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General George S. Patton, Jr.
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George S. Patton's

Speech to the Third U.S. Army

The newspapers called him "Blood and Guts." His men in Africa called him "Gorgeous Georgie" after his distinctive way of dressing. The men of the Third Army simply called him "Georgie," his nickname from childhood. Whatever the nickname, George S. Patton, Jr. represented a rarity in the U.S. Army and unique in the European-African-Middle Eastern theater, the cult of personality. To this day, while other World War II veterans refer to the division and often only to the regiment or battalion, men of the Third Army refer to their belonging to the Third U.S. Army. "I was with Patton," many will say.

A lifetime of study had convinced Patton that this should be his leadership style. He was a consummate actor displaying many faces to suit the need of the moment. Most famous was what he called his "war face." Martin Blumenson, Patton's biographer, says:

His toughness, his profanity, his bluster and braggadocio were appurtenances he assumed in order to inspire soldiers and, incidentally, himself. He cultivated the ferocious face because he believed that only he-men, as he often said, stimulated men to fight. Like Indian war paint, the hideous masks of primitive people, the rebel yell, the shout of paratroopers leaping from their planes, the fierce countenance helped men in battle disguise and overcome their fear of death.

Patton, himself, stated his principle in War as I Knew It:

Corps and Army Commanders must make it a point to be physically seen by as many individuals of their command as possible -- certainly by all combat soldiers. The best way to do this is to assemble the divisions, either as a whole or in separate pieces, and make a short talk.

From January until July 1944, Patton commanded two disparate organizations. Secretly, he became commander of the Third U.S. Army in place of LTG Courtney H. Hodges. Also secretly, with many leaks, he was in command of the First U.S. Army Group (FUSAG) which was to invade France at Calais. FUSAG was the largest deception of the war. Using props built by the movie industry of England and with some real and some fake divisions, FUSAG needed a commander. Patton was ideally suited because he had been relieved of command of the 7th Army for slapping two soldiers. German Intelligence believed he was preparing for some large action. The fake army group (FUSAG) would keep 18 German divisions in the Calais area until almost two months after the Normandy Invasion.

In January 1944, Third Army was in the United States. Its mission was to break out from Normandy after the invasion had secured sufficient ground. After the the units for the Normandy Invasion were staged in Great Britain, elements of Third Army began arriving. It would be a continual process in the six months before and even after the invasion.

When Patton assumed command of Third Army, he replaced a number of the headquarters staff with his own people. Patton spoke to his headquarters staff on March 24, 1944 outside Peover Hall. Some were from his staff in Africa and Sicily but were new to Third Army. Others were fresh from the United States and had been part of Third Army from the beginning. On this day, Patton tailored his speech to a headquarters staff.

I have been given command of Third Army for reasons which will become clear to you later on. (Hodges, with less experience than Patton, was to understudy Bradley at 1st Army. Once all armies were in place on the continent Bradley was to assume command of 12th Group with both armies under him, and Hodges would command 1st Army.) You made an outstanding record as an able and hard-working staff under my predecessor. I have no doubt you will do the same for me. We now have two staffs merging into one, each with its own procedures. By working harmoniously and intelligently together a third staff will be developed with a third procedure, which should be better than either of the other two.

I am here because of the confidence of two men: The President of the United States and the theater commander. They have confidence in me because they don't believe a lot of goddamned lies that have been printed about me and also because they know I mean business when I fight. I don't fight for fun and I won't tolerate anyone on my staff who does.

You are here to fight. This is an active theater of war. Ahead of you lies battle. That means just one thing. You can't afford to be a goddamned fool, because, in battle, fools mean dead men. It is inevitable for men to be killed and wounded in battle. But there is no reason why such losses should be increased because of the incompetence and carelessness of some stupid son-of-a-bitch. I don't tolerate such men on my staff.

There are three reasons why we are fighting this war. The first is because we are determined to preserve our traditional liberties. Some crazy German bastards decided they were supermen and that it was their holy mission to rule the world. They've been pushing people around all over the world, looting, killing, and abusing millions of innocent men, women, and children. They were getting set to do the same thing to us. We had to fight to prevent being subjugated.

The second reason we are fighting is to defeat and wipe out the Nazis who started all this goddamned son-of-bitchery. They didn't think we could or would fight, and they weren't the only ones who thought that, either. There are certain people back home who had the same idea. Both were wrong.

The third reason we are fighting is because men like to fight. They always have and they always will. Some sophists and other crackpots deny that. They don't know what they're talking about. They are either goddamned fools or cowards, or both. Men like to fight, and if they don't they're not real men.

If you don't like to fight, I don't want you around. You'd better get out before I kick you out. But there is one thing to remember. In war, it takes more than the desire to fight to win. You've got to have more than guts to lick the enemy. You must also have brains. It takes brains and guts to win wars. A man with guts but no brains is only half a soldier. We licked the Germans in Africa and Sicily because we had brains as well as guts. We're going to lick them in Europe for the same reason.

That's all and good luck.

Even after the publication of the private diaries of the leaders, Patton's actions and reaction to him during this period are somewhat confusing. Patton's command of the FUSAG required a failed attempt at secrecy. One of Patton's major career crises occurred during this period. Called the "Knutsford Incident," Patton, at least, thought his career was at an end. Third Army Headquarters was located at Peover near Knutsford, England. Patton was asked to attend an opening of a Welcome Club for soldiers. He had declined to speak. However, once on the dais, he was introduced as a speaker. He made a few brief remarks and happened to say, ". . . it is the evident destiny of the British and Americans, and, of course, the Russians, to rule the world . . . " The remarks hit the newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic omitting the Russians thereby slighting one of our allies. All witnesses to the event said he included the Russians. Anthony Cave Brown, in Bodyguard of Lies, states that a British Government representative named Mould "almost certainly" released Patton's remarks to the media as part of the FUSAG deception. Eisenhower, concentrating on invasion plans, seemed to be on the verge of relieving Patton. What did Eisenhower know about details of the deception plan? There is some indication that Patton had more detailed instructions from the British. Did Patton's Third Army staff even know he was in command of FUSAG? Knowing his antipathy to Montgomery, they blamed the British for the incident. The effect of this was a break in what Patton considered one of his most important duties as commander, being seen and speaking to all soldiers. Beginning in February, in spite of a break from April 25 to May 17 because of the "Knutsford Incident," Patton managed to speak to and be seen by everyone in Third Army before landing in Normandy in July.

Patton's speech to units within Third Army were directed to the private. It was directed in a language he thought would appeal to them. Appearing to be extemporaneous, the speech was actually a well rehearsed performance. The Patton Museum has several copies of the speech dating from March to May. Patton kept no record of the speech. Each was copied by someone in the audience. The variations in the text may have come from the recorder or Patton's variation in the presentation. With minor variations such as "toughest boxer" for "All American football teams" and cowards should die like "rats" or like "flies," each version of the speech is remarkably consistent.

Be Seated.

Men, this stuff we hear about America wanting to stay out of the war, not wanting to fight, is a lot of bullshit. Americans love to fight - traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble player; the fastest runner; the big league ball players; the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win - all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost, not ever will lose a war, for the very thought of losing is hateful to an American.

You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you here today would die in a major battle. Death must not be feared. Every man is frightened at first in battle. If he says he isn't, he's a goddamn liar. Some men are cowards, yes! But they fight just the same, or get the hell shamed out of them watching men who do fight who are just as scared. The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared. Some get over their fright in a minute under fire, some take an hour. For some it takes days. But the real man never lets fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to this country and his innate manhood.

All through your army career you men have bitched about "This chickenshit drilling." That is all for a purpose. Drilling and discipline must be maintained in any army if for only one reason -- INSTANT OBEDIENCE TO ORDERS AND TO CREATE CONSTANT ALERTNESS. I don't give a damn for a man who is not always on his toes. You men are veterans or you wouldn't be here. You are ready. A man to continue breathing must be alert at all times. If not, sometime a German son-of-a-bitch will sneak up behind him and beat him to death with a sock full of shit.

There are 400 neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily all because one man went to sleep on his job -- but they were German graves for we caught the bastard asleep before his officers did. An Army is a team. Lives, sleeps, eats, fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is a lot of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don't know any more about real fighting, under fire, than they do about fucking. We have the best food, the finest equipment, the best spirit and the best fighting men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity these poor sons-of-bitches we are going up against. By God, I do!

My men don't surrender. I don't want to hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he is hit. Even if you are hit, you can still fight. That's not just bullshit, either. The kind of man I want under me is like the lieutenant in Libya, who, with a Lugar against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the gun aside with one hand and busted hell out of the Boche with the helmet. Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another German: All this with a bullet through his lung. That's a man for you.

All real heroes are not story book combat fighters either. Every man in the army plays a vital part. Every little job is essential. Don't ever let down, thinking your role is unimportant. Every man has a job to do. Every man is a link in the great chain. What if every truck driver decided that he didn't like the whine of the shells overhead, turned yellow and jumped headlong into the ditch? He could say to himself, "They won't miss me -- just one in thousands." What if every man said that? Where in hell would we be now? No, thank God, Americans don't say that! Every man does his job; every man serves the whole. Every department, every unit, is important to the vast scheme of things. The Ordnance men are needed to supply the guns, the Quartermaster to bring up the food and clothes to us -- for where we're going there isn't a hell of a lot to steal. Every last man in the mess hall, even the one who heats the water to keep us from getting the GI shits has a job to do. Even the chaplain is important, for if we get killed and if he is not there to bury us we'd all go to hell.

Each man must not only think of himself, but of his buddy fighting beside him. We don't want yellow cowards in this army. They should all be killed off like flies. If not they will go back home after the war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed brave men. Kill off the goddamn cowards and we'll have a nation of brave men.

One of the bravest men I ever saw in the African campaign was the fellow I saw on top of a telegraph pole in the midst of furious fire while we were plowing toward Tunis. I stopped and asked what the hell he was doing up there at that time. He answered, "Fixing the wire, sir." "Isn't it a little unhealthy right now?," I asked. "Yes sir, but this goddamn wire's got to be fixed." There was a real soldier. There was a man who devoted all he had to his duty, no matter how great the odds, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty might appear at the time.

You should have seen those trucks on the road to Gabes. The drivers were magnificent. All day and all night they rolled over those son-of-a-bitching roads, never stopping, never faltering from their course, with shells bursting around them all the time. We got through on good old American guts. Many of these men drove over forty consecutive hours. These weren't combat men. But they were soldiers with a job to do. They did it -- and in a whale of a way they did it. They were part of a team. Without them the fight would have been lost. All the links in the chain pulled together and that chain became unbreakable.

Don't forget, you don't know I'm here. No word of the fact is to be mentioned in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what the hell became of me. I'm not supposed to be commanding this Army. I'm not even supposed to be in England. Let the first bastards to find out be the goddamn Germans. Someday I want them to raise up on their hind legs and howl, "Jesus Christ, it's the goddamn Third Army and that son-of-a-bitch Patton again."

We want to get the hell over there. We want to get over there and clear the goddamn thing up. You can't win a war lying down. The quicker we clean up this goddamn mess, the quicker we can take a jaunt against the purple pissing Japs an clean their nest out too, before the Marines get all the goddamn credit.

Sure, we all want to be home. We want this thing over with. The quickest way to get it over is to get the bastards. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin. When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a Boche will get him eventually, and the hell with that idea. The hell with taking it. My men don't dig foxholes. I don't want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don't give the enemy time to dig one. We'll win this war but we'll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans we've got more guts than they have.

There is one great thing you men will all be able to say when you go home. You may thank God for it. Thank God, that at least, thirty years from now, when you are sitting around the fireside with your grandson on your knees, and he asks you what you did in the great war, you won't have to cough and say, "I shoveled shit in Louisiana."