Why do US military enthusiasts put George Patton on a pedestal?

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George Patton is one of the most famous American generals of all time. Known as ‘Old Blood and Guts’, he made a name for himself during World War II as someone his troops could support and always made it a point to lead by example. His legacy lives on, with many military enthusiasts in awe of his talent and skill.

What particularly appealed to the Americans? Keep reading to find out.

George Patton was destined for the military

Before we can explain why George Patton is such a big part of American military legend and folklore, some insight into his service is needed. From an early age, he was interested in serving his country, attending both the Virginia Military Institute and the United States Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated 46 out of 103 cadets.

George Patton never considered a career outside of the US military. (Photo credit: CORBIS/Getty Images)

His first taste of combat was on the Pancho Villa Expedition – now known as the Mexican Expedition – of 1916, and he later fought for the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. Not only did he help build the new US Tank Corps, he commanded troops, notably during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

When the United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Patton was given command of the 2nd Armored Division. He was then placed in command of the US Seventh Army in the Mediterranean theatre. He took part in the invasion of Casablanca during Operation Torch and later in the invasion of Sicily. It was during these two missions that he established himself as one of the best commanders of the Allied forces.

Prior to the D-Day landings, Patton was given a key role in Operation Fortitude, the Allied deception plan to deceive the German high command. He was also given command of the US Third Army, which he led during the Allied invasion of France. During the Battle of the Bulge his men relieved American troops at Bastogne and embarked on a 10,000 mile charge across the Rhine into Germany.

George Patton seated in the cockpit of an airplane
George Patton’s forces relieved American troops at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo credit: PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Patton died on December 21, 1945, after being injured in a car accident while stationed in Germany.

He preached by example… From the front!

One of George Patton’s main leadership philosophies was to lead by example – and that’s exactly what he did when he served in Europe during World War II. He always led his men into battle, exemplifying the values ​​and determination he expected of them.

As author Alan Axelrod once wrote, “[Patton’s] the message was never we have to succeed but always we will succeed.” This inspired many military officers who came after him and influenced American strategy after his death.

George Patton inspecting a line of troops
George Patton is known to be one of the best American generals of World War II. (Photo credit: PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Martin Blumenson, historian and author of Patton: the man behind the legend, 1885-1945said best:

“Patton epitomized the fighting soldier in World War II. He exercised leadership unique in his ability to get the most – some would say more than the most – from America’s combat troops. By his charisma, exemplified by an image flamboyant and highly publicized, he spurred, better than any other high-ranking US Army commander, American troops into an aggressive desire to close in and destroy the enemy.

“He personified the attacking spirit, the ruthless drive and the will to win in battle.”

George Patton had an incredible ability to inspire his men

If there’s one thing George Patton was, it’s controversial. He was known for his vulgar and catchy speeches, well received by his troops, but less so by the higher ranks of the Allied command. It didn’t matter to the American general, who knew he had to inspire his men if he expected them to follow him into battle – and they followed him.

Not only were the troops in favor of Patton’s loyalty over the shiny motto, but they were also enamored with his fighting philosophy: “We’ll attack and attack until we drop, then we’ll attack again.” »

George Patton speaking with Allied war correspondents
George Patton was known for his oratory skills, delivering a number of powerful speeches to his men during World War II. (Photo credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

Patton gave a number of speeches during World War II, the most famous of which was the one he gave to the U.S. Third Army before the Allied invasion of France in 1944. Considered by many historians to be one of the greatest pep talks of all time, Patton used his oratory skills to urge his soldiers to do their duty in the face of danger and push forward aggressively.

He personally bought supplies for his men

George Patton was born into a wealthy family with an impressive lineage. Not only did he have an indirect connection to George Washington, but his ancestry included Welsh aristocrats and ties to the British monarchy. That’s all to say that he had plenty of extra money at his disposal, both for fun and for work.

After World War I, Patton lobbied for the U.S. military to increase its investment in armored warfare, believing (rightly) that was where the fighting was headed. However, his efforts were in vain, as lack of official interest and budget constraints meant that little could be done to equip the United States Armed Forces for this inevitable.

Two pages in the 1957 Sears Roebuck catalog
George Patton purchased a number of supplies for his men from the Sears Roebuck catalog because the United States Army was ill-prepared for the country’s entry into World War II. (Photo credit: Annie Wells/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Indeed, when the United States entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the country was ill-prepared. After being assigned to the 2nd Armored Division, Patton took it upon himself to purchase tools, supplies and other necessities for his troops – from the Sears Roebuck catalog, of all places!

George Patton helped develop modern tank warfare

As mentioned above, George Patton was instrumental in the development of the US Army Tank Corps during World War I. He spoke to design, repair and operation experts, and even witnessed the first large-scale use of tanks by the British Army in the Battle of Cambrai in late 1917.

All of this led him to establish the American Expeditionary Forces Light Tank School in Langres, France. Following this, he led the first American use of tanks in combat at the Battle of Saint-Miheil, which resulted in victory over German forces.

US Marine standing atop an M46 Patton
The M46 Patton was the first American tank to bear the name of George Patton. (Photo credit: MSGT. JW HAYES / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain)

After the war, Patton was given command of a cavalry squadron. During this time, he argued for the continued switch from horses to chariots and urged the U.S. military to adapt cavalry shock tactics. He even went so far as to write his own tank operations manual, to make the transition process even smoother.

Throughout World War II, Patton was often found leading his men from a tank, and his involvement in the development of modern tank warfare is arguably his most enduring legacy. In fact, he had such an impact on American military strategy with regards to tanks that a number was named for him after his death.

US Marines riding outside an M48 Patton
The M48 Patton Main Battle Tank (MBT) was the last American tank to officially bear the name of George Patton. The M60, however, is unofficially named after the famous WWII general. (Photo credit: author unknown / US National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain)

The first tank to receive the Patton name was the M46, an M26 Pershing fitted with an improved transmission and engine, as well as a new gun. It saw action during the Korean War, where it held its own against the North Korean-piloted T-34. This was followed by the M47, which was basically an M46 with a new turret. Classified as a Main Battle Tank (MBT), it served in the US Army, US Marine Corps, NATO and SEATO.

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The M48 was the first Patton tank to be built from scratch, improving the defense capabilities, fuel efficiency and mobility of the M47. It served with the United States in the Vietnam War, acting in an infantry support role, before being replaced by the M60. Never officially named Patton, the tank featured explosive reactive armour, which contributed to its success during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Operation Urgent Fury and the Gulf War.

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