Skip to comments.A Chat w/WW II Vet
Posted on 09/15/2008 6:13:36 AM PDT by 7thson
My wife and I went to a Republican fund-raiser this weekend - a wine-tasting party. At our table an eldery couple sat down - both in their late 80's. The man was a WW II vet. Joked that he joined the army in 1940 only for one year and ended up getting out in 1946. Was in the Normandy invasion all the way to Germany. Was part of the group that liberated Dachau. Swore up and down that Patton was the greatest general ever. Had some good conversation with both he and his wife.
There are fewer and fewer...
I was fortunate to be raised around that generation and I, even as a young knucklehead spud, always appreciated having the opportunity to share their stories and presence.
Its a treasure of life.
Awesome. A few of my pop’s Korean War veteran buddies are also WWII vets. Great stories. To call this the Greatest Generation is truly an understatement. I had the chance to talk with a fella who was also at Normandy. Fascinating.
The vet/hero said that there are more than we think. He’s probably right. There is a man who works for the County - one of those who man one of the county dump sites - who’s also a WW II vet. He’s in his 80’s. The vet/hero I met last Saturday night said you’ve got to keep moving. He said we need men like Patton today but agreed that men like Patton would not be allowed to exist in today’s military. He grudgingly agreed that Petraus is a good general. He and his wife like Powell but I told them a little about Powell and how he is not a true/good Republican. Told them that Powell is just a ticket-puncher and good not shine the shoes of generals such as Ike, Patton, MacArthur or Admrials like Nimitz, Halsey, or Burke.
In 1985 I had the great fortune to sit down and talk with Jimmy Doolittle for about an hour at his home in Carmel, CA.
Before talking to me and a friend (we were currently attending the Defense Language Institute at Monterey) he showed us around his home. I’ll never forget he had a picture on the wall of Ronald Reagan giving General Doolittle his fourth star.
It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Just as an aside, without trying to stir up controversy, my grandfather fought in the Third Army and thought Patton was a moron. He claims the movie representation of him is Hollywood BS. Just a different view from another Vet.
My personal view of Patton - from what I have read and seen over the years - was that he was a great general but like all great men, he had his faults. I watched the movie back when I was a kid and I didn’t get it then the uproar over the slapping incident. However, looking at it now - with what I know and connecting other information to Patton - the Communists hated him. And the press back then was just as liberal as they are today, only back then Soviet Russia was our ally. The press did what it could to tarnish his stars and he helped them to a certain degree. I consider him one of our greatest generals and put him up there with MacArthur, Black Jack, Sherman, Lee, Jackson, Halsey, Nimitz.
Hey, we’re not THAT bad...
It wasn’t the slapping incident and such that concerned my grandfather, but rather that he led from the rear and rode around in staff cars and ate fancy dinners. He thinks as a strategist he was effective, but the heroic vision of him was completely overblown. Just an opinion from a man who fought under him.
Just a thought from someone who doesn’t really have a right to an opinion:
A lot of people think that Patton was a shameless self promoter - something like Custer (without being as stupid as Custer was...) and that he had some issues with impulse control. My father’s opinion is that Omar Bradley was every bit the soldier Patton was, learned all his tricks, etc., without ever developing his problems.
Also, Patton had some stupid ideas. He liked the Sherman tank and thought its only fault was that it needed a second coaxial MG in the gun mantlet. He thought that tanks should be used against infantry and that AT guns and Tank Destroyers were for use against enemy tanks. It could be argued that he got a lot of tankers killed with those beliefs. At good reference would be the book “Death Traps” by Belton Y. Cooper.
Any chance of getting together with him again for an interview to put up n Youtube for all to see?
That was not just Gen. Patton's 'belief', that was US Army Doctrine. Tanks supported infantry & (light tanks) scouted. Tank Destroyers dealt with enemy tanks. A 'belief' can be changed, but Doctrine is what you train to & is much harder switch since it influences the design of the weapons.
It should be noted that only the TD's had guns heavy enough to deal with the frontal armor on some German Tanks, and even then it was iffy.
Rommell used to use his 88MM anti-aircraft guns as "PAK Screens" in the Desert. Draw the enemies' tanks onto the long-range high-velocity guns, then whip around the flanks with your own tanks.
My dad is a WW2 Navy vet. He served in the Pacific on board the USS White Plains.
Didn’t the Germans have the same philosophy?
Tanks against infantry.
Infantry against tanks.
Patton believed that the main weapon an any tank was the machinegun.
Combined arms operations bears out a lot of this approach, especially in urban environments.
...yes, and Heinz Guderian said that the ENGINE was a weapon (if you think about it operationally, he's right).
The Sherman Tank's twin virtues were its relative simplicity & it's ruggedness. It didn't break down as frequently as its German counterparts. When it did it was rapidly put back into action either by its own crew or by support troops. The attrition rate due to malfunctions can be as significant as combat losses when you are trying to maintain the momemtum of an advance.
What type of questions would you like to ask? In fact, anyone reading this, send me questions you would like to ask a WW II vet?
Southerners don't have the equipment to handle snow, or the experience. Granted 1/4 inche is not that much. I am a Southerner who lived in Massachusetts for 20 years, so I know of what I talk about.
They are getting fewer and fewer. My Dad passed two years ago this week. He was 87. He joined in 1941 “to keep from getting drafted.” Fought with the 13th Infantry from 2 weeks after D-Day until the German surrender. Was in the states training for the invasion of Japan when (his words) “Harry Truman saved my life.”
Met my Mom while stationed in Tennessee in 1942 and they married shortly after his discharge in 1945. The celebrated almost 61 years together. Mom passed two years ago this Christmas.
Swore up and down that Patton was the greatest general ever."We going to cut out their living [bleeping] guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy Hun [characterization deleted]s by the bushel [clang, clang] basket." -- Gen. George S. Patton
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Quite agree with your analysis. Also, the Shermans were made in enormous quantities, and the Germans were to be overwhelmed wherever possible. Superior firepower was the view evolved in the pre-WWI German military (sorry, had to put that in, just finished Mosier’s “The Myth of the Great War”).
Patton’s view (originating in his WWI experiences, when the tanks were POS) regarding armor was that it was to be used analogously to cavalry (breakthroughs, flanking, pursuit) rather than to, say, guard a bridge. Even if the bridge was being used as a nice spot to piss in the Rhine. :’)
Wholeheartedly agree. There’s a cool anecdote in a recent book (uh, sometime in the past four years or so) from Eisenhower’s son (the one who served on his father’s staff in WWII); troops training in England were being observed by Ike, Ike’s kid, Patton, and whomever else was around, and Patton jumped down, grabbed a soldier’s rifle, laid on the ground, and showed him and all around how they were to do it. :’) He was a hands-on guy, he understood war inside and out, and unlike the way he’s generally (heh) portrayed, followed orders even when he argued against them, because he knew the importance of discipline in the chain of command. He probably had a few, uh, slightly unorthodox ideas regarding discipline of course. :’D
Yeah, that would be excellent!
Bradley was a grocer; there’s nothing wrong with that, because soldiers need to eat.
Didn’t John Eisenhower graduate West Point on June 6, 1944? If I’m recalling that correctly, that anecdote is suspect. Patton’s exploitation of Operation Cobra began on August 1st. If that event happened (and it’s possible) it would have probably happened in early-to-mid-July.
Most of Patton’s 3rd Army troops would have been packing their gear to move over the Channel — probably not out on field maneuvers.
I take your larger point about Patton being interested in tactical detail. He invented a tanker’s uniform, cavalry sword, etc. He commented favorably on the M-1 Garand Rifle too, suggesting his opinions were being solicited by the Washington Brass. He is partly responsible (to blame?) for the M4 Sherman being chosen for mass production.
I was reading “An Army at Dawn”. Patton didn’t take a lot of interest in Adm. Hewitt’s preparations for the Torch Landings. He didn’t make that mistake twice. Patton’s use of several amphibious hooks during the Sicilian campaign kept the German defenders backpedaling.
> Most of Patton’s 3rd Army troops would have been packing their gear to move over the Channel — probably not out on field maneuvers.
:’) I’ll see if I can find the real details (as opposed to my sometimes-hazy memory).
The Germans were great at tactical retreat and using terrain to their advantage. Also, they got the point about the relative useful/uselessness of fixed fortifications prior to WWI. Patton was probably lucky to be relieved from 7th command after the slapping incident, because the “soft underbelly” idea from Churchill, invading Italy, was a really stupid idea, and at best, Patton might have gotten somewhat quicker — but still costly — results. I recall a propaganda poster the Germans had printed in English, and plastered around surreptitiously in Allied-held areas of Italy; it showed a big hill, anthropomorphized, picking up US servicemen and tossing them into its mouth. D-Day’s final go-ahead didn’t get done (I think I read this in Bradley’s “A Soldier’s Story”) until Stalin humiliated Churchill and ridiculed the Italian campaign, insisting the real second front be opened ASAP.
The 90mm was mounted on the M36, it could outshoot an 88mm.
I used to minimize the slapping incident, but have revised my thinking as I've gotten older. That kind of thing may have been fine for the Prussian or Russian armies, but the U.S. Army tradition is more respect for the men by their officers. If a soldier needed to be set straight, the NCO's could deal with that, but an officer, especially a General, should not.
In the specific situation Patton confronted, he could simply have ordered the docs to segregate the "battle fatigue" case away from the wounded men. Losing his temper was uncalled for and Ike was justifiably p.o.'d about it, IMHO.
Any idea what unit or division he was in?
My father served under Patton in the 7th Army, which Patton commanded in north Africa and Sicily. This is the command Patton was relieved of after slapping the soldier suffering from combat fatigue. My dad said he preferred serving under Patton’s replacement, General Patch. In fact he suggested that sometimes it was difficult to say who annoyed you more, the German army or George Patton.
When Patton made the big ruckus over that combat fatigue soldier the soldier was quickly released from the hospital. Instead of sending him back to his infantry unit the army assigned him to the AAA battery my dad was in. The poor guy was utterly worthless. He was like some kind of clay figurine that would stay motionless wherever you last placed him, staring blankly ahead. After a few days of this he was shipped off somewhere else. He had the “thousand yard stare”, only more so.
Some years later in Vietnam my father worked with Patton’s son, a colonel, who was highly regarded by those who knew him. I guess he didn’t take after his father in some ways.
Patton likely wouldn’t have replaced Clark in Italy. Patton’s old command, under Alexander Patch, landed on southern France in mid August. I suspect Patton would have continued to lead this army, which moved farther and faster than his 3rd and reached the Rhine ahead of the 3rd.
My understanding of war at the echelons beyond reality is that it is about beans, bullets, and bodies. The object of the exercise seems to be having more of them at the “decisive point” than the enemy. It could be that a “grocer” is as good at this as a warrior.
The real trick, of course, is finding, or creating, the “decisive point.” Again, this isn’t a talent limited to warriors...
My grocer comment regarded Bradley’s trying to move enough supplies, and basing his, or rather the US’, Euro theater campaign on how much of what got moved didn’t go to Monty. In his memoir he complains that there weren’t enough riflemen because of attrition (that one made it into George C. Scott’s mouth in the movie). At least he didn’t try to deny that he missed the significance of the German counterattack we remember as the Battle of the Bulge. It led to his degradation in favor of Monty, while Patton’s response to it led to his reevaluation and elevation.
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