The Background Research
Anyone who has ever viewed the motion picture
PATTON will never forget the
opening. George Campbell Scott, portraying Patton, standing in front of an
immensely huge American flag, delivers his version of Patton's "Speech to
the Third Army" on June 5th, 1944, the eve of the Allied invasion of France,
code named "Overlord".
rendition of the speech was highly sanitized so as not to offend too
many fainthearted Americans. Luckily, the soldiers of the American Army who
fought World War II were not so fainthearted.
After one of my lectures on the subject
of General Patton, I spoke with a
retired Major General who was a close friend of Patton and who had been
stationed with him in the 1930's in the Cavalry. He explained to me that the
movie was a very good portrayal of Patton in that it was the way he wanted
his men and the public to see him, as a rugged, colorful commander.
There was one exception, however, according to the Major General. In
reality, Patton was a much more profane speaker than the movie dared to
exhibit. Patton had a unique ability regarding profanity. During a normal
conversation, he could liberally sprinkle four letter words into what he was
saying and the listeners would hardly take notice of it. He spoke so easily
and used those words in such a way that it just seemed natural for him to
talk that way.
He could, when necessary, open up with
both barrels and let forth such blue
flamed phrases that they seemed almost eloquent in their delivery. When
asked by his nephew about his profanity, Patton remarked, "When I want my
men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to
them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies
at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can't
run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity.
An army without profanity couldn't fight it's way out of a piss-soaked paper
"As for the types of comments I make",
he continued with a wry smile,
"Sometimes I just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence."
When I appeared on a local San Diego television show to discuss my Patton
Collection a viewer living in a suburb of San Diego, was very interested for
personal reasons. Her husband had been a lieutenant assigned to General
Patton's Third Army Headquarters, code named "Lucky Forward" and he had
known General Patton quite well.
He had recently died and had left to his
wife a box that he had brought home
with him from the European Theater of Operations.
The lady invited me to her home to inspect
the box to see if there was
anything in it that might be useful to me in my search for "collectibles".
Opening the box, I immediately thanked her. Inside was one of only a couple
hundred copies printed of the Official United States Third Army After Action
Reports. It is a huge two volume history of the Third Army throughout their
281 days of combat in Europe. She said that she had no use for it and that I
could have it. I left with my new treasure.
When I arrived at my office and removed
the foot-thick, oversized books from
the box, I had an even greater surprise. Under the Reports lay a small stack
of original Third Army memos, orders, AND a carbon copy of the original
speech that had been typed by some unknown clerk at Lucky Forward and had
been widely distributed throughout Third Army.
A few years earlier, I had discovered an
almost illegible Xerox of a carbon
copy of a similar speech. This one came from the Army War College and was
donated to their Historical Library Section in 1957.
I decided to do some research on the speech
to obtain the best one possible
and to make an attempt to locate the identity of the "unknown soldier" who
had clandestinely typed and distributed the famous document. I began by
looking in my collection of old magazines, newspapers, books that have been
written about Patton since his death, and dozens of other books which had
references to Patton and his speech.
I discovered some interesting facts. The
most interesting probably being
that George C. Scott was not the first actor to perform the speech.
In 1951, the New American Mercury Magazine had printed a version of the
speech which was almost exactly the same version printed by John O'Donnell
in his "Capitol Stuff" column for the New York Daily News on May 31, 1945.
According to the editors of the New American Mercury, their copy was
obtained from Congressman Joseph Clark Baldwin who had returned from a visit
to Patton's Headquarters in Czechoslovakia.
After publication, the magazine received
such a large reader response asking
for reprints of the speech that the editors decided to go one step further.
They hired a "famous" actor to make an "unexpurgated" recording of the
Patton speech. This recording was to be made available to veterans of Third
Army and anyone else who would like to have one. The term "famous" was the
only reference made by the editors about the actor who recorded the speech. In a
later column they explained, "We hired an excellent actor whose voice, on
records, is almost indistinguishable from Patton's, and with RCA's best
equipment we made two recordings; one just as Patton delivered it, with all
the pungent language of a cavalryman, and in the other we toned down a few
of the more offensive words. Our plan was to offer our readers, at cost,
Unfortunately, a few years ago, their was
a fire in the editorial offices of
the magazine which destroyed almost all of their old records. The name of
the actor was lost in that accident.
Only one master recording of the speech
was made. The magazine Editors, not
wanting to offend either Mrs. Patton or her family, asked for her sanction
of the project. The Editors explained the situation thusly, "While we had
only the master recordings, we submitted them to our friend, Mrs. Patton,
and asked her to approve our plan. It was not a commercial venture and no
profits were involved. We just wanted to preserve what to us seems a
worthwhile bit of memorabilia of the Second World War. Our attorneys advised
us that legally we did not need Mrs. Patton's approval, but we wanted it."
"Mrs. Patton considered the matter graciously and thoroughly, and gave us a
disappointing decision. She took the position that this speech was made by
the General only to the men who were going to fight and die with him; it
was, therefore, not a speech for the public or for posterity."
"We think Mrs. Patton is wrong; we think
that what is great and worth
preserving about General Patton was expressed in that invasion speech. The
fact that he employed four letter words was proper; four letter words are
the language of war; without them wars would be quite impossible."
When Mrs. Patton's approval was not forthcoming, the entire project was
then scrapped, and the master recordings were destroyed.
Patton always knew exactly what he wanted
to say to his soldiers and he
never needed notes. He always spoke to his troops extemporaneously. As a
general rule of thumb, it is safe to say that Patton usually told his men
some of his basic thoughts and concepts regarding his ideas of war and
tactics. Instead of the empty, generalized rhetoric of no substance often
used by Eisenhower, Patton spoke to his men in simple, down to earth
language that they understood. He told them truthful lessons he had learned
that would keep them alive.
As he traveled throughout battle areas,
he always took the time to speak to
individual soldiers, squads, platoons, companies, regiments, divisions or
whatever size group could be collected. About the only difference in the
context of these talks was that the smaller the unit, the more "tactical"
the talk would be. Often he would just give his men some sound, common sense
advice that they could follow in order to keep from being killed or maimed.
From innumerable sources; magazine articles,
newspaper clippings, motion
picture biographies and newsreels, and books, I have put together the most
complete version possible that encompasses all of the material that is
available to date.
Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America
wanting out of
this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit. Americans love to
fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle.
You are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend
your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self
respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else. Third, you are here
because you are real men and all real men like to fight. When you, here,
everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the
fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the
All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not
tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of
the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed.
That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very
idea of losing is hateful to an American.
You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you
right here today would
die in a major battle. Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to
all men. Yes, every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he's not,
he's a liar. Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men
or they get the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as
scared as they are. The real hero is the man who fights even though he is
scared. Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire. For some, it
takes an hour. For some, it takes days. But a real man will never let his
fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his
innate manhood. Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human
being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is
base. Americans pride themselves on being He Men and they ARE He Men.
Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and probably more
so. They are not supermen.
All through your Army careers, you men have bitched about
what you call
"chicken shit drilling". That, like everything else in this Army, has a
definite purpose. That purpose is alertness. Alertness must be bred into
every soldier. I don't give a fuck for a man who's not always on his toes.
You men are veterans or you wouldn't be here. You are ready for what's to
come. A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If
you're not alert, sometime, a German son-of-an-asshole-bitch is going to
sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a sockful of shit!
There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily, all because
one man went to sleep on the job. But they are German graves, because we
caught the bastard asleep before they did.
An Army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights
as a team. This
individual heroic stuff is pure horse shit. The bilious bastards who write
that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don't know any more about
real fighting under fire than they know about fucking!
We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best
men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-bitches
we're going up against. By God, I do.
My men don't surrender, and I don't want to hear of any
soldier under my
command being captured unless he has been hit. Even if you are hit, you can
still fight back. That's not just bull shit either. The kind of man that I
want in my command is just like the lieutenant in Libya, who, with a Luger
against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the gun aside with one hand,
and busted the hell out of the Kraut with his helmet. Then he jumped on the
gun and went out and killed another German before they knew what the hell
was coming off. And, all of that time, this man had a bullet through a lung.
There was a real man!
All of the real heroes are not storybook combat fighters,
single man in this Army plays a vital role. Don't ever let up. Don't ever
think that your job is unimportant. Every man has a job to do and he must do
it. Every man is a vital link in the great chain. What if every truck driver
suddenly decided that he didn't like the whine of those shells overhead,
turned yellow, and jumped headlong into a ditch? The cowardly bastard could
say, 'Hell, they won't miss me, just one man in thousands.' But, what if
every man thought that way? Where in the hell would we be now? What would
our country, our loved ones, our homes, even the world, be like? No,
Goddamnit, Americans don't think like that. Every man does his job.
Every man serves the whole. Every department, every unit, is important in
the vast scheme of this war. The ordnance men are needed to supply the guns
and machinery of war to keep us rolling. The Quartermaster is needed to
bring up food and clothes because where we are going there isn't a hell of a
lot to steal. Every last man on K.P. has a job to do, even the one who heats
our water to keep us from getting the 'G.I. Shits'.
Each man must not think only of himself, but also of his
beside him. We don't want yellow cowards in this Army. They should be killed
off like rats. If not, they will go home after this war and breed more
cowards. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the Goddamned
cowards and we will have a nation of brave men. One of the bravest men that
I ever saw was a fellow on top of a telegraph pole in the midst of a furious
fire fight in Tunisia. I stopped and asked what the hell he was doing up
there at a time like that. He answered, 'Fixing the wire, Sir.' I asked,
'Isn't that a little unhealthy right about now?' He answered, 'Yes Sir, but
the Goddamned wire has to be fixed.' I asked, 'Don't those planes strafing
the road bother you?' And he answered, 'No, Sir, but you sure as hell do!'
Now, there was a real man. A real soldier. There was a man who devoted all
he had to his duty, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty might
appear at the time, no matter how great the odds. And you should have seen
those trucks on the road to Tunisia. Those 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 all around
them all of the time. We got through on good old American guts.
Many of those men drove for over forty consecutive hours.
These men weren't
combat men, but they were soldiers with a job to do. They did it, and in one
hell of a way they did it. They were part of a team. Without team effort,
without them, the fight would have been lost. All of the links in the chain
pulled together and the chain became unbreakable.
Don't forget, you men don't know that I'm here. No mention
of that fact is
to be made in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what the hell
happened to me. I'm not supposed to be commanding this Army. I'm not even
supposed to be here in England. Let the first bastards to find out be the
Goddamned Germans. Some day I want to see them raise up on their piss-soaked
hind legs and howl, 'Jesus Christ, it's the Goddamned Third Army again and
that son-of-a-fucking-bitch Patton'.
We want to get the hell over there." The quicker we clean
up this Goddamned
mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs
and clean out their nest, too. Before the Goddamned Marines get all of the
Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with.
The quickest way to
get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they
are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through
Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot
that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I'd shoot a snake!
When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays
there all day, a
German will get to him eventually. 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
either. We'll win this war, but we'll win it only by fighting and by showing
the Germans that we've got more guts than they have; or ever will have.
We're not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we're going to rip out
their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks.
We're going to murder those lousy Hun cock suckers by the
War is a bloody, killing business. You've got to spill
their blood, or they
will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells
are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize
that instead of dirt it's the blood and guts of what once was your best
friend beside you, you'll know what to do!
I don't want to get any messages saying, 'I am holding
my position.' We are
not holding a Goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing
constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the
enemy's balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out
of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to
keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or
through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose;
like shit through a tin horn!
From time to time there will be some complaints that we
are pushing our
people too hard. I don't give a good Goddamn about such complaints. I
believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon
of blood. The harder WE push, the more Germans we will kill. The more
Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer
casualties. I want you all to remember that.
There is one great thing that you men will all be able
to say after this war
is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years
from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your
knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON'T have
to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, 'Well, your Granddaddy
shoveled shit in Louisiana.' No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye
and say, 'Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a
Son-of-a-Goddamned-Bitch named Georgie Patton!'
"That is all."