Berlin in 10 Days, Could Patton Have Done It?

In the movie Patton there’s a scene where Gen. Omar Bradley has come out to the field to tell Patton that for reasons not to Patton’s liking, Bradley was going to have to cut off Patton’s supply of gasoline. Patton responds with, “Just give me 400,000 gallons of gasoline and I can be in Berlin in 10 days!” Now assuming something like the scene in the movie did occur and that Patton did respond as he did in the movie, could Patton have done it? I realize that there’s no way of knowing for certain, of course, but how likely is it that he could have maintained his current rate of advance and how fast was that rate? Also, any ideas as to when this was and how much sooner it could have ended the war?

(Note, I’m equally willing to believe that Patton was telling the truth, thought he was telling the truth, or was simply bullshitting in hopes of getting the gas to get that much closer to Berlin.)

Not without Monty’s support, or DeGaulle’s for that matter.

I don’t even think Patton really thought he could do such a thing, not at that time anyhow. Later on, after he got it in his head to bust Jr. out of his POW camp, maybe he thought he could, but by then we had a beach-head and secured supply lines to the German front.

Read “War As I Knew It” by Patton himself for more insight on his thinking. Patton was a nutter who just happened to have a quick and intuative command style perfectly suited for armor. It was IMHO just dumb luck that he didn’t command like many of his more conservative peers. Patton was best at battlefield improvisation, while Bradley was probably more of a strategist and worked best with a well drawn out plan. The fortuitous thing is that WW II was our first venture at warfare with the tools we were using and which suited Patton’s style. He had radios and tanks and jeeps (oh my!). He was also willing to spend blood like water. Combine those and know that you are routienly fighting an enemy with entrenched positions who is more familliar in facing a conservative foe (one trained in battle tactics and planning in line with flag and horn signal corps and mounted brigades and little to no artillery cover) and you have Patton’s remarkable success at quicly mounting spears to trigger an enemy’s defense and following up with the bulk of his forces to overrun the opponent’s hard positions.

Sorry, what was the question again? Oh. The answer is “Not in the context of the time he said it in the film.” Even thought he was Euli Ceasar, who was Aleksandar, who was Achilie who fell at Illion.

If he did say it, his impression of the quality of German defences might also have been influenced by the relatively poor quality and tactics of the Germans faced in the breakout south. I find it hard to believe he could have breezed through the same level of opposition that the British and Canadians faced around Caen, even if he could have improved on that performance.

Almost certainly not.

However, my big what if scenario of the world would have been if the powers-at-be followed Pattons advice and re-equipped the Germans and had the rest of the Western powers go after the USSR.

I doubt that Patton would have made such a statement, except possibly as a (bad) joke. There is an adage, Laymen think of tanks and guns and planes, Generals think of logistics. I don’t remember the scene in Patton but from the other posts I assume it was made while are forces were still in Normandy or close to it.

According to my globe it is about 750 air miles from Normandy to Berlin. By road it is probably closer to 900. Consider the first 10 miles on the way. This stretch of road has to be protected against flank attacks. The people doing the protecting need food and other supplies which will be brought by trucks which need fuel. The next 10 miles of the advance will expose a further stretch of road to flank attack, requiring additional protecting and those troops will also need supplies. In effect, when you try to maintain a 20 mile stretch of road in enemy territory you have created a 20 mile front line which has to be protected and supplied. I think anyone can see the scenario. By the time you have advanced 100 miles it begins to take an immense amount of fuel and other supplies just to maintain protection of the supply line to the assault forces at the tip of the incusion.

Breakthroughs can be maintained for a short time but soon need to be backed up on a broader front so as to prevent the breakthrough force from being isolated by having its supply line cut. It looks to me like logistical support for the assault and protection for the logistics would have taken all of the troops and supplies that we could get to the continent just to protect the supply line for Patton to put just 1 tank into Berlin.

The German experience in the Battle of the Bulge was like this. They got a tank and motorized infantry breakthrough in the Ardennes Forest very quickly. According to historian John Toland’s book Battle, Story of the Bulge some tank forces got nearly to the town of Dinant, Belgium, about 60 miles from the original front, within a short time, maybe three days. But they were unable to follow up on a broader front and their assault force ran out of supplies and was ineffective from then on, eventually being either captured, destroyed or pulled out.

And this doesn’t figure in any opposition at Patton’s front at all.

Would the German defenses have improved once they arrived back at the German border, and were able to man the presumably well fortified border? (I would imagine that, once a bulkhead was established at Normandy, the rest of France would not have been well fortified from a defensive standpoint.) So, maybe he could have run to the border, but then be met with stiffer resistance . . .

The quotation takes place in roughly August or September of 1944, after the allied forces (actually, Patton’s forces) had broken out of the Normandy beachhead and bagged most of the German armored forces on the Western front in the Falaise pocket.

The Germans were in a headlong retreat for the German border, and they temporarily ceased to act as a coherent fighting force. There were no German troops behind the German border, either, and the Seigfried Line, which lay just inside Germany, was unmanned and incomplete. Some allied units were logging advances of forty or more miles a day, but as Field Marshal Model sarcastically noted later, the Germans were retreating faster than the allies could attack them.

However, there was a problem. The fuel for the allied forces was still coming off the beaches of Normandy, and was delivered by truck. There is a finite distance a GMC six-wheeler can carry fuel, though I don’t know what that distance is. It should be fairly easily computable by comparing the fuel consumption of the truck to how much fuel it can carry, keeping in mind that the truck has to return to the beaches and that it should be able to drop something off when it gets to the front lines.

I doubt that there was enough fuel in France to sustain the Third Army’s advance all the way to Berlin in August/September 1944, but rather than take my word for it, we should probably find the geeks who’ve no doubt already figured it out. I’m sure they’re out there somewhere.

DeGaulle’s support? What significant (i.e. beyond token or figurehead) support could DeGaulle provide? Sure, we (the British and Americans) set it up so LeClerc (IIRC) entered Paris first, but it wasn’t the Free French who got him there.

DeGaulle’s support would have been invaluable for logistical aid. The French resistance should have and probably did know where any remaining fuel depos were that escaped destruction at the onset of the German withdrawl. Same goes for informing, by radios smuggled in to the resistance earlier in the war, which routes were best used to avoid straggling German forces so as to not cause delays.

DeGaulle may not have been the only person capable of this, but he would have likely been the fastest unifying force among French resistance.

What Sofa King said.

On the other hand, a distinct advantage that could have come with supplying Patton with fuel would have been to breach, on a large enough front, the West Wall before it being manned, and probably allowing a breakthrough to the Rhine.

That assumes that there was enough gas to give Patton as he requested. Even if there was, there then would be nothing for anyone else, and Patton’s army all alone in Berlin would have been useless. There were over 300,000 casualties in the 1945 Battle of Berlin, where the Russians and Germans fought every block. Patton’s forces would have been overwhelmed.

On the other hand, if they put Patton on a plane and air-dropped him over Berlin, he could have been there in a few hours. It would have been just about as useful.

Gen. Omar Bradley takes up the question of how the battle plan developed after the German collapse in Normady, along with his assessment of it. I looks as if the movie condensed what was an involved assessment of what to do into a single scene where Patton asks for fuel for a “dash” to Berlin. What follows is based on information in Bradley’s book A General’s Life, Chap. 33.

Montgomery wanted to be given the bulk of the Allied forces for a drive along the French channel coast to Berlin. He claimed he could move fast enough that the demoralized Germans wouldn’t have time to stop him. This had a big advantage that, if successful, the V1 and V2 rocket sites could be eliminated rather quickly thus sparing Britain further punishment. And, Monty claimed, his plan would end the war quickly.

As to this Bradley wrote that Monty would be forced to drop off troops along the way to protect his supply line thus weakening his assault forces the closer he got to Germany. He summed up as follows: In my opinion, Monty’s basic assumption—that he could strike straight through to the Ruhr and Berlin before the Germans could organize to resist him—was downright crazy. I was sure the Germans could organize at least twenty to thirty crack divisions to defend their homeland. By then, Monty’s spearhead would be dangerously weak. There would not be time enough to open Antwerp for supplies; his lines would stretch all the way back to the invasion beaches. His flanks would be exposed to counterattack. In my estimation, there was a good possibility that Monty’s diminished spearhead could be utterly destroyed, that a determined German counterattack could drive us all the way back to the Seine.

At the same time Patton was arguing the same sort of plan on his own behalf with him getting the bulk of the armies and supplies. In spite of all sorts of myth, at this time Patton was not the all-conquering hero that he is made to to be. His 3[sup]rd[/sup] Army had been given the task of securing the Brittany Peninsula and capturing the Ports of Brest and St. Nazaire. It had not succeeded in that task and was finally pulled out and sent east to help with the 1[sup]st[/sup] Army’s attempt to close the trap at Falaise.

Here is Bradley’s assessment of Patton at the time and of his plan. *Alternately, what if we had backed Patton in an all-out pursuit without pause? Could he, as he claimed, have brought the war to an early end?

I am not aware that anyone other than Patton has taken this idea seriously. Undeniably Patton had a marvelous talent for gaining ground— and headlines. Without meaning to detract from his extraordinary achievements, Patton’s great and dramatic gains, beginning in Sicily and continuing through Brittany and on across the Seine at Mantes, Melun and Troyes, had been made against little or no opposition. Until now Patton had not really had a serious fight on his hands, and I was certain that sooner or later Patton was going to have one. I was not sure how good a tactician he would be in a tough fight. None of his divisions had ever been put to the real test.

Had we backed Patton all-out, it would have been necessary to throw the full weight—all three corps—of Hodges’ battle-hardened First Army into the chase with him. That, in fact, had been the original Allied plan on a much slower timetable. The addition of Hodges’ army would have imposed a logistical demand so heavy as to preclude pursuit without pause. As I have stated often, Patton gave little or no consideration to logistics. He and Hodges might well have pursued without pause to the German border, but logistical limitations would have halted them there, perhaps for a very long time, with no real gain to us.*

So, it is doubtful that the movie’s Patton-Bradley conversation about fuel ever took place. And in the opinion of Bradley, Patton’s scheme was ill-conceived. As for “Berlin in 10 days,” fuggidabowdit.