Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

George Patton’s Summer of 1944

Nearly 70 years ago, the lieutenant general began his advance toward the German border.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

 

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

12 Thoughts on “George Patton’s Summer of 1944

  1. Ed Powell on July 24, 2014 at 11:30 am said:

    Approaching the French city of Trier, Patton was ordered not to try to enter the city. Patton ignored the order and took Trier. When rumor of this filtered back to rear echelons, another frantic message came from Army Group Headquarters that under no circumstances should Patton attempt to capture Trier. Patton sent a brief response: “Have captured Trier. Do you want me to give it back?”

    If only we had generals like this again.

  2. Stephen Downing on July 24, 2014 at 11:41 am said:

    I had the opportunity to spend several days with Omar Bradley about three months prior to his death. I asked him, “What about Patton?”
    Bradley chuckled and replied,”Ol’ George. The biggest problem I had with him was his battle plans. He was only interested in glory. Didn’t give a damn about the casualty rate ”
    The entire visit was fascinating.
    Steve Downing
    Long Beach

    • shame on bradley for making such a statement. what motivates any man to be a 3 or a 4 or 5 star general? it aint the pay and the housing! the boys at west point are trained to fight and study daily for 4 years for the common good, but also, for their own glory. bradley once knew that. he forgot. patton didnt. sour grapes. thats why george c. scott, and not karl malden was cast as patton.

  3. David Seward on July 24, 2014 at 11:50 am said:

    I had the pleasure of knowing E. Dwight Salmon who sat on General Eisenhower’s staff. Salmon was chief historian for the Euopean Theater. He retired in 1962 after a distinguished career as history professor at Amherst College. I asked him if he had met General Patton during the war and he replied, ” Yes, once…..and that was enough!” He went on to tell me that Patton was indeed a student of military history which augmented is genius as a tactician on the battle field. However, his flamboyant and sometimes caustic personality did not serve him well as an officer among officers.. Professor Salmon passed away in 1993 at the age of 98.

  4. Henry on July 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm said:

    I have always believed much the same thing that Victor Davis Hanson writes of George Patton. That is until the last few years when I read more about the European theater in WWII and more specificaly about Omar Bradley. As most historians he follows the popular version of Patton and Bradley but the real evidence, the real flow of events is not always the popular version. One would do well to read Jim DeFelices’ “Omar Bradley” an impeccably researched book on our nations last five star general. While I still admire greatly George Patton and his abilities Omar Bradley was the true unsung hero and Patton’s enabler!

  5. JW Carter on July 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm said:

    My great uncle Alvin Cowin of Caruthers/Kingsburg served in 3rd Army and was at the Bulge and pulled and manned an artillery gun. Alvin like most of his men cussed George up and down. Before he passed away I met and wrote about in voices of valor Sam Kalfman who was one of Patton’s Buck privates showed me his poetry. Patton was dyslectic and a horrible poet according to him. When Sam forgot to wear a helmet while typing he told me Patton knocked it off his head and he was demoted…When I think of Patton I think of George C Scott. I enjoyed your insight and article. Jack Pearls Vlood and Guts Patton is a favorite….

  6. merle clark on July 25, 2014 at 6:52 am said:

    Mr. Hanson: Been reading your articles for years, have some of your books. Yesterday’s article about the summer of 1944 and General Patton particularly was meaningful for me. My father, one of those conscripted GI’s, was a truck driver in the 80th Division of the Third Army. In many discussions with him he told me precisely the substance of your article yesterday. He said they were moving so fast getting fuel and ammunition to the tanks and troops that the supply dwindled or ran out. Then the rains, the mud, then the fighting around the Moselle River and areas where the German army dug in, then the Bulge (driving all night to get there in blinding snow), on into Germany and into Austria as the war ended. In 1994 I, my father, and my 10 year old son joined the 80th division for a fiftieth anniversary reunion tour of the 80th’s route in 1944.

  7. CPT John R. Sweet on July 26, 2014 at 1:53 pm said:

    I enjoyed this article as a reminder of the events of this month 7 decades ago. I was also introduced to the Patton legend as a child watching George C. Scott’s portrayal– I have spent years trying to wade through the lore to understand the historical facts. I agree with Dr. Hanson’s assessment that Patton was more gifted than Bradley. Bradley went on to become a 5-star General of the Army, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, etc. He had over 40 years to secure his own historical reputation, and secure it he did (even acting as a consultant in the classic movie “Patton.”) Rarely mentioned is the giant intelligence failure prior to the Ardennes offensive, or his plodding pace through the hedgerows of Normandy the previous summer. Bradley was ambitious and a schemer– far from the humble GI Joe he wanted to portray. Certainly the observation of E. Dwight Salmon’s discussed above was true– Patton’s style and his habit of exceeding the standard won him few friends among his officer peers. I recommend LTC Carlo d’Este’s PATTON: A GENIUS FOR WAR.

  8. once again in war, crucial decisions of our government and military were affected by the opinions of narrow minded american civilians who couldn’t understand world politics/war/military strategy/military leadership if their they had to. ignorant arm-chair quarterbacks. and now its worse than in ww2 and vietnam. even our president and his cabinet fit this description. when will we ever learn? maybe once we are slaves to the chinese or muslims.

  9. Mark Borzillo on July 28, 2014 at 11:04 am said:

    While I have read almost everything written about Patton and think is brand of leadership is sorely missing today, I cannot forget he was part of the reprehensible attack on other armed services vets during the 30’s when they were protesting for their promised benefits. I guess Hoover and MacArthur have to take blame for that, too. That was a sad day in US history.

  10. John Nicholas on July 30, 2014 at 7:14 pm said:

    I agree that Patton was a better tactician and his style and knowledge reflect that. Bradley was not the tactician, his gifts were definitely more strategic.

    Great stories like ‘Should I give it back?’ The real issue is understanding the master plan and your part in it. Patton in many ways was like Montgomery. Wanting to be out in front and leading. The strategic concept of the Western Allies was from day one, advance on a broad united front. If the concept had been a hard driving spear, then several options existed. Montgomery, Simpson, Patton and Devers all vie for being chosen.

    The issue was to win the war, not the battle. There were a lot of things going on. Air raids, resistance groups, National Pride, adequate supply, governing those areas captured from the enemy. Look at what happened on the Eastern Front with just resistance groups, supply and governing areas captured from the enemy. Major issues there that were not nearly the problem in Northern Europe during 1944. Most of that was the strategic concept of a broad front advancing as a united army.

    The last sentence is the summation of Mr. Hansen’s piece and is very fitting for the 3rd Army. It is great to see the individual pride of the soldiers passed down for the current group to take pride in. Part of that pride should be individual effort; part of it should be the National Result.

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