Skip to comments.George Patton's Summer of 1944
Posted on 07/24/2014 5:05:44 AM PDT by Kaslin
Nearly 70 years ago, on Aug. 1, 1944, Lieutenant General George S. Patton took command of the American Third Army in France. For the next 30 days they rolled straight toward the German border.
Patton almost did not get a chance at his summer of glory. After brilliant service in North Africa and Sicily, fellow officers -- and his German enemies -- considered him the most gifted American field general of his generation. But near the conclusion of his illustrious Sicilian campaign, the volatile Patton slapped two sick GIs in field hospitals, raving that they were shirkers. In truth, both were ill and at least one was suffering from malaria.
Public outrage eventually followed the shameful incidents. As a result, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to put Patton on ice for 11 key months.
Tragically, Patton's irreplaceable talents would be lost to the Allies in the soon-to-be-stagnant Italian campaign. He also played no real role in the planning of the Normandy campaign. Instead, his former subordinate, the more stable but far less gifted Omar Bradley, assumed direct command under Eisenhower of American armies in France.
In early 1944, a mythical Patton army was used as a deception to fool the Germans into thinking that "Army Group Patton" might still make another major landing at Calais. The Germans apparently found it incomprehensible that the Americans would bench their most audacious general at the very moment when his audacity was most needed.
According to the German High Command, it
would be insane to come across, anywhere BUT
Pas de Calais!
I have been following the daily posts by Homer_J_Simpson (ketword worldwarii) in which he posts the New York Times from 70 years ago today and I noticed that in the time from D-Day to present, the Soviets have advanced nearly 150 miles on Warsaw, the Allies have advanced 150 miles on Florence, but the Allies in Normandy have advanced barely 20 miles from the beach. I know that after Patton takes over (a week from today) the allied advance against the Germans in France will be epic. The folks back home must have seen him as heroic, even invincible.
Leadership & ability: 2 things sorely lacking in Obama.
Nothing against Patton, but it helps to have the enemy’s codes broken, and air superiority. When you know where and when their supplies are being transported, you cut their logistics, and the odds are in your favor.
In Patton’s favor, he knew what he had going for him and took full advantage. That was his genius.
Now Monte on the other hand...
“How could a supreme commander like Eisenhower handle Patton, who at any given moment could and would let loose with politically incorrect bombast?”
By placing the PRIORITY on WINNING and screwing the PC nonsense!!!!!!
Americas’s greatest Generals: Washington, Andrew Jackson, Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Pershing, Eisenhower, McArthur, Patton, possibly Schwartzkopf.
My Dad was a junior officer in the 45th ID (Thunderbirds) in the SLOG up Italy and at Anzio. The disaster of the Anzio landing was the pause to consolidate, reinforce and organize without pushing out to the surrounding high ground. US Generals John Lucas and his immediate superior, Mark Clark, have been strongly criticized for allowing German forces to close the beachhead and turn a brilliant around-the-back amphibious attack into a 4+ month siege and bleeding! Somehow I cannot see General Patton making the same ‘caution’ error and PERHAPS done better at the battle up from Salerno!
It is amazing to me how my mind fills in the picture of Patton with George C Scott. The lanky fellow in this picture does not seem to be real in comparison to the burly presence of Scott in the movie. Just an observation of the effect of media upon the psyche of history.
Grant. He ran 4 or 5 complete armies and personally directed the operations in VA. Never lost a battle..except some might say the wilderness, except the wilderness was one continous campaign.
Took Lincoln that long to learn to stay the hell out of the way.
In fairness to all our GI’s in Normandy, the single biggest limiting factor was the Hedgerow country they were fighting in. The boundaries between different farmers’ fields were thickly planted with trees that over the centuries, built up not only thick roots, but stones and excess dirt was piled up along these boundaries to make a sometimes 8 foot high by 8 foot wide wall. The Normandy fields were also quite small. Upon busting through one wall, the troops would find the German machine gun positions imbedded in the next wall 100 yard away, and so on and so on.
By late June, early July of 1944, the GIs devised a cowcatcher like device to put on the front of a Sherman tank that made it like a bulldozer, the pointed end of this device would cut through the roots while the heft of the tank could push the wall down. The German MG 42 bullets would bounce of the tank, and then the tankers could use their machine gun or main gun to destroy the German machine gun nest allowing the infantry to take that field without enormous casualties. This was very effective, but deploying it throughout the theater took time.
By the time we were ready to unleash George Patton, we had broken through most of the most difficult hedgerow country. We had reached the vicinity of St Lo, and the farms here were open, wide fields, excellent terrain for Patton’s tank armies!
I’ve actually driven all over Normandy in the Summer of 1994, 50 years later, and was lucky enough to encounter many groups of Americans who fought then, revisiting for the 50th anniversary as well. Their stories were fabulous, and they told me in many famous places marked as battle sights what went on then. I was quite happy, with my Michelin map of France, as I scouted out the next site, to see a tour bus there that I knew would have those old heroes on it!
I also read Homer J Simpson’s daily posts.
Operation Cobra started on July 25, 1944 (70 years ago tomorrow). 1500 B-17s and B-24s dropped about 3000 tons of bombs with another 1000 tons of bombs and napalm dropped by medium bombers. Some of our own soldiers were killed by bombs falling short because our bombers dropped perpendicular to the road instead of parallel. Cobra allowed Patton’s 3rd Army to breakout across France.
I think the lanky guy standing was Omar Bradley played by Karl Malden.
The funny thing about Patton was that he hated his voice, it was supposed to be high pitched and rose and octave when he was mad.
There’s a couple of good books on Patton, I read recently “Genius for War” and it was pretty good.
In the film, the person who comes out the best is Bradly, who consulted on the film.
I know this will get me barbequed with Southern FReepers, but I would question Stonewall Jackson’s inclusion. There is some debate about whether his nickname is a compliment or an insult. And there were numerous incidents when he failed to execute his orders, executed them late, or changed them beyond recognition. Maybe those are marks of military genius — and to be fair, he occasionally exhibited signs of that as well — or maybe they’re symptoms of a narcissistic sociopath who saw himself as God’s avenging angel ... sort of a reverse John Brown with a general’s stars.
I had a similar experience in Normandy in 2004. I was working near Geneva and took my 2 ten age kids up there for 4 days near the 60th anniversary. We will never forget it.
Most of our citizens have...
I get it’s an article on Patton and don’t disagree that he was a genius at what he did. But...”far less gifted Omar Bradley”...I think is a bit much.
Omar did well in his role and got a ton out of his troops more than most of the other generals. I wouldn’t put him on an equal plateau with Patton, but I wouldn’t put him anywhere near Montgomery who was “far less” than Patton in everything except politics.
Funny how that works.
I’m sorry but no other General could have stopped in the middle of one attack and immediately move several hundred miles to help relieve Bastogne, like Patton did. That was pure balls on his part.
You can say that again
If he was alive today, he wouldn’t say it took balls, he KNEW he would succeed through his preparedness and superior intellect.
No doubt he was a great general, he knew that the nazi’s were spread too thin and went for the jugular. He read the situation correctly with clarity. He knew what his men were capable of and took advantage of it. Because he was already prepared, his decision was made before he was asked to do it. The decision didn’t make him great, being prepared for that eventuality made him great.
He was the right man at the right time.
“If he was alive today, he wouldnt say it took balls, he KNEW he would succeed through his preparedness and superior intellect.”
Exactly. Preparedness was everything. If I remember correctly he had his staff draw up contigency plans regarding the possibility of a German offensive,where it might happen and what he could do if it happened. So as depicted in the movie Patton went to that general staff meeting fully prepared to to relieve Bastogne.
I don't know who that lanky fellow is, but he is not Patton. Even though Scott did not particularly resemble Patton, he dressed and acted like him. Usually, anyone who has seen the movie recognizes pictures of the real Patton even if they've never seen pictures of Patton. I think the real Patton was a tad more striking than George Scott, and had a trimmer physique, but was not lanky.
Bradley stopped Patton from closing the Falaise Gap when Monte couldn’t.
That right there disqualifies Bradley from being included in the great generals list.
Bradley was more politician then general.
Or was Bradley simply acting under a mandate from Ike?
No Bradley put the brakes on. Ike was not the author of that decision. One could argue that was the right decision given the circumstances but Bradley, not Ike, owns the decision.
Regarding your Stonewall Jackson, you ‘ll get no real disagreement from me.
There’s been a long running “If only Jackson were alive on the first day of Gettysburg, everything would have turned out differently” line of thinking out there.
Is it possible that Jackson would have captured Seminary Ridge? Yes it is. It’s also just as possible that his performance that day could have been very similiar to that in the Seven Days campaign. If it was the latter, then the answer would be No.
“There’s a funny story about the capture of Trier that shows the differences between General Patton and General Bradley and their ability to judge a military situation. After the battle was already won and the Third Army had taken the city, General Patton received a message from General Bradley. The message said, “Bypass Trier. It would take too many divisions to capture it.” Patton’s humorous reply to Bradley was, “Have already taken city, do you want me to give it back?””
Starting tomorrow (7/25/44) the allies start the carpet bombing of France to facilitate the breakout that Patton would take over.
Not trying to minimize Patton’s role, but the breakout IS coming in bocage.
Must be patient....
Grant actually did lose every battle in the Overland Campaign of 1864. From Wilderness to Cold Harbor.
He just failed to realize he was suppose to retreat afterwards. He retreated forward.
But having lost more men in the campaign than in the whole of Lee’s army, when it comes to numbers, he lost. When you look at it at who held the field after the battle, Grant lost. Grant never did actually ‘beat’ Lee in a battle until after the Army of Northern Virginia left the trenches in April 1865, almost a year after Grant took over.
After that he just won the war.
Grant’s strength was that he didn’t panic. He could pay the ‘Butcher’s Bill’ with his troops better than any other Union Commander. Meade, on the other hand, would have also finally beaten Lee, but, he would have not gotten quite so many folks killed while doing it.
General Patton’s Leadership Secrets
“A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.”
“Do everything you ask of those you command.”
“Do more than is required of you.”
“Do not fear failure.”
“Do not make excuses, whether it’s your fault or not.”
“Do not take counsel of your fears.”
“Give credit where it’s due.”
“In case of doubt, attack.”
“It’s the unconquerable soul of man, and not the nature of the weapon he uses, that insures victory.”
“Lack of orders is no excuse for inaction.”
“Make your plans to fit the circumstances.”
“Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men.”
“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
“Take calculated risks.”
“The duties of an officer are the safety, honor, and welfare of your country first; the honor, welfare, and comfort of the men in your command second; and the officer’s own ease, comfort, and safety last.”
“The soldier is the army.”
“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 wounds, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time.’ “
“There is only one type of discipline, perfect discipline.”
“There’s a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and is much less prevalent. One of the most frequently noted characteristics of great men who have remained great is loyalty to their subordinates.”
“You’re never beaten until you admit it.”
“L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace.”
Maybe time to pull out “Cobra” from the old Strategy and Tactics magazine.
It’s STILL a great game.
1944 - 1945
Facts and Figures
Reduced to cold, statistical figures, the feats of the Third Army were astonishing. The Army liberated or captured 81,522 square miles of territory. An estimated 12,000 cities, towns, and communities were liberated or captured, including 27 cities of more than 50,000 in population.
Third Army captured 765,483 prisoners of war. 515,205 of the enemy surrendered during the last week of the war to make a total of 1,280,688 POW’s processed.
The enemy lost an estimated 1,280,688 captured, 144,500 killed, and 386,200 wounded, adding up to 1,811,388. By comparison, the Third Army suffered 16,596 killed, 96,241 wounded, and 26,809 missing in action for a total of 139,646 casualties. Third Army’s losses were only 12.97 percent of the German losses. That is only about 13 American soldiers for every 100 German soldiers.
Third Army aircraft and artillery dropped or dispersed by shell 31,552,700 psychological warfare leaflets to enemy troops.
XIX Tactical Air Command completed 1,767 tactical reconnaissance missions and 77 photo reconnaissance missions which resulted in 3,205,670 aerial photographic prints being distributed.
XIX Tactical Air Command flew 7,326 missions and 74,447 sorties during the 281 days of fighting.
Third Army’s air support dropped 17,486 tons of bombs, 3,205 napalm tanks, and launched 4,599 rockets.
The Air Command destroyed 1,640 enemy planes and only lost 582 of it’s own from all causes.
Targets destroyed or damaged by the XIX Tactical Air Command included:
Tanks and armored cars 3,833
Motor vehicles 38,541
Railroad lines cut 2,585
Marshaling yards 974
Towns and villages 816
Supply dumps 220
Military installations 1,730
Gun installations 2,809
Highway and railroad bridges 285
Miscellaneous naval vessels 654
Miscellaneous targets 3,010
Third Army artillery fired 5,870,843 rounds of ammunition during the fighting.
Tank destroyers with the Third Army knocked out 648 enemy tanks and 211 self propelled guns. At the Maginot Line and the Siegfried Line, they eliminated 801 pillboxes. They fired a total of 101,178 rounds of ammunition on direct fire missions and 231,998 rounds on indirect fire missions.
Within the Army area, 2,186,792 tons of supplies were transported a total of 141,081,336 miles by trucks in the transportation pool. A total of 2,092 miles of railway track was reconstructed and placed into operation.
The Army repaired 99,114 general purpose vehicles, 21,761 combat vehicles, 11,613 artillery pieces, 125,083 small arms, and 32,740 instruments.
Third Army Engineers constructed 2,498 bridges with a total footage of 255,520 feet, almost 48 and one half miles of bridging. They built or maintained an average of 2,240 miles of road.
Third Army’s nine chemical mortar companies expended 349,097 rounds of 4.2 inch mortars, including 189,095 rounds of high explosive and 160,002 rounds of white phosphorous. Chemical warfare supplies included 32,454 gallons of flame thrower fuel and 335,944 grenades.
Third Army Signal Corps personnel laid 3,747 miles of telephone wire. The Third Army message center handled a total of 7,220,261 code groups and switchboard operators handled an average of 13,968 telephone calls daily.
Military personnel in the Third Army were paid a total of $240,539,569 from the 1st of August, 1944 until the 30th of April, 1945.
The forward echelon of the Third Army (code named Lucky Forward by General Patton) traveled 1,225 miles while making 19 complete moves during combat.
The decorations awarded to soldiers of the Third Army were:
Medal of Honor 19
Distinguished Service Medal 44
Distinguished Service Cross 291
Legion of Merit 159
Silver Star 4,990
Soldier’s Medal 247
Bronze Star 29,090
Normal promotions numbered 6,464; battlefield promotions totaled 1,817; and combat appointments totaled 848.
The correspondents of the Third Army and soldier correspondents wrote 30,326 stories totaling 7,010,963 words. They submitted 7,129 photographs about the Third Army’s combat fighting.
A total of 11,230,000 soldiers attended motion picture shows at the Third Army. The USO shows played to 650,000 soldiers, and the soldier talent shows played to a total of 625,000 soldiers.
General Patton was right when he said, “It sure takes a lot to kill a German.”
In this way, the Third Army played it’s proud part in helping to crush the Nazi war machine. When men talk of the Second World War the name of the Third U.S. Army and of it’s commander will awaken a special thrill of courage and adventure.
Perhaps more than any other group of soldiers in the European Theater, the soldiers of the Third Army deserved the praise of the Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower when he said, “Working and fighting together in a single indestructible partnership you have achieved perfection in unification of air, ground, and naval power that will stand as a model in our time.”
Not so sure it could happen in today’s structured world.
Once he saw the bulge forming, he had his folks create a plan and execute it almost immediately.
You need well trained, supplied, and motivated forces to do that.
I think Patton’s focus on discipline and planning had a ton to do with it. Also, his personal discipline to NOT micro manage his officers. That, above all else, is one of the things about him that I admire.
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 wounds, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time.
Kind of fits in with the Gaza situation doesn’t it?
“In about fifteen minutes, we’re going to start turning these boys into fanatics - razors. They’ll lose their fear of the Germans. I only hope to God they never lose their fear of me.”
Lee was by far a greater butcher of his own men the Grant.
Patton’s intelligence people discerned the German build up before the Bulge, and reported it. They were ignored. Eisenhower and Bradley underestimated the enemy. Never a good idea.
Meade was Grants sub. Meade failed to realize what Grant was trying to do with Lee, that was to cut Lee off and Grant actually had to go and correct Meade. Meade was not well liked by his subs. He was tempermental and harsh-but was a very good tactician.
Grant never lost a battle. It even left Lee to say that he historically, never found a better general than Grant in the history of the world.
Two charges Grant said he regretted. Vicksburg and the Wilderness.
Lee on the other hand..lost lots of battles.
always thought that was Ike
I did not know that. Damn...more reading for my list! Thanks.
Frankly, I would rate Longstreet as highly as Jackson, even though the former’s ego sometimes got him into trouble and he too occasionally had feet of clay. But at least he was smart enough to see the tactical value of the Round Tops, even if it was a day late and a dollar short.
They mystery to me is why Lee — ever the brilliant tactician — dismissed them.
“The mystery to me is why Lee ever the brilliant tactician dismissed them.”
I think your answer could be found in the book “Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg” by Troy Harman. Harman is a park ranger at Gettysburg and has done a lot of historical research.
I read the book a few years ago and it really did make a lot of sense. Lee was really not trying to punch at the center of the Union line ion the third day (Pickett’s Charge) but was angling northwards towards Cemetery Hill, his objective thru the whole battle.
Chances are, you can find this book at your local library. In any case, her’s a link to it on Amazon.com:
Not to completely derail the thread, but even if that was Lee’s true plan, ignoring the Round Tops would have given the Union an opportunity to flank an attack on Cemetery Hill. If the crippling Union artillery had been ensconced there, no attack on the center would have stood a chance.
Armchair general here ...
Thanks Kaslin. Our greatest field general in WWII, and a damned sight smarter than anyone who ever commanded him, with the possible exception of Pershing.
The Sherman tank, for all the badmouthing it has taken since that war, was ideally suited for those narrow lanes in villages and between hedgerows in France. Burning gasoline also meant no problems with needing lots of two different kinds of fuel. Of course, they got shut down anyway, as the number of troops and quantity of hardware on the continent ballooned and there were still inadequate port facilities. Patton didn’t like set-piece battles, and Monty practically lived for them. After the remnants of the Afrika corps broke at El Alamein II, Monty (having lost something like 600 various kinds of armored vehicles, against a foe which was depleted to a level known exactly thanks to Ultra intercepts) had no plan for pursuit.
Rommel himself expressed a lot of curiousity about that, to the point of implying that Monty must have been nuts not to have one, and to sit on his ass once the Germans had to run for it. Rearguards waited for the enemy which never came.
Monty wasn’t nuts, he was only good at self-promotion, and liked his predecessor’s battle plan so well he kept it, used it, took the credit for it, and didn’t develop a pursuit plan of his own.