Was Patton a jerk?

I’m reading The Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson (they’re quite good, I recommend them if you’re at all interested in WW2), and in it Patton is painted as a bloodthirsty, thickheaded jackass, who I would have punched in the head and possibly shot rather than followed anywhere. A lot of his remarks in the book remind me of Washington’s stupid comment about the sound of bullets.

From what I can tell some people worshiped him while others disdained him. Take your pick.

My father, who was in the US Army infantry in France during WWII near Patton’s tanks used to tell a great story. This was toward the end of the war, after the Battle of the Bulge, and the German army was demoralized. Patton’s tanks would go “racing” down the road ahead of the infantry and the Germans would melt away into the countryside. No resistance whatsoever. Then, as soon as the infantry started down those same roads, with Patton’s tanks far out ahead, they would be ambushed by the Germans who were retreating back into Germany. So the soldiers appreciated what Patton had done, but took the brunt of the attacks while the tanks continued to roll on toward Berlin.

Moved from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

I highly recommend the 5 part series Patton 360. It covers Pattons entire WWII career. Here’s the very first part.

Patton was an odd duck. He insisted his officers wear ties even on the battlefield. They had to dress like professional soldiers no matter what.

At times Patton was very effective. On D Day Patton arrived on the beach and everything was chaos. They weren’t getting the equipment off the beach. Delays were costing lives. Patton took charge and got things moving. It wasn’t his job, but someone had to get the wheels back on.

I learned a lot watching Patton 360. Fascinating man.

He believed in reincarnation which is certainly not mainstream. I read somewhere that is he rated by the public as a better general compared to men who went on to be president such as Washington, Grant and Eisenhower.

Are you sure about this? Because my recollection of history is that Patton didn’t participate in D-Day except to stay in Britain opposite Calais with a bunch of cut-outs as a fake army to make the Nazis think that he was leading a later real invasion.

Patton was with Pershing chasing Pancho Villa and was brought into WWI by Pershing to be the first tank corps commander. He was successful in the field and so was a natural to resume the job in WWII. It didn’t hurt that he was also buddies with Eisenhower long before WWII broke out. He was impulsive and brash, and had no patience with what he saw as dithering by allied commanders and even U.S. commanders. It didn’t make him a jerk, but it did make him less of an asset than could be hoped for.

Patton was a jerk. Eisenhower had a terrible temper. Bradley was far more likely to dismiss a subordinate. And it’s entirely possible that when the Germans demanded surrender at Bastogne, Gen. McAuliffe’s reply was slightly stronger than “Nuts!”

My ex-father in law served in Patton’s Third Army. His strongest recollection of Patton as a man was that he actually had a high, squeaky voice.

Patton was temporarily relieved of duty after slapping and berating a soldier in a hospital; the assignment as commander of the fake army coincided with this discipline. As a result, Patton was not in the field on D-Day and did not return to the field until, I believe, a month or two after D-Day.

Watch the movie. George does a pretty good job. Then make your own mind up. I say he was a jerk. All great leaders are jerks. Now, move it, before I put a boot up your ass!

A lot of Patton’s reputation was due to his self-generated publicity.

He wasn’t a brilliant general. His plans tended to always be the same - hurl everything we’ve got at the enemy. This was essentially the same strategy used by people like Custer at Little Big Horn or Haig at the Somme and history remembers them as incompetent. But Patton was lucky because the forces he commanded usually had more men and equipment than the forces opposing him. So when he threw his troops into battle they usually broke through and won.

As aceplace pointed out, Patton often enforced ridiculous peacetime regulations in battle conditions. He would do inspections of combat units and have men fined for not being properly shaved or not wearing a tie. I’m pretty sure that any soldier who had spent the last week under enemy fire and was now being told he was being fined that week’s pay because he hadn’t shaved that morning would have thought Patton was a jerk - and probably would have muttered something under his breath about not having a valet to iron his uniform.

Or consider Patton’s confrontation with Bill Mauldin. Mauldin had written some “Willie and Joe” cartoons which made fun of Patton’s obsession with dress codes. Patton had Mauldin brought in and threatened to bring him up on charges for insubordination. Eisenhower had to intervene and make Patton drop the issue.

Interesting bit of SDMB history: a former poster here once said he was personally acquainted with an aide of McAuliffe’s who confirmed that.

Did MacAuliffe really says “Nuts”?

I know Andy Rooney, who as a reported in the war and covered Patton for a time, despised him. I saw a piece he did he where he said something like, “He was a bad general who didn’t give a damn about his men.”

Of the four army commander in the Norther France campaign, Patton faced the least resistance and had the most me (4 corps). He advanced as far as Hodges who had half the men and even less armour and faced similar resistance. Dempsey adbanced further against greater resistance while Crerar advanced the furtherest with the most resistance.

Twice in his life he faced determined opposition; in Sicily and at Metz and he struggled each time, indeed his dash across France was halted when he faced the German First Army coming up from the South. He did brilliantly during the Bulge, but it should also be remembered that during Market Garden, the British XXX Corps advanced in similar circumstances and faced far more Germans than he did (he essentially was unopposed till bastonge).

Patton was an excellent general, but he was not the best in ETO or even the US Army, Hodges in ETO was better IMO and overall I think Kruger was the best US Field Army commander.

What he did have was a press machine.

If you Google Andy Rooney general Patton you will find a bunch of things about Rooney’s dislike of Patton. There was also a thread about it.

There is a very interesting multi-page excerpt from Rooney’s war memoir here. BTW, according to Rooney, they met each other twice during the war. And at one time Patton tried to have him fired, and tried to have other journalists, including Bill Mauldin, fired.

And there was a story about Patton I’ve never seen anywhere else. On page 197, Rooney says that Patton was present at the summary execution of 36 Italian prisoners, including some civilians, and ordered his men to concoct a phony cover story about it.

It was in the Patton 360 documentary. Maybe they got their wires crossed. At least I thought it was D Day. It’s been almost a year since it aired on the History channel.

I was actually going to start a thread about Patton regarding how successful he really was- Little Nemo states pretty clearly my thoughts.

He seems to have had a great advantage in men and ordinance wherever he fought. I could never argue that he wasn’t successful, but I just can’t see where he won a battle against great odds or by displaying special leadership.

As I believe I said in another thread on the subject (sorry, I’m too lazy to look for it), it’s a blessing that MacArthur was in the Pacific — had MacArthur, Montgomery and Patton all been in the same theater, the concentration of ego would have sucked the entire (Western) Allied effort into a black hole.

Was Patton a jerk?

I’d say he sure sounds like one.

George C. Scott did not want the speech at the beginning of “Patton” so they lied and told him it would be at the end. When he saw the movie he agreed it was a good idea to start the movie with the speech.