"All very successful commanders are prima donnas, and must be so treated." General George Patton III
Abuse of power by military commanders is not a new thing. I had heard all of my life what a great commander General George Patton was during WWII. The movie about his "life," made in 1970, staring George Scott, won all kinds of Academy Awards, however it skillfully looked the other way concerning so much of his behavior. That seems to continue to be a direction we are going concerning our military today. Only as I began to read in depth about his life, did I realize he might have been a brilliant man, a great strategist thinker, but he was a commander without honor, who committed war crimes, and he was not much of human being either. He was an abusive criminal who should have been relieved of duty and prosecuted for his crimes. We failed then, let us not fail now. Let us examine each leader, and require of all leaders honor in every decision. As our government grants to these individuals the power to send our sons and daughters to their deaths in defense of our country, let us fulfill our sacred duty to them to provide leadership worthy of following.
Patton was born into a family of wealth and privilege with a long history of Military Service, and after completing his education at West Point, he first served in combat with the Poncho Villa Expedition. As I have studied the life of Patton, I have realized he probably suffered from some mental illness, and I think he was totally devoid of character.
Certainly he was a very difficult person for his family to live with between wars, and I am certain they suffered emotionally because of it. He had a blood lust for war, he enjoyed war, and climbing the career ladder was easier during a war. I found he had no regard for any of the troops under him, especially those suffering PTSD. Wounded himself in WWI, he had also had little respect for those who served along side of him on the battle field during The Great War. He demonstrated just what disdain he held the common Soldier in one of the events in our military history we would rather forget.
In 1932 Patton, as a major, was along with General MacArthur, and his aide-de-camp, Major Eisenhower, when MacArthur was sent to break up a demonstration by WWI veterans who were demanding their bonus as promised for their service. They were marching on Washington, along with their wives and children. People were going hungry in massive numbers across our country during the Great Depression, and 1932 was at the height of that ordeal.
done so to his troops before they marched to meet the protestors. He said, "If you must fire do a good job... a few casualties become martyrs, a large number an object lesson. When a mob starts to move, keep it on the run... Use a bayonet to encourage its retreat. If they are running a few good wounds in the buttocks will encourage them. If they resist, they must be killed." MacArthur defied a direct order from President Hoover, when he pursued the protestors out of the District of Columbia to their encampment where he burned it to the ground. After the attack, Joe Angelo tried to meet with Patton. In his pompous rhetoric, Patton announced, "I do not know this man. Take him away and under no circumstances permit him to return." Patton wasn't a great commander, he was in great need of mental health services, he should have never been promoted again... but he was.
He had made Brigadere General by 1940 as the drums of war beat in the distance. He led troops all over the world, and then in Italy as he commanded the 45th Division, seventy-three Italian prisoners were executed by his Soldiers. General Omar Bradley wanted two of the Soldiers to face a general court-martial, for premeditated murder. However, they asserted they were only obeying the direct 0rders of General Patton. They quoted him as saying"The more prisoners we took, the more we'd have to feed, and not to fool with prisoners." The good ole boy network kicked in, and in order to protect Patton from being charged with war crimes, Bradley dropped the whole thing.
Patton made a habit of visiting the military hospitals in theater. I don't know what his true reason was, I can only speculate, but it was not to support those serving under him. On the third of August of 1943, he visited the 15th Evacuation Hospital. There was a private there who had been admitted suffering from "shellshock," as they called PTSD during WWII. Charles H. Kuhl, when Patton asked him why he had been admitted, replied "I guess I can't take it." Patton responded by slapping his face with a glove, raising him to his feet by his shirt collar, and kicking him out of the tent. Patton sent a memo out to all commanders in the 7th Army, which he was "commanding" at the time. It read, "It has come to my attention that a very small number of Soldiers are going to the hospital on the pretext that they are nervously incapable of combat. Such men are cowards and bring discredit on the army and disgrace to their comrades, whom they heartlessly leave to endure the dangers of battle while they, themselves, use the hospital as a means of escape. You will take measures to see that such cases are not sent to the hospital but are dealt with in their units. Those who are not willing to fight will be tried by court-martial for cowardice in the face of the enemy."
On the tenth of August, the General visited the 93rd Evacuation Hospital and once again found a private, Paul Bennett, an artilleryman with the 13th Field Artillery Brigade. Again Patton asked the Soldier what the problem was, and he replied, "it's my nerves, I can't stand the shelling anymore." In a blind rage Patton screamed, "Your nerves. Hell, you are just a goddamned coward, you yellow son of a bitch. Shut up that goddamned crying. I won't have these brave men here who have been shot seeing a yellow bastard sitting here crying. You're a disgrace to the Army and you're going back to the front to fight, although that's too good for you. You ought to be lined up against a wall and shot. In fact, I ought to shoot you myself right now, God damn you!" With that comment, he took out his pistol and waved it in the man's face, Colonel Donald E. Currier, a physician in the hospital had to get in between the two men, because Patton then punched the man in the head twice. Patton was a racist and an anti-Semitic, which was rather paradoxical, considering one of the reasons we fought was to free the Jews held in concentration camps in Nazi Germany. In fact, Patton's politics agreed more with the Nazi platform, and would surface again and again during WWII. "Battle fatigue," Patton claimed was a fake concept thought up by Jewish psychiatrists, because they were "predominant in the Jewish faith."
The private's doctor sent a report to the Seventh Army's General Eisenhower, and to four reporters who were attached to the Seventh Army. His striking of the man was a court martial event, but again, the good ole boy's club came to the rescue, and everyone was asked to keep it quiet by Eisenhower, and they did. The remark was made by one reporter that there were,"at least 50,000 American soldiers on Sicily who would shoot Patton if they had the chance."
These interactions with Soldiers took place while Patton was in Italy commanding the 7th, and yet another atrocity took place as he commanded there. Patton was an anti-Semite, which was revealed after his death with the publishing of his diaries. Patton would not allow Jewish chaplains at his camps. He actually embraced the beliefs of Nazi Germany including the superiority of the "Nordic race," more than the ideals of his own country. In fact, in Morocco after Allied Forces had "taken" Morocco he convinced Eisenhower to leave the Moroccan Jews held there in forced labor camps. He was convinced they were involved in a conspiracy to take over Morocco.
With the Nazi regime defeated in 1945 and Germany in ruins, and as Eisenhower was still under the influence of his long friendship with Patton, he allowed Patton's anti-Semitism to set the tone for army policies and behavior toward the Jewish survivors of Nazi death camps. In the DP camps, (Displaced Persons,) where they had been moved in the American Occupation Zone, conditions really were not much better for those still suffering in these camps. Patton publicly denounced Jewish occupants as "animals" and "a sub-human species without any of the cultural or social refinements of our time." Somehow Patton obtained an original copy of the 1935 Nurenburg Laws and he smuggled them out of Germany and made a gift of the documents to the Huntington Library, requesting that the Library keep the gift a secret, and so no official record was kept of his "gift."
After reveling in the rush of conducting war all during WWII, Patton was made governor of Bavaria, and he allowed Nazis to remain in the positions they had created for themselves upon invading the country. In his narcissism, which had grown exponentially during war, he declared to a press conference, "This Nazi thing. It's just like a Democratic-Republican election fight." A liaison for President Hoover reported back to him after inspecting the DP camps under Patton's watch, "we are treating them no better than the Nazis did." Finally someone had the nerve to remove him from a position when the outrage rose up from our citizens, but he was then given the command of the 15th. Patton's power and rule in the United States Army ended when he was injured in a wreck, just a day before he was scheduled to return to the States.
He was paralyzed from the neck down. You know God takes revenge for corruption and abuse of power if no one else does. General George Patton the III, died of an embolism on December 21st, of 1945, and stepped out into eternity to answer to his Maker. I promise you, no honor is made of his life whee he resides now.
General Patton did not serve from love of his country, he served from love of power, and the rush of abusing it. He clearly declared that himself with words from him which I posted at the beginning of this writing. When I was touring the White House recently, I saw a famous painting of General Patton hanging there. I do not feel that this honor is due to this man, in consideration of how he lived his life. Perhaps we have the attributes of leadership in our military that we do, because of who and what we honor. General Patton should have been tried as war criminal, he ordered the slaughter of 73 people, in order not to have to feed them.
I have always realized something about rats, for every rat you see, there are fifty you don't. I do not believe our history will ever know of all the evils committed by General Patton. Paying honor to this man. a graduate of West Point, who was no more than a vicious mercenary, must confuse the young cadets as they study there. Where do we begin to change the climate present in our military, the influence which seems to prevail to the level that some of those serving commit crimes, and do so without fear of accountability? I believe it begins with what ideals and leaders we honor. Meanwhile, our present leadership scratches their collective heads, and passes out hand sanitizer in order to change a command climate where sexual assault is common How about taking that painting of General Patton out of the place of honor where it now hangs, and putting it in a closet, hidden away. Or moving it to a dark museum somewhere, with a sign posted that says, "This is not what we want."
"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful."
Rasselas, ch. 41