Was Gen. Patton responding directly to Andy Rooney? (language warning)

The other day I was entertaining myself by reading various versions of General George S. Patton’s speech that he gave to units of the Third Army just prior to D-Day.

Then I ran across this quote of Andy Rooney, from this page.

I find it very interesting, because Patton seemed to already have supplied a retort to Rooney on May 17, 1944:

It’s obvious Rooney still has a chip on his shoulder about Patton, but I’ve seen him explain that pretty eloquently by saying that Patton was a glory seeker who wasn’t afraid to sacrifice his men for headlines.

But I wonder if something more personal is going on here. Was Patton responding directly to something Andy Rooney himself wrote for Stars and Stripes? Is he referring directly to a journalist for the Saturday Evening Post? Or was this philosophical rift some sort of party line that American war correspondents regularly toed and Patton disliked?

As a side question, I’d like to know if Andy Rooney ever personally interacted with Gen. Patton. Did they know one another personally, or was Rooney just another anonymous private taking notes at Patton’s press conferences?

I don’t see Patton’s remark as directed at what Rooney said at all. Patton is talking about lateral teamwork instead of individual heroics. It’s great to have Sgt. York or Audie Murphy kick ass and take names but it’s cohesive armies that win wars, not individual medal winners. Patton was a chickenshit sonofabitch but I have to agree with that statement. Rooney is talking about slavish devotion to chain of command and blindly following orders vs. personal initiative and soldiers thinking for themselves. I see the two statements are oblique to each other rather than opposite and don’t see them as mutually exclusive.

Patton was often accused of being willing to sacrifice men for his greater glory, so he might have been responding to his critics in general and not specifically Andy Rooney. Supposedly, there was a strong Esprit de Corps in Patton’s Third Army. Also, when Patton was forced to make his apology to the various forces under his command, he was booed by the troops because they felt that he’d done nothing wrong.

Rooney, however in the quote you cited, proves that Patton was right and that Rooney was wrong. Rooney mistakenly assumes that Patton was simply someone who got the generalship because they were a good ass-kisser. Patton was instrumental in developing the US Army’s tank warfare. He had his hand in designing the tanks that the military used. (He wanted diesel engines, BTW, but the Army preferred gasoline engines for some reason.) No military person (i.e. combat soldier or officer) who met or served with Patton has ever (to my knowledge) said that Patton was an idiot. They might not have liked him, but they all respected the man’s knowledge and abilities.

I don’t know about Andy Rooney, but I’d read somewhere about the Saturday Evening Post stuff – they were articles about another commander who valued the individuality of his men. Patton was railing against that in the part of the speech you cite, not Rooney. But I don’t know if Patton commented on Rooney elsewhere.

Incidentally, the speech you link to, in a slightly condensed and cleaned-up version, is what they used to open the movie Patton. I didn’t realize George C. Scott had so precisely quoted him .

Cal, Omar Bradley (played by Carl Malden) was the technical advisor on that film and Francis Ford Coppola co-wrote the screenplay. The dialoge from that film was based as closely on what Patton really said as was possible. Coppola and his partner even went around and interviewed people who knew Patton, looking for anecdotes that hadn’t been published anywhere, to put into the film.

I find this a little puzzling. The only time I know of that Patton publicly appolgized to those in his command was after he had slapped an enlisted soldier in a hospital - for the second time. According to Omar Bradley in A General’s Story, the incidents were reported up the line but the Army kept quiet about it until one of the hospital doctors blew the whistle to a newsman.

Patton was then forced to appologize to the members of the 1[sup]st[/sup] Infantry division. According to everything I’ve read those present simply sat and listened and then turned around and left without acknowledging Patton in any way. My guess is that they didn’t think anyone who was forced to appologize really meant it.

Thanks for the lead, Cal. I’ll try to follow that one up if I can find the spare time.

And you may very well have a point there, Padeye, but I thought the two quotes came close enough to one another to ring some bells.

Everything I’ve read backs up David Simmons–that the reaction of most of the thousands of soldiers Patton apologized to was simple silence.

Patton’s record was pretty good, his army did well.

We won the war because of generals like him, and also because of the tremendous efforts of the Soviet Union which diverted most of the resources and armies of Germany.

Patton was right about “team” vs. “individual action” - just look at the record of parachute troops, who for the most part fail miserably because they are so scattered and cannot fight as a unit but must take “individual action” - thus they are rarely used by any country.

Individual action is great, but when you have armies of hundreds of thousands of men fighting hundreds of thousands of other men, then it is the better “general” who wins.

Um, last time I looked, GQ is not the place for gratuitous, unsupported insults toward historical figures. I’m sure we all appreciate the bulk of your post, but “sandwiching in” a crude opinion the way you did is, I think, uncalled for and not in the spirit of GQ.

Well, yes and no I think. The airborne troops dropped in Normany pretty much fulfilled their mission. British were dropped at the east end, denied important supply and reinforcement routes to the Germans. The same thing was true behind Utah Beach where the 101[sup]st[/sup] and 82[sup]nd[/sup] dropped. True, there was a lot of disorganization but individuals managed to find others whether or not in their original units and organized pretty good holding actions that helped divert the Germans from the landings.

I don’t think our generals were any better than the Germans. Logistics and reinforcements plus control of the air is what wins.
We did have the advantage in that that, as far as tactics were concerned, Hitler was on our side, throwing away whole armies with orders to “hold that position at all costs.” That is the type of command that is sometimes given to regiments in order to allow an army to escape. It is ridiculous to so order an army of 300000.

And, by the way, in spite of my previous posts, I do too know how to spell “apologize.”

It should be noted that Patton wanted to eliminate “Willy and Joe” from Stars and Stripes. He felt that it was seditious.

David my source for this is the historian’s commentary on the Patton DVD.

My father was a war war 2 combat vet (Pacific theater), and he never ever had a good thing to say about Patton. Refused to allow his kids (me and a brother) to watch the movie. The venom in his voice talking about Patton abusing soldiers was almost frightening. Just some 2 cents

So, he never actually met the man or fought under him. Most likely, he never even fought along side anyone who fought under Patton. So, he must have based his opinion on media reports. Not the most reliable basis for such a strong opinion. Did Patton “abuse” his troops? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I don’t count slapping a soldier as abuse. He could have (and, maybe, should have, though that’s probably a Great Debate) had him shot.

As for “being willing to sacrifice men for his greater glory”, that’s an observer’s perception; probably an observer with no military background. I believe Bradley chided Patton for this but, as I understand it, Bradley’s concern was more for the public perception than the wellfare of the troops. Patton may have been a bit of a glory hound, but what he wanted more than anything else was to win. If that meant losing troops, so be it. All other things being equal, the general who is more willing to make those sacrifices is likely to win. As Patton demonstrated.

According to my recollection of Carlo D’Este, there are allegations that Patton incurred needless casualties by insisting on assaulting the fortress city of Metz.

However, similar allegations can just as easily be made about Hodges’ conduct at roughly the same time in Hurtgen Forest.

This being GQ and all, I’ll merely suggest the possibility that the two battles were fought at roughly the same time because fuel shortages prevented the type of headlong maneuver warfare the Allies enjoyed in the summer of 1944. When Operation PLUTO came fully online in March, 1945, it only took the Allies two months to cave in the western half of the Third Reich.

On the other hand, Metz hadn’t fallen to a direct assault since 451 A.C.E., a fact which was certainly not lost on Patton the military historian.

If he was such a great military historian, why didn’t he know that anybody who ever took an army into the Mediterranean in the winter suffered heavy casualties from malaria, so any soldier shivering uncontollably probably isn’t a coward?

Well, he did think that Socrates was Belgian…

Well, my Grandfather did serve with Patton, and in fact was briefly under his command (not during the war). In later years he gave him full marks for courage, and tactical savvy. But he also held him to be a glory hound, and despised his lack of concern for the men under his command. Bradley, in my Grandfather’s opinion was responsible for Patton’s success in no small measure, along with a lot of other people to whom Patton never gave so much as a nod.


The latest responses to the OP represent the answer. Nobody pays any attention to Andy Rooney, least of all Patton.

In the U.S. Army, a general can order a man hospitalized for shell shock shot? Wow.