service in the Meuse-Argonne Operations, Patton received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal, and was given a battlefield promotion to a full colonel. For his combat wounds, he was presented the Purple Heart.

Interwar years

While on duty in Washington, D.C. in 1919, Captain (he reverted from his wartime temporary rank of colonel) Patton met Dwight D. Eisenhower, who would play an enormous role in Patton's future career. During their assignment at Fort Riley, Kansas, Patton and Eisenhower developed the armored doctrine which would be used by the US Army in World War II. In the early 1920s, Patton petitioned the U.S. Congress to appropriate funding for an armored force, but had little luck. Patton also wrote professional articles on tank and armored car tactics, suggesting new methods for their use. He also continued working on improvements to tanks, coming up with innovations in radio communication and tank mounts. However, the lack of interest in armor created a poor atmosphere for promotion and career advancement, so Patton transferred back to the horse cavalry.

Patton served in Hawaii before returning to Washington to once again ask Congress for funding for armored units. During his time in Hawaii, Patton was responsible for the defense of the islands, and specifically wrote a defense plan anticipating an air raid against Pearl Harbor—10 years before the infamous attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on December 7, 1941. At the wedding of Patton's daughter Ruth Ellen, a couple who knew Patton from Hawaii (Restarick and Jacqueline Withington) crashed the wedding, and explained they were in the area when they saw the wedding announcement and hoped Patton didn't mind them showing up uninvited. To this Patton unsheathed his sword and replied, "Resterick [sic], if I’d found out you were within a hundred miles and not come, I’d have shoved this sword up your behind.” This humorous encounter reflects the outlandishness and kinship Patton was known for.[12]

In July 1932, Patton served under Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur as a major commanding 600 troops, including the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. On July 28, MacArthur ordered these troops to advance on protesting veterans known as the "Bonus Army" in Washington, D.C. with tear gas and bayonets. Ironically, one of the veterans dispersed by the cavalry was Joe Angelo, who had saved Patton's life in World War I.

In the late 1930s, Patton was assigned command of Fort Myer, Virginia. Shortly after Germany's blitzkrieg attacks in Europe, Major General Adna Chaffee, the first Chief of the U.S. Army's newly-created Armored Force was finally able to convince Congress of the need for armored divisions. This led to the activation of the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions in 1940. Colonel Patton was given command of the 2nd Armored Brigade, US 2nd Armored Division in July 1940. He became the assistant division commander the following October, and was promoted to brigadier general on the second day of that month. Patton served as the acting division commander from November 1940 until April 1941. He was promoted to major general on April 4 and made commanding general of the 2nd Armored Division seven days later.

World War II

During the buildup of the United States Army prior to its entry into World War II, Patton commanded the 2nd Armored Division, which performed with mixed results in 1941 in both the Louisiana Maneuvers and Carolina Maneuvers. The 2nd Armored was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, until the unit, along with its commander, was ordered to the newly established Desert Training Center in Indio, California, by the Chief of the Armored Force, Major General Jacob L. Devers. Patton was subsequently appointed commander of the newly activated I Armored Corps by Devers, and he was in this position when the corps was assigned to Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. In preparation, Patton trained his troops in the Imperial Valley. He commenced these exercises in late 1941 and continued them well into the summer of 1942. Patton chose a 10,000-acre (40 km2) expanse of unforgiving desert, known for its blistering temperatures, sandy arroyos and absolute desolation. It was a close match for the terrain Patton and his men would encounter during the campaigns in North Africa. To this day, one can still find tank tracks, foxholes and spent shell casing in an area about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Palm Springs.

North African campaign

In 1942, Major General Patton commanded the Western Task Force of the U.S. Army, which landed on the coast of Vichy French-held Morocco in Operation Torch for the North African Campaign. Patton and his staff arrived in Morocco aboard the heavy cruiser USS Augusta, which came under fire from the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart while entering the harbor of Casablanca. Casablanca fell after four days of fighting. So impressed was the Sultan of Morocco that he presented Patton with the special Order of Ouissam Alaouite, with the citation: "Les Lions dans leurs tanières tremblent en le voyant approcher" (The lions in their dens tremble at his approach).[13]

In 1943, following the defeat of the U.S. II Corps (then part of British 1st Army) by the German Afrika Korps, first at the Battle of Sidi Bou Zid and again at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, General Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Major General Ernest Harmon to assess the II Corps.

On March 6, 1943, as a result of Harmon's report, Patton replaced Major General Lloyd Fredendall as commander of the II Corps. Patton was also promoted to lieutenant general. Soon thereafter, Patton had Omar Bradley reassigned to his corps as deputy commander. Thus began a long wartime association between the two different personalities.

It is said that his troops preferred to serve with him rather than his predecessor since they thought their chances of survival were higher under Patton.[citation needed] For instance, Patton required all personnel to wear steel helmets (even physicians in the operating wards) and required his troops to wear the unpopular lace-up canvas leggings and neckties since the leggings prevented injury from scorpions, spiders and rats which would climb up under soldiers' trousers. A system of fines was introduced to ensure all personnel shaved daily and observed other uniform requirements. While these measures may not have made Patton popular, they did tend to restore a sense of discipline and unit pride that may have been missing when Fredendall was still in command. In a play on his nickname, "Old Blood and Guts," troops joked that it was "our blood and his guts."[14]

The discipline Patton instilled paid off quickly.[citation needed] By mid-March 1943, the counter-offensive of the U.S. II Corps, along with the rest of the British 1st Army, pushed the Germans and Italians eastwards. Meanwhile the British Eighth Army, commanded by General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, simultaneously pushed them westwards, effectively squeezing the Germans and Italians into a smaller and smaller portion of Tunisia and out of North Africa altogether by mid-May.

Sicily campaign

Near Brolo, Sicily. 1943

As a result of his performance in North Africa, Patton received command of the Seventh Army in preparation for the 1943 invasion of Sicily. The Seventh Army's mission was to protect the left (western) flank of the British Eighth Army as both advanced northwards towards Messina.

Officers quoted General Patton's speech to them before the invasion of Sicily, referring to Italians and Germans:

When we land against the enemy, don't forget to hit him and hit him hard. When we meet the enemy we will kill him. We will show him no mercy. He has killed thousands of your comrades and he must die. If your company officers in leading your men against the enemy find him shooting at you and when you get within two hundred yards of him he wishes to surrender—oh no! That bastard will die! You will kill him. Stick him between the third and fourth ribs. You will tell your men that. They must have the killer instinct. Tell them to stick him. Stick him in the liver. We will get the name of killers and killers are immortal. When word reaches him that he is being faced by a killer battalion he will fight less. We must build up that name as killers.

George S. Patton[15]

The Seventh Army repulsed several German counterattacks in the beachhead area before beginning its push north. Meanwhile, the Eighth Army stalled south of Mount Etna in the face of strong German defenses. The Army Group commander, Harold Alexander, exercised only the loosest control over his two commanders. Montgomery therefore took the initiative to meet with Patton in an attempt to work out a coordinated campaign.

Patton formed a provisional corps under his Chief of Staff, and quickly pushed through western Sicily, liberating the capital, Palermo, and then swiftly turned east towards Messina. American forces liberated the port city in accordance with the plan jointly devised by Montgomery and Patton. However, the Italians and Germans used their air and naval supremacy[citation needed] to evacuate all of their soldiers and much of their heavy equipment across the Strait of Messina to the Italian mainland.

Slapping incident and removal from command

The "slapping incident", which occurred on August 3, 1943[16] nearly ended Patton's career. The matter became known after newspaper columnist Drew Pearson revealed it on his November 21 radio program, reporting that General Patton had been "severely reprimanded" as a result.[17] Allied Headquarters denied that Patton had been reprimanded, but confirmed that Patton had slapped a soldier. While one incident received wide publicity, two soldiers in similar circumstances were slapped, the second was Pvt. Paul G. Bennett on August 10, 1943 at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital.[4][18][19]

In the first incident, according to witnesses, General Patton was visiting patients at a military hospital in Sicily, and came upon a 27-year-old soldier named Charles H. Kuhl, who was weeping. Patton asked "What's the matter with you?" and the soldier replied, "It's my nerves, I guess. I can't stand shelling." Patton "thereupon burst into a rage" and "employing much profanity, he called the soldier a 'coward'" and ordered him back to the front. As a crowd gathered, including the hospital's commanding officer, the doctor who had admitted the soldier, and a nurse, Patton then "struck the youth in the rear of the head with the back of his hand." Reportedly, the nurse "made a dive toward Patton, but was pulled back by a doctor" and the commander intervened. Patton went to other patients, then returned and berated the soldier again.[20]

When General Eisenhower learned of the incident, he ordered Patton to make amends, after which, it was reported, "Patton's conduct then became as generous as it had been furious," and he apologized to the soldier "and to all those present at the time,"[21] After the film Patton was released in 1970, Charles H. Kuhl recounted the story and said that Patton had slapped him across the face and then kicked him as he walked away. "After he left, they took me in and admitted me in the hospital, and found out I had malaria," Kuhl noted, adding that when Patton apologized personally (at Patton's headquarters) "He said he didn't know that I was as sick as I was." Kuhl, who later worked as a sweeper for Bendix Corporation in Mishawaka, Indiana, added that Patton was "a great general" and added that "I think at the time it happened, he was pretty well worn out himself."[22] Kuhl died on January 24, 1971.[23]

Kuhl's parents had avoided mention of the matter "because they did not wish to make trouble for General Patton."[24] Eisenhower thought of sending Patton home in disgrace, as many newspapers demanded, but after consulting with George Marshall, Eisenhower decided to keep Patton in the European theater, though without a major command. This decision was not based on the slapping incident alone, but also on confirmed intelligence that the Germans believed Patton would be leading the Allied assault into Nazi-held territory.[25] Eisenhower used Patton's "furlough" as a trick to mislead the Germans as to where the next attack would be, since Patton was the general the German High Command believed would lead the attack. During the ten months Patton was relieved of duty, his prolonged stay in Sicily was interpreted by the Germans as an indication of an upcoming invasion of southern France. Later, a stay in Cairo was viewed as heralding an invasion through the Balkans. German intelligence misinterpreted what happened and made faulty plans as a result.

In the months before the June 1944 Normandy invasion, Patton gave public talks as commander of the fictional First U.S. Army Group (FUSAG), which was supposedly intending to invade France by way of Calais. This was part of a sophisticated Allied campaign of military disinformation, Operation Quicksilver. The Germans misallocated their forces as a result, and were slow to respond to the actual landings at Normandy.[26]

In a story recounted by Professor Richard Holmes, just three days before D-Day, during a reception in the London Ritz Hotel, Patton shouted across a crowded reception in the direction of Eisenhower "I'll see you in Calais!", much to the consternation of all those around him. The ploy appears to have worked as reports of overnight troop movements north from Normandy were detected by Bletchley Park code decrypts.


Following the Normandy invasion, Patton was placed in command of the U.S. Third Army, which was on the extreme right (west) of the Allied land forces. Beginning at noon on August 1, 1944, he led this army during the late stages of Operation Cobra, the breakout from earlier slow fighting in the Normandy hedgerows. The Third Army simultaneously attacked west (into Brittany), south, east towards the Seine, and north, assisting in trapping several hundred thousand German soldiers in the Chambois pocket, between Falaise and Argentan, Orne.

Patton's units generally took positions by frontal assault with his armor used in the infantry support role. Once the breakthrough was achieved the armor was used for exploitation in the manner of Civil War Cavalry advancing unopposed over vast distances, covering 60 miles (97 km) in just two weeks, from Avranches to Argentan. Patton's forces were part of the Allied forces that freed northern France, bypassing Paris. The city itself was liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division under French General Leclerc, insurgents who were fighting in the city, and the US 4th Infantry Division. The French 2nd Armored Division had recently been transferred from the 3rd Army, and many of the unit's soldiers thought they were still part of 3rd Army. These early 3rd Army offensives showed the characteristic high mobility and aggressiveness of Patton's units, but which was only possible because of the absence of German heavy armor. Patton demonstrated an understanding of the use of combined arms by using the XIX Tactical Air Command of the Ninth Air Force to protect his right (southern) flank during his advance to the Seine.


General Patton's offensive, however, came to a screeching halt on August 31, 1944, as the Third Army literally ran out of gas near the Moselle River, just outside of Metz, France. One explanation for this was that Patton's ambition was to conquer Germany, and refused to recognize that he was engaged in a secondary line of attack.[27] Others suggest that General John C.H. Lee, commander of the Zone of Communication, chose that time to move his headquarters to the more comfortable environs of Paris. Some 30 truck companies were diverted to that end, rather than providing support to the fighting armies.

Patton expected that the Theater Commander would keep fuel and supplies flowing to support successful advances. However, Eisenhower favored a "broad front" approach to the ground-war effort, believing that a single thrust would have to drop off flank protection, and would quickly lose its punch. Still, within the constraints of a very large effort overall, Eisenhower gave Montgomery and his 21st Army Group a strong priority for supplies for Operation Market Garden.[28] The combination of Montgomery being given priority for supplies, and diversion of resources to moving the Communications Zone, resulted in the Third Army running out of gas in Alsace-Lorraine while exploiting German weakness.[29] In late September, a large German panzer counter attack sent expressly to stop the advance of Patton's Third Army was defeated by the 4th Armored Division at the Battle of Arracourt. Despite the victory, the Third Army stayed in place as a result of Eisenhower's order. Ironically, the Germans believed this was because their counterattack had been successful.[30]

Patton's rapid drive through the Lorraine demonstrated his keen appreciation for the technological advantages of the U.S. Army. The major US and Allied advantages were in mobility and air superiority. The U.S. Army had a greater number of trucks, more reliable tanks, and better radio communications, which all contributed to a superior ability to operate at a high tempo. However, probably the key to Patton's success compared to all of the other U.S. and British forces, which had similar advantages, was his intensive use of close air support; the Third Army had by far more G-2 officers at headquarters specifically designated to coordinate air strikes than any other army.[31] Third Army's attached close air support group was XIX Tactical Air Command, commanded by Gen. Otto P. Weyland. Developed originally by Gen. Elwood Quesada of IX TAC for the First Army at Operation Cobra the technique of "armored column cover" whereby close air support was directed by an air traffic controller in one of the attacking tanks was used extensively by the Third Army.[32] In addition, because Patton's rapid drive resulted in a salient that was vulnerable to flanking attacks and getting trapped by the Germans, Weyland and Patton developed the concept of using intensive aerial armed reconnaissance to protect the flanks of this salient. Microwave Early Warning (MEW) radar, another technique pioneered by Quesada, was also used by XIX TAC to both cover against Luftwaffe attacks and to vector flights already in the air to new sites as an air traffic control radar. As a result of the close cooperation between Patton and Weyland, XIX TAC would end up providing far more air sorties for ground support for the Third Army than the other attached Tactical Air Commands would for the First and Ninth Armies. Despite their success, however, Eisenhower had faith only in the traditional method of advancing across a broad front to avoid the problem of flanking attacks, which most accounts for the decisions to halt the Third Army.

The halt of the Third Army during the month of September was enough to allow the Germans to further fortify the fortress of Metz. In October and November, the Third Army was mired in a near-stalemate with the Germans, with heavy casualties on both sides. By November 23, however, Metz had finally fallen to the Americans, the first time the city had been taken since the Franco-Prussian War.

Battle of the Bulge

Bradley, Eisenhower, and Patton

In late 1944, the German army launched a last-ditch offensive across Belgium, Luxembourg, and northeastern France, popularly known as the Battle of the Bulge, nominally led by German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. On December 16, 1944, the German army massed 29 divisions (totaling some 250,000 men) at a weak point in the Allied lines and made massive headway towards the Meuse River during one of the worst winters Europe had seen in years.

Patton disengaged his forward attacking units when he became aware of the scope of the attack, and re-directed a corps-sized element toward the North before setting out for a strategic meeting with Eisenhower, Bradley and the rest of the allied high command. Thus, he was able to tell Eisenhower that his forces would be in position to counter-attack almost immediately.

Needing just 24 hours of good weather, Patton ordered the Third Army Chaplain, Colonel James O'Neill, to come up with a prayer beseeching God to grant this. When the weather did clear soon after, Patton awarded O'Neill a Bronze Star on the spot.[4]

Patton turned the Third Army abruptly north (a notable tactical and logistical achievement), disengaging from the front line to relieve the surrounded and besieged U.S. troops holding the Belgian crossroads town of Bastogne. Many military historians remark that this complicated maneuver was Patton's (and the Third Army's) greatest accomplishment during the war. (John MacDonald, a management consultant specializing in operations and quality control, cites it as one of the greatest examples of logistics, stating, "General Patton is extolled as one of the greatest battlefield commanders and motivators of military troops, yet probably his greatest military achievement, unsurpassed at the time, was the logistic repositioning, within twenty-four hours, of a whole army corps at the Battle of the Bulge."[33]) By February, the Germans were in full retreat and Patton had pushed units into the Saarland. Elements of the Third Army crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim on March 22, 1945.

On March 26, 1945, Patton sent Task Force Baum to liberate his son-in-law from a POW camp OFLAG XIII-B, 50 miles behind the German lines near Hammelburg. Patton later reported it was the only mistake he made during WWII.[34]

Patton's operations staff was drafting plans to take the city of Prague, Czechoslovakia, when Eisenhower, under pressure from the Soviets[35], ordered American forces in Czechoslovakia to stop short of the city limits. Patton's troops liberated Pilsen, on May 6, 1945, and most of western Bohemia.

June 1945 visit to California

Patton during a parade in Los Angeles, California.

Largely overlooked in history is the warm reception that Patton received on June 9, 1945, when he and Army Air Forces Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle were honored with a parade through Los Angeles and a reception at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before a crowd of over 100,000 people. The next day, Patton and Doolittle toured the metropolitan Los Angeles area. Patton spoke in front of the Burbank City Hall and at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. He wore his helmet with a straight line of stars, chest full of medals, and two ivory[36] handled trademark pistols (not pearl, as is often incorrectly asserted). He punctuated his speech with some of the same profanity that he had used with the troops. He spoke about conditions in Europe and the Russian allies to the adoring crowds. This may be the only time in America when civilians, en masse, heard and saw the famous warrior on the podium.

During this visit, Patton quietly donated an original copy of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, which he had smuggled out of Germany in violation of JCS 1067, to the Huntington Library, a world-class repository of historical original papers, books, and maps, in San Marino. Patton instructed physicist Robert Millikan, then the chairman of the board of trustees of the Huntington Library, to make no official record of the transaction, and to keep their possession of the materials secret during Patton's lifetime. The Huntington Library retained the Nuremberg Laws in a basement vault in spite of a legal instruction in 1969 by the general's family to turn over all of his papers to the Library of Congress. On June 26, 1999, Robert Skotheim, then the president of the Huntington Library, announced that the Library was to permanently lend the Nuremberg Laws to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where they are currently on display.

Accident and death

Patton's grave in Hamm, Luxembourg.

On December 9, 1945, Patton was severely injured in a road accident. He and his chief of staff, Major General Hobart R. "Hap" Gay, were on a day trip to hunt pheasants in the country outside Mannheim. Their 1938 Cadillac Model 75 was driven by Private First Class Horace Woodring (1926–2003), with Patton sitting in the back seat on the right side, with General Gay on his left, as per custom. At 11:45 near Neckarstadt (Mannheim-Käfertal), a 2½ ton GMC truck driven by Technical Sergeant Robert L. Thompson made a left turn in front of Patton's Cadillac. Patton's car hit the front of the truck, at a low speed.

At first the crash seemed minor, the vehicles were hardly damaged, no one in the truck was hurt, and Gay and Woodring were uninjured. However, Patton was leaning back with trouble breathing. The general had been thrown forward and his head struck a metal part of the partition between the front and back seats, incurring a cervical spinal cord injury. Paralyzed from the neck down, he was rushed to the military hospital in Heidelberg. Patton died of a pulmonary embolism on December 21, 1945. The funeral service was held at the Christ Church (Christuskirche) in Heidelberg-Südstadt.

Patton was buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg along with other members of the Third Army, as per Patton's request to "be buried with my men."[37] On March 19, 1947, his body was moved from the original grave site in the cemetery to its current prominent location at the head of his former troops. A cenotaph was placed at the Wilson-Patton family plot at the San Gabriel Cemetery in San Gabriel, California, adjacent to the Church of Our Saviour (Episcopal), where Patton was baptized and confirmed. In the narthex of the sanctuary of the church is a stained glass window honor which features, among other highlights of Patton's career, a picture of him riding in a tank. A statue of General Patton was placed between the church and the family plot. Patton's car was repaired and used by other officers. The car is now on display with other Patton artifacts at the General George Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Controversies and criticism

Patton more than once caused political irritations and was criticized for some controversial faux pas, such as the slapping incident in 1943. Patton, in several reports, insisted on the highest standard of order and grooming within his army's area and imposed fines for anyone who violated his strict guidelines.

Patton's problems with humor, his image, and the press

Unlike Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was popular with troops partly for his self-effacing humor, Patton disliked jokes aimed at himself, feeling that accepting such jokes would decrease the respect which he felt that troops should have toward their commanders.

Patton reportedly had the utmost respect for the men serving in his command but had no regard for men who had battle fatigue.[38] The cartoonist Bill Mauldin ridiculed Patton several times in his comics, prompting Patton to summon Sergeant Mauldin to his headquarters for a dressing-down. On the other hand, he was himself capable of the occasional blunt witticism: "The two most dangerous weapons the Germans have are our own armored halftrack and jeep. The halftrack because the boys in it go all heroic, thinking they are in a tank. The jeep because we have so many God-awful drivers." During the Battle of the Bulge, he famously remarked that the Allies should "let the sons-of-bitches [Germans] go all the way to Paris, then we'll cut 'em off and round 'em up!" He also suggested facetiously that his Third Army could "drive the British [his allies] back into the sea for another Dunkirk."[39]

His remarks frequently ridiculed General Montgomery and at times the Soviet Red Army, contributing to inter-Allied discord. In the context of coalition warfare, these remarks were occasionally harmful. Eisenhower wisely used Patton's high profile with the press to contribute to Operation Fortitude; he knew the press would report on his appearances in Britain and that the Germans would pick up these reports.

Patton has a reputation today as a senior general who was very impatient with the officers under his command, compared to his most famous colleague, Omar Bradley, but the truth is far more complicated. Patton actually fired only one general during the entire war, Orlando Ward, and only after two warnings, whereas Bradley sacked numerous generals during the war with little provocation, sometimes for the slightest transgression.

Patton deliberately cultivated a flashy, distinctive image in the belief that this would motivate his troops. He was usually seen wearing a highly polished helmet, riding pants, and high cavalry boots. He carried flashy ivory-handled, nickel-plated revolvers as his most famous sidearms (a Colt Single Action Army .45 "Peacemaker" and later also a S&W Model 27 .357). His vehicles carried oversized rank insignia and loud sirens. His speech was riddled with profanities. The toughness of his image and character appeared well-suited to the conditions of battle. Patton received many eulogies from the reporters who had followed him, including a tribute from a UPI writer who wrote, "Gen. George S. Patton believed he was the greatest soldier who ever lived. He made himself believe he would never falter through doubt. This absolute faith in himself as a strategist and master of daring infected his entire army, until the men of the second American corps in Africa, and later the third army in France, believed they could not be defeated under his leadership."[40]

After the German surrender

After the surrender of May 8, 1945 eliminated the threat of Nazi Germany, Patton was quick to assert the Soviet Union would cease to be an ally of the United States. He was concerned that some 25,000 American POWs had been liberated from POW camps by the Soviets, but never returned to the US. In fact, he urged his superiors to evict the Soviets from central and eastern Europe. Patton thought that the Red Army was weak, under-supplied, and vulnerable, and the United States should act on these weaknesses before the Soviets could consolidate their position. In this regard, he told then-Undersecretary of War Robert P. Patterson that the "point system" being used to demobilize Third Army troops was destroying it and creating a vacuum that the Soviets would exploit. "Mr. Secretary, for God’s sake, when you go home, stop this point system; stop breaking up these armies," pleaded the general. "Let’s keep our boots polished, bayonets sharpened, and present a picture of force and strength to these people, the Soviets. This is the only language they understand." Asked by Patterson—who would become Secretary of War a few months later—what he would do, Patton replied: "I would have you tell the Red Army where their border is, and give them a limited time to get back across. Warn them that if they fail to do so, we will push them back across it."[41]

On a personal level, Patton was disappointed by the Army's refusal to give him a combat command in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Unhappy with his role as the military governor of Bavaria and depressed by his belief that he would never fight in another war, Patton's behavior and statements became increasingly erratic. Various explanations beyond his disappointments have been proposed for Patton's behavior at this point. Carlo D'Este, in Patton: A Genius for War, writes that "it seems virtually inevitable ... that Patton experienced some type of brain damage from too many head injuries" from a lifetime of numerous auto- and horse-related accidents, especially one suffered while playing polo in 1936.[4]

Many of the controversial opinions he expressed were common (if not exactly popular) at the time and his outspoken opposition to post-surrender denazification is still widely debated today. Many still laud his generous treatment of his former German enemies and his early recognition of the Soviet threat, while detractors say his protests reflect the views of a bigoted elitist. Whatever the cause, Patton found himself once again in trouble with his superiors and the American people. While speaking to a group of reporters, he compared the Nazis to losers in American political elections, and that being a Nazi in Germany was, "like being a Democrat in the States." Patton was soon relieved of command of Third Army and transferred to the Fifteenth Army, a paper command preparing a history of the war.

Attitudes on race and nationality

Considering the period, Patton's attitude toward minorities was neither negative nor positive. His attitudes were varied depending on time and circumstance, with military necessity being of particular importance.

On black soldiers: "Individually they were good soldiers, but I expressed my belief at the time, and have never found the necessity of changing it, that a colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor."[42]

Patton stated that performance was more important than race or religious affiliation:[43] "I don't give a damn who the man is. He can be a nigger or a Jew, but if he has the stuff and does his duty, he can have anything I've got. By God! I love him."[43][44]

Later, Patton addressed a group of African-American tankers, saying:

Men, you're the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren't good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of bitches. Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all your race is looking forward to you. Don't let them down and damn you, don't let me down![45]

Patton also insisted on the assignment of some black officers as judges in military tribunals involving black defendants,[43] and he spent more time with his African-American aide, Sergeant Meeks, than with nearly anyone else while in Europe,[43] developing a relationship of mutual respect that transcended that of a general with his valet. Patton disliked the British,[43] but appreciated Montgomery's organizational abilities more than either Eisenhower or Bradley did.[43]

Patton was horrified at what he found when his Third Army liberated Buchenwald concentration camp. Local German citizens claimed that they didn't know what was going on, though at least a few admitted to knowing of the atrocities but insisted they had been powerless to stop it. He ordered American troops to round up the approximately 2,000 local Germans and march them through the camps. He wanted them to see the atrocities firsthand.

Though many of his attitudes were common in his day, as with all of his opinions, he was often exceptionally blunt in his expression of them. He once wrote:

The difficulty in understanding the Russian is that we do not take cognizance of the fact that he is not a European, but an Asiatic, and therefore thinks deviously. We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinese or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand them except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them. In addition to his other amiable characteristics, the Russian has no regard for human life and they are all out sons-of-bitches, barbarians, and chronic drunks.[46]

After reading the Koran and observing North Africans, he wrote to his wife, "Just finished reading the Koran—a good book and interesting." Patton had a keen eye for native customs and methods, wrote knowingly of local architecture, even rated the progress of word-of-mouth rumor in Arab country at 40–60 miles a day. In spite of his regard for the Koran, he concluded, "To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Mohammad and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab. . . . Here, I think, is a text for some eloquent sermon on the virtues of Christianity" (both Patton and Halsey were Episcopalians).[47][48]

Task Force Baum

In March 1945, Patton sent Task Force Baum, consisting of 314 men, 16 tanks, and assorted other vehicles, 50 miles (80 km.) behind enemy lines to liberate a prisoner of war camp. One of the inmates was Patton's son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters. The raid was an utter fiasco. Only 35 men made it back; the rest were either killed or captured, and all 57 vehicles were lost. Waters himself was shot and had to be left at the camp. When Eisenhower learned of the secret mission, he was furious.

Relations with Eisenhower

Patton (seated, second from left) and Eisenhower (seated, middle) with other American military officials, 1945.

The relationship between George S. Patton and Dwight Eisenhower has long been of interest to historians in that the onset of World War II completely reversed the roles of the two men in the space of just under two years. When Patton and Eisenhower met in the mid 1920s, Patton was six years Eisenhower’s senior in the Army and Eisenhower saw Patton as a leading mind in tank warfare.

Between 1935 and 1940, Patton and Eisenhower developed a very close friendship to the level where the Patton and Eisenhower families were spending summer vacations together. In 1938, Patton was promoted to full colonel and Eisenhower, then still a lieutenant colonel, openly admitted that he saw Patton as a friend, superior officer, and mentor.

Upon the outbreak of World War II, Patton’s expertise in mechanized warfare was recognized by the Army, and he was quickly made a brigadier general and, less than a year later, a major general. In 1940, Lt. Col. Eisenhower petitioned Brigadier General Patton, offering to serve under the tank corps commander. Patton accepted readily, stating that he would like nothing better than for Eisenhower to be placed under his command.

George Marshall, recognizing that the coming conflict would require all available military talent, had other plans for Eisenhower. In 1941, after five years as a relatively unknown lieutenant colonel, Eisenhower was promoted to colonel and then again to brigadier general in just 6 months time. Patton was still senior to Eisenhower in the Regular Army, but this was soon not the case in the growing conscript army (known as the Army of the United States). In 1942, Eisenhower was promoted to major general and, just a few months later, to lieutenant general—outranking Patton for the first time. When the Allies announced the invasion of North Africa, Major General Patton suddenly found himself under the command of his former subordinate, now one star his superior.

In 1943, Patton became a lieutenant general one month after Eisenhower was promoted to full (four-star) general. Patton was unusually reserved in never publicly commenting on Eisenhower's rapid rise. Patton also reassured Eisenhower that the two men’s professional relationship was unaffected. Privately however, Patton was often quick to remind Eisenhower that his permanent rank in the Regular Army, then still a one-star brigadier general, was lower than Patton’s Regular Army commission as a two-star major general.

When Patton came under criticism for the "Sicily slapping incident" (see above), Eisenhower met privately with Patton and reprimanded him.

Eisenhower is also credited with giving Patton a command in France, after other powers in the Army had relegated Patton to various unimportant duties in England. It was in France that Patton found himself in the company of another former subordinate, Omar Bradley, who had also become his superior. As with Eisenhower, Patton behaved with professionalism and served under Bradley with distinction.

After the close of World War II, Patton (now a full general) became the occupation commander of Bavaria, and made arrangements for saving the world-famous Lipizzaner stallions of Vienna, fearing that the Red Army would slaughter the horses for food. Patton was relieved of duty after openly revolting against the punitive occupation directive JCS 1067.[49] His view of the war was that with Hitler gone, the German army could be rebuilt into an ally in a potential war against the Russians, whom Patton notoriously despised and considered a greater menace than the Germans. During this period, he wrote that the Allied victory would be in vain if it led to a tyrant worse than Hitler and an army of "Mongolian savages" controlling half of Europe. Eisenhower had at last had enough, relieving Patton of all duties and ordering his return to the United States. When Patton openly accused Eisenhower of caring more about a political career than his military duties, their friendship effectively came to an end.

In addition, Patton was highly critical of the victorious Allies use of German forced labor. He commented in his diary "I’m also opposed to sending PW’s to work as slaves in foreign lands (in particular, to France) where many will be starved to death." He also noted "It is amusing to recall that we fought the revolution in defence of the rights of man and the civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles."[50] (See also Rheinwiesenlager).

Near the end of the war (February 1945), Eisenhower ranked the capabilities of U.S. generals in Europe. Omar Bradley and Carl Spaatz he rated as the best. Walter Bedell Smith was ranked number 3, and Patton number 4, followed by Mark Clark, and Lucian Truscott.

Bradley himself had been asked by Eisenhower to rank all the generals in December 1945, and he ranked them as follows: Bedell Smith #1, Spaatz #2, Courtney Hodges #3, Elwood Quesada #4, Truscott #5, and Patton #6 (others were also ranked)[51]

However, Patton was a ground commander. Spaatz and Quesada had been air commanders since the 1920s, having spent their military careers through the end of World War II in the Army Air Force, the forerunner of today's U.S. Air Force, which was not separated from the U.S. Army until 1947. It may be impossible today to make a fair comparison of commanders from two such different branches of the U.S. military.

Eisenhower's and Bradley's rankings probably included factors other than Patton's success as a battle leader. As to that, Alan Axelrod in his book Patton (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) quotes German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt as stating "Patton was your best" and, surprisingly, Joseph Stalin as stating that the Red Army could neither have planned nor executed Patton's advance across France.

Rank comparison to Eisenhower

Rank Patton Eisenhower Component
Second Lieutenant June 11, 1909 June 12, 1915 United States Army
First Lieutenant May 23, 1916 July 1, 1916 United States Army
Captain May 15, 1917 May 15, 1917 United States Army
Major January 26, 1918 June 17, 1918 National Army
Lieutenant Colonel March 30, 1918 October 14, 1918 National Army
Colonel October 17, 1918 N/A National Army
Captain (Peacetime reversion) June 30, 1920 June 30, 1920 Regular Army
Major July 1, 1920 July 2, 1920 Regular Army
Lieutenant Colonel March 1, 1934 July 1, 1936 Regular Army
Colonel July 1, 1938 March 11, 1941 Regular Army
Brigadier General October 1, 1940 September 29, 1941 Army of the United States
Major General April 4, 1941 March 27, 1942 Army of the United States
Lieutenant General March 12, 1943 July 7, 1942 Army of the United States
Brigadier General August 16, 1944[52] N/A Regular Army
Major General August 16, 1944[53] N/A Regular Army
General April 14, 1945 February 11, 1943 Army of the United States
General of the Army N/A December 20, 1944 Army of the United States

Patton, the film

Patton was the focus of the epic 1970 Academy Award-winning film Patton, with the titular role played by George C. Scott in an iconic, Academy Award winning performance. Patton has come to symbolize a warrior's ferocity and aggressiveness as a result of the movie and Scott's now-famous opening monologue in front of a gigantic American flag, which is based on portions of speeches that Patton made at different times (including Patton's Speech to the Third Army, made to troops shortly before the Normandy invasion). Historians have stated that the movie's accuracy could be tinged with some bias, noting the heavy influence of Omar Bradley as senior military advisor and writer. Bradley, played in the movie by Karl Malden, had a tumultuous and antagonistic relationship with Patton. However, some see the movie's treatment of Patton as hagiographic. Many Patton contemporaries, including many who knew him personally or served with him, applauded Scott's portrayal as being extremely accurate in capturing the essence of the man. Other historians have praised the film for its generally accurate and balanced portrayal of Patton as a complex and capable leader.


General George S. Patton statue Ettelbruck / Luxembourg 2007

Through the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star
So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.
So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more

Awards and decorations

United States awards

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Cross with one oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart
Silver Lifesaving Medal ribbon.svg Silver Lifesaving Medal[59]
Mexican Service Medal ribbon.svg Mexican Service Medal
Silver star
World War I Victory Medal with five battle clasps
American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver and two bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg In 1955, the U.S. Army posthumously presented General Patton with the Army of Occupation Medal for service as the first occupation commander of Bavaria.

Foreign and international awards

Galó de l'Orde del Bany (UK).png Commander of the Order of the Bath
Order BritEmp rib.png Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Grand Crest Ordre de Leopold.gif Belgian Order of Leopold
Oorlogskruis with Palm.jpg Belgian Croix de Guerre
Legion Honneur Commandeur ribbon.svg French Legion of Honor
Croix de guerre 1939-1945 with palm.jpg French Croix de Guerre
LUX Croix de Guerre ribbon.svg Luxemburg War Cross
Ord.Adolf.Nassau.jpg Grand Luxemburg Cross of the Order of Adolphe of Nassau
Grand Cross of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite ribbon.png Grand Cross of Ouissam Alaouite of Morocco
Order of the White Lion.svg Order of the White Lion of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovak War Cross 1939-1945 Ribbon.png Czechoslovakian War Cross

Dates of rank

No pin insignia for 2nd Lts. in 1909 Second Lieutenant, Regular Army: June 11, 1909
 First Lieutenant, Regular Army: May 23, 1916
US-O3 insignia.svg
 Captain, Regular Army: May 15, 1917
US-O4 insignia.svg
 Major, National Army: January 26, 1918
US-O5 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant Colonel, National Army: March 30, 1918
US-O6 insignia.svg
 Colonel, National Army: October 17, 1918
US-O3 insignia.svg
 Reverted to permanent rank of Captain, Regular Army: June 30, 1920
US-O4 insignia.svg
 Major, Regular Army: July 1, 1920
US-O5 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: March 1, 1934
US-O6 insignia.svg
 Colonel, Regular Army: July 1, 1938
US-O7 insignia.svg
 Brigadier General, Army of the United States: October 2, 1940
US-O8 insignia.svg
 Major General, Army of the United States: April 4, 1941
US-O9 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: March 12, 1943
US-O7 insignia.svg
 Brigadier General, Regular Army: August 16, 1944[52]
US-O8 insignia.svg
 Major General, Regular Army: August 16, 1944[53]
US-O10 insignia.svg
 General, Army of the United States: April 14, 1945

See also



Primary sources

  • George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It; Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN 0-395-73529-7;(1947/1975); (Soft Cover)
    ISBN 0-395-08704-6 (1947/1975); (Hard Cover)
  • George S. Patton, Jr., The poems of General George S. Patton, Jr.: Lines of fire, edited by Carmine A. Prioli. Edwin Mellen Press, 1991.
  • Patton's photographs: War as he saw it, edited by Kevin Hymel. Potomac Books,
    ISBN 1-57488-871-4 (2006) (Hard Cover);
    ISBN 1-57488-872-2 (2006) (Soft Cover; Alkali Paper).
  • Blumenson, Martin, The Patton Papers. Vol. 1, 1885–1940,
    ISBN 0-395-12706-8 (Hard Cover) Houghton Mifflin Co., 1972. 996 pp.
    ISBN 0-306-80717-3 (Soft Cover; Alkali Paper) Da Capo Press; 1998; 996 pp.
  • Blumenson, Martin, The Patton Papers: Vol. 2, 1940–1945,
    ISBN 0-395-18498-3 (Hard Cover); Houghton Mifflin, 1974. 889 pp.
    ISBN 0-306-80717-3 (Soft Cover; Alkali Paper); Da Capo Press, 1996. 889 pp.
  • Patton, Robert H., The Pattons: A Personal History of An American Family,
    ISBN 1-57488-127-2 (Soft Cover); Crown Publishers (1994); Brassey's (1996) 320 pp.
  • Platt, Anthony M. with O'Leary, Cecilia E., Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler's Nuremberg Laws, From Patton's Trophy To Public Memorial,
    ISBN 1-59451-140-3 (paperback); Paradigm Publishers, 2006. 268 pp.

Secondary sources

  • Axelrod, Alan, Patton: A Biography, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
  • Martin Blumenson, Patton: The Man Behind the Legend, 1885–1945 ISBN 0-688-06082-X; 1985
  • Blumenson, Martin, The Battle of the Generals: The Untold Story of the Falaise Pocket—the Campaign That Should Have Won World War II; 1993.
  • Carlo D'Este, Patton: A Genius for War, HarperCollins, (1995). ISBN 0-06-016455-7
  • Dietrich, Steve E., "The Professional Reading of General George S. Patton, Jr.", Journal of Military History 1989 53(4): 387–418. Issn: 0899-3718 Fulltext in Jstor
  • Essame, H., Patton: A Study in Command; 1974.
  • Farago, Ladislas, Patton: Ordeal and Triumph ISBN 1-59416-011-2
  • Gooderson, Ian, Air Power at the Battlefront, 1998, Frank Cass Publishers, 0714642118.
  • Hirshson, Stanley P., General Patton: A Soldier's Life (2002) ISBN 0-06-000982-9
  • Nye, Roger H., The Patton Mind: The Professional Development of an Extraordinary Leader, Avery; 1993.
  • Pullen, John J. "'You Will Be Afraid.'", American Heritage 2005 56(3): 26–29. Issn: 0002-8738 Fulltext in Ebsco. Patton's March 1945 was made famous by the movie, which sanitized it. Patton used harsh and foul language and castigated cowards, or "psychoneurotics", and those who used self-inflicted wounds to get out of combat. The basic message was "shoot and keep shooting."
  • Reit, Seymour, Masquerade: The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II, Hawthorn Press, 1978. ISBN 0-8015-4931-0.
  • Rickard, John Nelson, Patton at Bay: The Lorraine Campaign, September to December 1944, Praeger, 1999.
  • Dennis Showalter, Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century (2005). ISBN 978-0-425-20663-8.
  • Smith, David Andrew, George S. Patton: A Biography, Greenwood, 2003.
  • Sobel, Brian, The Fighting Pattons, ISBN 0-440-23572-2 (Soft Cover) Dell Publishing, 1997; Praeger Publishers Reprint, July, 2000.
  • Spires, David N., Patton's Air Force: Forging a Legendary Air-Ground Team, Smithsonian Inst. Pr., 2002.
  • von Mellenthin, F.W., Panzer Battles, Ballantine, 1971, first published by the University of Oklahoma Press, 1956 ISBN 0345321588
  • Brenton G. Wallace, Patton & His Third Army ISBN 0-8117-2896-X
  • Russell F. Weigley, Eisenhower's Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany 1944–1945, (1990)
  • Wilson, Dale Eldred, 'Treat 'Em Rough'! The United States Army Tank Corps in the First World War; Temple U. Press (1990).
  • Zaloga, Steven, Armored Thunderbolt, Stackpole, 2008, ISBN 9780811704243


  1. ^ Wilson, Dale. The American Expeditionary Forces Tank Corps in World War I: From Creation to Combat.  p. 19
  2. ^ Biography of General George S. Patton, Jr.. Retrieved April 9, 2009.  p. 2
  3. ^ Biography of General Hugh Mercer
  4. ^ a b c d D'Este, Carlo (1995). Patton: A Genius for War. New York: Harper Perennial. pp. 58, 131. ISBN 0060927623. 
  5. ^ Blumenson, Martin (1972). The Patton Papers: 1885–1940. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 231–234. ISBN 0-395-12706-8. 
  6. ^ The Form and Use of the Saber. George S. Patton 1913
  7. ^ 8th Cavalry Regiment - Early History
  8. ^ Cardena's Family Saw Him Die at Bay; Shot Four Times, Villa Captain Fought Before Mother, Wife, and Daughter, New York Times, 1916-05-23 at 5.
  9. ^ Blumenson, Martin (1972). The Patton Papers: 1885–1940. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 480–483. ISBN 0-395-12706-8. 
  10. ^ Blumenson, Martin (1972). The Patton Papers: 1885–1940. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 552–553. ISBN 0-395-12706-8. 
  11. ^ Blumenson, Martin (1972). The Patton Papers: 1885–1940. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 661–670, 706–708,764–766. ISBN 0-395-12706-8. 
  12. ^ Spark Gap Autumn 1998 Vol 9 No 2
  13. ^ "Man Under a Star," Time. March 29, 2943.
  14. ^ Lande, D (2002). I Was with Patton: First-Person Accounts of WWII in George S. Patton's Command. St. Paul, MN: MBI. p. 6. 
  15. ^ Botting p. 355
  16. ^ "Private Wrote Family About Being Cuffed," The Port Arthur News, November 24, 1943, p6
  17. ^ "Reprimand for Patton is Denied," The Fresno Bee, November 22, 1943, p1
  18. ^ Farago, Ladislas Patton: Ordeal and Triumph
  19. ^ Hirshson, Stanley P. (2003). General Patton: A Soldier's Life. Harper Perennial. ISBN 0060009837. 
  20. ^ "Patton Regrets Slapping Soldier," San Antonio Light, November 23, 1943, p1
  21. ^ Id. at p.8
  22. ^ "Gen. Patton Slap Haunts Former GI," Charleston Daily Mail, March 25, 1970, p12
  23. ^ "GI Slapped by Gen. Patton in Sicily Is Dead," The Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 2, 1971, p7.
  24. ^ Port Arthur News, 11/24/43, Id.
  25. ^ Speech of Bejamin Patton, "Patton"
  26. ^ Seymour Reit, Masquerade: The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of Worlds War II (1978), pp. 38-40, 42, 47, 174.
  27. ^ Berragan, GW (2003). "Higher command and staff course staff ride paper: Who should bear primary responsibility for the culmination of Patton's US third army on the Moselle in 1944? Are there lessons for contemporary campaign planning?" (pdf). Defence Studies 3 (3): 161-72. doi:10.1080/14702430308405084. 
  28. ^ Eisenhower. Stephen Ambrose, pg. 162-164
  29. ^ Zaloga 2008 Armored Thunderbolt p. 184-193
  30. ^ von Mellenthin 1971, p. 381-382
  31. ^ Gooderson 1998, p. 44
  32. ^ Gooderson 1998, p.85
  33. ^ John MacDonald, (1999). But we are different...Quality for the Service Sector. Management Books, Oxfordshire UK. ISBN 1-85252-123-6
  34. ^ Patton (Ordeal and Triumph) by Ladislas Farago, 1964, p. 790. (Originally from Patton’s personal Journal, published posthumously in the Saturday Evening Post in August 1949)
  35. ^ "Why Eisenhower's Forces Stopped at the Elbe", Forrest C. Pogue, World Politics, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Apr., 1952), pp. 356-368,(article consists of 13 pages), Published by: Cambridge University Press, URL:
  36. ^ Province, Charles M. The Unknown Patton. CMP Publications, 2002. p16.
  37. ^ American Battle Monuments Commission
  38. ^ "The Day of Battle" Rick Atkinson pp. 148 Atkinson's citation from "The Patton Story: He Slapped, He Raged, He Sobbed in Anger," Cincinnati Post, February 28, 1947, 26, from McCormick Research Center, First Division Museum, Cantigny, Ill.
  39. ^ Evans, Colin (2001). Great feuds in history: ten of the liveliest disputes ever. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 151–168. ISBN 0471380385. 
  40. ^ Virgil Pinkley, "Gen. George Patton Believed Himself Greatest Soldier'; Entire Army Felt Same Way," reprinted in Nevada State Journal, December 23, 1945, p15.
  41. ^ Robert Wilcox, Target Patton, Regnery, New York, 2008, p. 112.
  42. ^ Patton. War As I Knew It. p.60
  43. ^ a b c d e f Victor Davis Hanson (2004-03-29). "The Claremont Institute—Footnotes to Greatness". Claremont Review of Books (Spring 2004). Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  44. ^ Stanley P. Hirshson (2003). General Patton: A Soldier's Life. pp. 864 pages. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  45. ^ Wilson, Joe W. The 761st "Black Panther" Tank Battalion in World War II". Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1999. p53.
  46. ^ The Unknown Patton Chapter Ten (The Patton Philosophy)
  47. ^ "The General and the Admiral". Time magazine. November 10, 1947.,9171,793941-2,00.html. 
  48. ^ Patton. War As I Knew It. p.49
  49. ^ Walter L. Dorn "The Debate Over American Occupation Policy in Germany in 1944–1945" Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 72, No. 4. (December, 1957), pp. 481–501.
  50. ^ John Dietrich. The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (2002) pg. 127
  51. ^ from the Papers of David Eisenhower and Omar Bradley as quoted by Russell F. Weigley in his book Eisenhower's Lieutenants, 1981. p758.
  52. ^ a b Official Date Of Rank of 1943-09-01
  53. ^ a b Official Date Of Rank of 1943-09-02
  54. ^ Fort Leavenworth USD 207
  55. ^ Hunnicutt
  56. ^ Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. Chapter website Accessed December 28, 2008
  57. ^ Patton, George S.. "Through a Glass, Darkly". CMG Worldwide and the Estate of General George S. Patton, Jr. 
  58. ^ "A Register of His Papers in the Library of Congress". Library of Congress. pp. Box 74 Poetry. 
  59. ^ United States Coast Guard

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Courtney Hodges
Commanding General of the Third United States Army
Succeeded by
Lucian K. Truscott
Preceded by
Commanding General of the Seventh United States Army
July 10, 1943 – January 1, 1944
Succeeded by
Mark Wayne Clark


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to George S. Patton article)

From Wikiquote

Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains that victory.

General George Smith Patton, Jr. (1885-11-111945-12-21) was a U.S. General during World War II; he was known in his time as "America's Fightingest General".

See also Patton (1970 film)



There is no proof nor yet any denial. We were, We are, and we will be.
My flanks are something for the enemy to worry about, not me. Before he finds out where my flanks are, I'll be cutting the bastard's throat.
Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning.
A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.
We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.
  • I wonder if I could have been here before as I drive up the Roman road the Theater seems familiar — perhaps I headed a legion up that same white road... I passed a chateau in ruins which I possibly helped escalade in the middle ages. There is no proof nor yet any denial. We were, We are, and we will be.
    • In a letter to his mother from Chamlieu, France during World War I, revealing some of his speculations about reincarnation. (20 November 1917)
  • Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains that victory.
    • Cavalry Journal (September 1933)
  • The publicity I have been getting, a good deal of which is untrue, and the rest of it ill considered, has done me more harm than good. The only way you get on in this profession is to have the reputation of doing what you are told as thoroughly as possible. So far I have been able to accomplish that, and I believe I have gotten quite a reputation from not kicking at peculiar assignments.
    • Letter to Frederick Ayers (5 May 1943), published in The Patton Papers 1940-1945 (1996) edited by Martin Blumenson, p. 242
  • The more I see of Arabs the less I think of them. By having studied them a good deal I have found out the trouble. They are the mixture of all the bad races on earth, and they get worse from west to east, because the eastern ones have had more crosses.
    • Letter to Frederick Ayers (5 May 1943), published in The Patton Papers 1940-1945 (1996) edited by Martin Blumenson, p. 243
  • It is rather interesting how you get used to death. I have had to go to inspect the troops in which case you run a very good chance — or I should say a reasonable chance — of being bombed or shot at from the air, and shelled or shot at from the ground.
    I had the same experience every day which is for the first half-hour the palms of my hands sweat and I feel depressed. Then, if one hits near you, it seems to break the spell and you don't notice them anymore. Going back in the evening over the same ground and at a time when the shelling and bombing are usually heavier, you become so used to it you never think about it.
    • Letter to Frederick Ayers (5 May 1943), published in The Patton Papers 1940-1945 (1996) edited by Martin Blumenson, p. 243
  • A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.
    • Letter (3 March 1944), later published in War As I Knew It (1947) Similar expressions were also used in his famous "Speech to the Third Army" in June 1944. The phrase is similar to one attributed to Erwin Rommel, "Sweat saves blood, blood saves lives, and brains saves both", and to an even older one by August Willich: "A drop of sweat on the drill ground will save many drops of blood on the battlefield" from The Army: Standing Army or National Army? (1866)
  • Now in war we are confronted with conditions which are strange
    If we accept them we will never win.

    Since being realistic, as in mundane combats fistic
    We will get a bloody nose and that's a sin.
    • Stanza 1 of "Absolute War" a poem composed by Patton in July 1944, during Operation Cobra as quoted in The Patton Papers 1940-1945 (1996) edited by Martin Blumenson p. 492
  • For in war just as in loving you must keep on shoving
    Or you'll never get your reward.
    For if you are dilatory in the search for lust or glory
    You are up shitcreek and that's the truth, Oh, Lord.

    So let us do real fighting, boring in and gouging, biting.
    Let's take a chance now that we have the ball.

    Let's forget those fine firm bases in the dreary shell raked spaces,
    Let's shoot the works and win! Yes win it all.

    • Stanzas 4 and 5 of "Absolute War", as quoted in The Patton Papers 1940-1945 (1996) edited by Martin Blumenson, p. 492
  • Some goddamn fool once said that flanks have got to be secure. Since then sonofabitches all over the globe have been guarding their flanks. I don't agree with that. My flanks are something for the enemy to worry about, not me. Before he finds out where my flanks are, I'll be cutting the bastard's throat.
    • Conference with his officers (1 August 1944), as quoted in General Patton : A Soldiers Life (2002) by Stanley P. Hirshon, p. 502
  • Have taken Trier with two divisions. What do you want me to do? Give it back?
    • Reply to a message from General Dwight Eisenhower to bypass the German city of Trier because it would take four divisions to capture it (2 March 1945), as quoted in the Introduction to War as I Knew it (1947) by George Smith Patton, Jr., with Paul Donal Harkins, p. 20
  • I don't know what you think you're trying to do, but the krauts ought to pin a medal on you for helping them mess up discipline for us.
    • During a March 1945 meeting with Bill Mauldin, complaining about his "Willy and Joe" cartoons; as quoted in The Brass Ring (1971) by Bill Mauldin
  • It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
    • Speech at the Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston Massachusetts (7 June 1945), quoted in Patton : Ordeal and Triumph (1970) by Ladislas Farago
  • The difficulty in understanding the Russians is that we do not take cognizance of the fact that he is not a European, but an Asiatic, and therefore thinks deviously. We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinaman or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand them, except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them. In addition to his other Asiatic characteristics, the Russian have no regard for human life and is an all out son of bitch, barbarian, and chronic drunk.
    • Statement (8 August 1945), as quoted in General Patton : A Soldier's Life (2002) by Stanley P. Hirshson, p. 650
  • Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
    • War As I Knew It (1947) by George S. Patton, "Reflections and Suggestions"
  • 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.
  • My men can eat their belts, but my tanks have gotta have gas.
    • On the gasoline supplies for his tanks, as quoted in The Struggle for Europe‎ (1972) by Chester Wilmot, p. 473
  • A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.
    • As quoted in "The Unknown Patton" (1983) by Charles M. Province, p. 165
  • 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 its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag. ... As for the types of comments I make, sometimes I just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence.
    • Remark to his nephew about his copious profanity, quoted in "The Unknown Patton" (1983) by Charles M. Province, p. 184
  • Always do everything you ask of those you command.
    • As quoted in I Remember General Patton's Principles (1984) by Porter B. Williamson, p. 174
  • Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.
    • As quoted in Textbook of Phacoemulsification (1988) by William F. Maloney and Lincoln Grindle, p. 79
  • We entered a synagogue which was packed with the greatest stinking bunch of humanity I have ever seen. Either these Displaced Persons never had any sense of decency or else they lost it all during their period of interment by the Germans…. My personal opinion is that no people could have sunk to the level of degradation these have reached in the short space of four years.
    • As quoted in After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Post War Germany (1997) by Michael Brenner
  • Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning.
    • As quoted in Interplay : The Process of Interpersonal Communication (1992) by Ronald B. Adler, Lawrence B. Rosenfeld, and Neil Towne, p. 383; also in The Military Quotation Book (2002) by James Charlton, p. 126
  • We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.
    • As quoted in Pocket Patriot : Quotes from American Heroes (2005) edited by Kelly Nickell, p. 157
  • There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time.
    • As quoted in Liberalism is a Mental Disorder : Savage Solutions‎ (2005) by Michael Savage, Ch. 1 : More Patton, Less Patent Leather, p. 4
  • Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man.
    • Quoted in 50 Military Leaders Who Changed the World‎ (2007) by William Weir, p. 173
    • Unsourced variant: Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. Anything built by man, can be destroyed by him.

Through A Glass, Darkly (1918)

Full text online
Through the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star.
So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.
So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more.
  • Through the travail of the ages,
    Midst the pomp and toil of war,
    Have I fought and strove and perished
    Countless times upon this star.

    In the form of many people
    In all panoplies of time
    Have I seen the luring vision
    Of the Victory Maid, sublime.

  • I have sinned and I have suffered,
    Played the hero and the knave;
    Fought for belly, shame, or country,
    And for each have found a grave.

    I cannot name my battles
    For the visions are not clear,
    Yet, I see the twisted faces
    And I feel the rending spear.

  • I have fought with gun and cutlass
    On the red and slippery deck
    With all Hell aflame within me
    And a rope around my neck.
  • So as through a glass, and darkly
    The age long strife I see
    Where I fought in many guises,
    Many names, but always me.

    And I see not in my blindness
    What the objects were I wrought,
    But as God rules o'er our bickerings
    It was through His will I fought.

    So forever in the future,
    Shall I battle as of yore,
    Dying to be born a fighter,
    But to die again, once more.

Speech to the Third Army (1944)

Transcription of his Speech to the Third Army (5 June 1944); published in The Unknown Patton (1982) by Charles M. Province, p. 32
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily. All because one man went to sleep on the job. But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep before they did.
  • 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!
  • We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-bitches we're going up against. By God, I do.
  • My men don't surrender. 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.
I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Don't forget, 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".
  • 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!
  • 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 do!
  • 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.
  • 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!
    • Though 2 publications, Eyewitness to War (2006) by Antony Bird and Nicholas Bird, p. 256, and Charge! : History's Greatest Military Speeches‎ (2007) by Steve Israel, p. 200, have been found which use "George", all earlier published sources available use "Georgie" in this line.


It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
  • It is the cold glitter of the attacker's eye not the point of the questing bayonet that breaks the line.
  • Few men are killed by bayonets, but many are scared by them. Having the bayonet fixed makes our men want to close. Only the threat to close will defeat a determined enemy.
  • Hold'em by the nose and kick'em in the pants.
  • I don't care what color you are, so long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons-of-bitches!
  • I am in the pay of the United States government. If I vote against the administration I am voting against my commander-in-chief. If I vote for the administration in office I am being bought.
  • If a man has done his best, what else is there?
  • If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.
  • I'm a soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight.
  • I'm not going to subsidize cowardice.
  • I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.
  • Just drive down that road until you get blown up.
    • Instructions to reconnaissance troops
  • Kill all the Germans you can, but do not kill them when they are up against a wall ready to surrender. Do your killing in the fields. We are to honor the Rules of Land Warfare at all times. If a German surrenders, he is to be treated with respect as a prisoner of war, the same treatment you would hope to get as a prisoner if you are unlucky enough to be captured by the enemy. Americans are not savages. Americans do not kick people in the face if they have been knocked down.
  • March toward the sound of gunfire, an easily recognizable sound that they could usually find in front of them.
  • May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I sure as hell won't.
  • Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men.
  • Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.
  • Son, only a pimp in a Louisiana whore house carries pearl handled revolvers, these are ivory.
    • Upon being asked by an American reporter where he got his "pearl" handled revolvers.
  • Take calculated risks. This is quite different from being rash. My personal belief is that if you have a 50% chance, take it!
  • There's only one proper way for a professional soldier to die: the last bullet of the last battle of the last war.
  • You are always on parade.
  • You are never beaten until you admit it.
  • You need to overcome the tug of people against you as you reach for high goals.
  • The M1 rifle is the finest battle implement ever devised.


  • Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.
    • Though Patton commissioned this prayer and ordered 250,000 copies of it printed with his signature, it was actually composed by Chief Chaplain James H. O'Neill Review of the News (6 October 1971)
  • Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you; But of a good leader, who talks little, When his work is done, his aims fulfilled, They will all say, We did this ourselves.
    • This is actually a translation of a statement by Lao Zi from the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing). Patton may have used a similar or identical expression, perhaps quoting the book.
  • Give me an army of West Point graduates, I'll win a battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies and I'll win a war!
    • Mike Province, founder and president of The Patton Society calls this an urban legend and in the Texas A&M Battalion (2 October 2006) is quoted as saying "I've gotten e-mails and questions regarding that quote for several years... People will use it with Texas Aggies, The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute and even Clemson. All of these schools want to be linked to Patton... Anything is possible... I honestly don't believe he said it, because I've heard too many people say that he said it about their school. But if anyone out there can find proof that he said it, I'd love to hear about it and get it out there."
  • I'd rather have a German division in front of me, than a French one behind.
    • Misattributed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger on Fox News. Patton commanded French troops, the 2nd Armored Division commanded by Philippe Leclerc, integrated in the Third Army, and had rocky but friendly relations with the French general. For instance, on August, 15 1944 Patton wrote in his diary: "Leclerc came in very much excited. He said, among other things, that if he were not allowed to advance on Paris, he would resign. I told him in my best French that he was a baby and said I had left him in the most dangerous place on the front. We parted friends"
  • I want you to remember that 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.
    • Spoken by George C. Scott in the film Patton.
    • Variants: No man ever won a war by dying for his country. Wars were won by making the other poor bastard die for his.
    • You don't win a war by dying for your country. You win a war by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his.
  • Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!
    • Spoken by George C. Scott in the film Patton, portraying his defeat of what he thought were forces under the command of Erwin Rommel; however, the book portrayed in that film is purely fictional — Rommel never finished the book he was writing on tank warfare, but did write a book on his experiences in WW I. It was widely read, regarded a classic of modern military tactics, and published in abbreviated form for study by US army officers.
  • Wonder weapons... my God, I don't see the wonder in them. Killing without heroics, nothing is glorified... nothing is reaffirmed? No heroes, no cowards, no troops, no generals? Only those who are left alive... and those who are left dead. I'm glad I won't live to see it.
  • Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself.
    • This is almost always attributed to US Ambassador Francis Meehan, though without citations, and only very rarely to Patton.
  • Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, because I am the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the valley.
    • This was a widely published anonymous derivative of Psalm 23 which arose in the early 1970s on wall-posters, plaques and t-shirts, with an early variant also reading "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil: for I am the meanest bastard in the valley"; much cruder variants, with less clear association with the original biblical passages have since emerged on the internet, and in very recent years have begun to be attributed to Patton. There are no historical sources indicating he ever actually said anything resembling this.

Quotes about Patton

  • King George VI of the United Kingdom: "How many men have you killed in war, General Patton?"
    Patton: "Seven, sir.".
    Eisenhower: "How many did you say, General Patton?"
    Patton: "Three, sir."
    Eisenhower: "Ok, George, we'll let you get away with that."
    • Anecdote from The Reluctant King (1989) by Sarah Bradford
  • A great leader for exploiting a mobile situation.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, as quoted in The Prize : The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (2008) by Daniel Yergin, p. 367
  • If you're a leader, you don't push wet spaghetti, you pull it. The U.S. Army still has to learn that. The British understand it. Patton understood it. I always admired Patton. Oh, sure, the stupid bastard was crazy. He was insane. He thought he was living in the Dark Ages. Soldiers were peasants to him. I didn't like that attitude, but I certainly respected his theories and the techniques he used to get his men out of their foxholes.

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