One of my personal heroes, General George Smith Patton, was a man for his time, a living weapon, probably the finest (that is to say, deadliest) practitioner of modern warfare that ever lived. And the Battle of the Bulge may have been his finest hour. Excerpt:
The Allies had a problem.
It was called the German army — rolling right into the American gut.
This was December 1944. The U.S. Army had figured it was close to turning out the lights on World War II in Europe.
Hitler kept them flickering with a tank invasion of northwest Europe, in particular Belgium. In his scope: Antwerp’s port, supplies, fuel and a peace pact to keep the American juggernaut from bagging Germany.
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower heard the alarm.
Now he had to make the call. But to whom?
As soon as the three-star general had his marching orders, he made a beeline to the Bulge in Belgium — and in seven days rescued the trapped Americans in Bastogne while decking the Nazis.
“It was Patton’s finest hour,” Harry Yeide wrote in “Fighting Patton.”
“There was not one other single man in the Army who could’ve done that,” Mike Province, author of “The Unknown Patton” and head of the Patton Society, told IBD. “No one else had the willpower and knowledge of the terrain. He turned the entire 3rd Army 90 degrees and headed north — about 200,000 men and 200 tanks. It took the sheer willpower of Patton.”
Willpower – something Patton had in abundance.
When Patton proposed to turn 3rd Army and head north, every officer around him – including Omar Bradley – said it was impossible. Patton responded that 3rd Army would damn well do as he told them, and they did.
Another of my personal heroes, then-Captain Dick Winters, was in the encircled 101st Airborne at Bastogne – as was the Old Man’s older brother Donald. When moving into Bastogne, Winters was speaking to a lieutenant from one of the units fleeing the German onslaught. The young officer told Winters, “A panzer division is about to cut the road south. You’re going to be surrounded.”
The 101st never admitted they needed to be rescued, by Patton or anyone else. And they may be right. But that doesn’t make the achievements of Patton and 3rd Army any less.
The article concludes:
A year after his Bulge heroics, Patton died from the effects of a paralyzing car crash in Germany. He’s buried in Luxembourg.
“Patton had shortcomings,” said Sorley, “but Eisenhower knew he was a great fighting general and knew he would need him when the chips were down.”
Patton had all of the traits of a consummate combat general: Audacity, courage, determination, ruthlessness, intelligence, education, and a talent for reading his opponents (his victories over Rommel in Africa were largely due to two things: 1) Rommel had written a book on tank warfare, and 2) Patton read it.) He was an arrogant, profane man, difficult to work for and a handful for his superiors.
But the Allied victory in Europe in WW2 was in no large part due to the efforts of George Patton and 3rd Army.
In the U.S. Army, uniform protocol states that the unit patch of one’s current unit is worn on the left shoulder. On the right, soldiers that have served in a combat zone may wear the patch of the unit they served with at that time. On my old uniforms, the patch of 3rd Army is on the right sleeve.
Granted that was for service in the Persian Gulf War in 90-91, not WWII, but still – I’m pretty proud of that.