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Why is general Patton regarded a great general?


Migfan

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2 hours ago, Pig of the Week said:

Wonder what he'd have made of Sgt Oddball of Kelly's Heroes fame.... 

My thinking is that the character played by Carrol O'Connor - Major General Colt (clue is in the name?) - was modelled on Patton.

 

Cheers

 

Colin

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3 hours ago, Pete in Lincs said:

Oddball was about twenty years ahead of his time. But, What a great character. 

Apparently the script was originally set in the Vietnam war, but political pressure forced Hollywood to reset it in WWII - nonetheless a number of vietnamesque elements were left in so it remained an anti-Vietnam film regardless (includng of course the brilliant title music). Much in the same way MASH was really about 'nam but set in Korea.

 

Cheers

 

Colin

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Posted (edited)

I did mention Zhukov.  Problem with Russian generals was casualties were not a concern.  Just one example, look at the losses Zhukov had trying to take the Seelow Heights!!!  I think from memory he had to assault it three times before capturing it.  Again he was all about ego.  Stalin had told him he can be the first general to enter Berlin, then Stalin told the other generals the same thing.  Stalin was playing all the generals off against each other to make them go faster as he wanted to capture Berlin before May Day. When Zhukov found this out, nothing mattered except for wanting to be the first general to enter Berlin. He didn’t care how many men or tanks he lost, it was about the glory and his ego!!! It became a race between the Russian generals for the glory of capturing Berlin.  Good generals plan for minimum casualties, he never worried about casualties.  But Russia lost over 20 million people in WW2.  Its their culture, life is cheap to them.

 

As for Eisenhower, he was just like a politician or a company CEO is today.  He  made decisions on the advice and planning he received. He was surrounded by good generals, such as Montgomery and commanders from all the services and branches who did all the planning and advised him on how the plans would be executed.  Eisenhower would not have done any of the planning or preparations for the invasion.  He simply oversaw the preparations and planning.  He was chosen for this position simply on his organisational skills and his communication skills being able to get all the nationalities and personalities to co-operate  and work together with each other.  Eisenhowers whole military career had been spent working in positions of organisation.  I don’t think he ever fired a shot throughout his entire career.

 

Operation Market Garden was a fantastic military plan.  The plan failed due to  a couple of reasons.  Intelligence was ignored about the SS units in the area, a British para officer decided to brew up and have a coffee and not move a third of the paras to the bridge the until next morning. Commanders in the field making bad decisions such as after taking the last bridge, the British stopped and didn’t move until the next morning instead of after the last bridge was taken, going straight to Arnhem as there was no Germans between there and Arnhem.  Plus of course the staggered drops which delayed the polish troops from dropping into Arnhem due to bad weather, the drop zone chosen at arnhem being 8km from the bridge, and the German discovery of the entire plans for operation market garden which was found on a dead British officer in a glider!!!!  Unbelievable!!!!  But the plan was a good one and if it had been executed correctly by the commanding officers in the field, it would have succeeded.  Montgomery made a great plan but was let down with its execution by the commanders in the field.  Montgomery’s plan showed his understanding of modern warfare at the time, how to use airborne forces and the use  of military resources.  Market garden was and still is the biggest planned use of airborne forces in history.  For a military mind of 1944, this was an amazing plan and never attempted on this scale since.  As I said, Montgomery was let down by commanders in the field.

Edited by Migfan
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The more I read on here the more it re-enforces my opinion of Patton as being a so so General that got lucky. Patton's war seemed to be based around the old 7th cavalry charge oft seen in cowboy films and lttle else. His luck being that the Germans were otherwise pre-occupied by the Russians.

 

If Patton style tactics had been employed by Allied forces against Rommel in North Africa its hard to imagine that Rommel would have failed to reach Cairo.

 

Patton's greatness is purely down to American media, both of it's propaganda machine during the war and that of Hollywood after. It fits the American gun culture.

 

The same though can be said of Generals throughout time as, according to their own propaganda they are all successes

 

Eisenhower doesn't come across as an inspirational leader but he was probably the only one who was capable of eliciting co-operation between the massed forces in Europe and credit to him for that.

Edited by Circloy
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1 hour ago, Migfan said:

Montgomery was let down by commanders in the field

Add to that the different communication structures of the US & other allied forces

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Posted (edited)

I agrée circloy.  That’s exactly what I said really.

 

It also annoys me that these American units in WW2 are so glorified with their exploits. When you look at, take the 101st airborne for example, there is all these documentaries about them and band of brothers ect.  When you actual look at the time they spent deployed, it is only about 100 days.  So in a war that went for 6 years and they didn’t enter it until June, 1944, that’s not very long.  Yet they are spoken about like they won the war.  Then you look at the British and Australian troops, let’s take the 8th army for example, they were in the frontline almost continually for 4 years fighting the German army at their strongest. And some brits spent over 5 years on the frontline who were at dunkirk!!!  I have my grandfathers war record and it shows he spent just over 5 years deployed overseas mainly in New Guinea. If you read about WW2, you would think it was the opposite.  The Americans spent 4 years at the front and the allies spent 5 minutes in the war.  It’s the same  as their generals, reading about them in WW2 you would think that Patton won the war!!!!  I saw actual footage of a US B17 Flying Fortress returning  to england after a daylight raid and on the right hand waist gun window it showed 7 swastikas!!!!  This was to show the waist gunner shot down 7 German fighters!!!!  I doubt that very much.  Not many fighter pilots even shot down that many German fighters in 6 years of combat let alone a waist gunner in a bomber who had flown less that 30 missions!!!!!!!!  I also always here Germany surrended in WW1 because America entered the war.  What rubbish.  Germany was starving and had no war materials left to continue to fight.  The Americans didn’t even enter the war until 1917 and then didn’t even fire their first shot until late 1918.  They spent about 5 weeks at the front out of a war that went for 4 years!!!!  Where were the Americans in March/April 1918 when  they could if helped? The germans launched their offensive then that almost could have won Germany  the war?  The Americans did not effect the outcome of WW1 whatsoever.  If the Germans had have been able to fight on and not surrender, then the American man power could have been a deciding factor in beating Germany, but nothing else.  Whatever they do, it’s always bigger and better than anyone else.  Just ask them and they will tell you!!!

Edited by Migfan
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I'm a bit uncomfortable with this thread in that it comes across as Yanks Useless, Brits good. the truth is of course much more complex than that. Montgomery had a reputation for not moving until he had all his skittles in a row, which would explain the 3 week delay in his attacking on the northern flank of the German forces in the Ardennes campaign. I think it is generally accepted that Bradley was the most effective US General, though Patton must surely deserve credit for getting himself in the right place at the right time at a crucial phase of the battle. 

2 hours ago, Migfan said:

When you look at, take the 101st airborne for example, there is all these documentaries about them and band of brothers ect.  When you actual look at the time they spent deployed, it is only about 100 days.  So in a war that went for 6 years and they didn’t enter it until June, 1944, that’s not very long.  Yet they are spoken about like they won the war.  Then you look at the British and Australian troops, let’s take the 8th army for example, they were in the frontline almost continually for 4 years fighting the German army at their strongest.

I think it is disingenuous to make such a comparison as the 101 Airborne vs the &th Army. The 8th army was a much larger organisation which had units cycled in & out of its make up to rest those whose time in the field had rendered them less effective, so they would be relieved to rebuild & replaced with fresh units. The 101 didn't have that luxury & although I don't have exact figures to hand, I cannot help but feel their time at the front would compare well with any allied unit in the same time scale.  To engage in this sort of discussion without a sense of fairness & objectivity seems to me to be somewhat pointless, though I will agree that taken overall, Patton probably doesn't deserve his PR generated reputation.

Steve.

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I’m not trying to say the yanks are useless.  The 101st and 82nd airborne units were good soldiers.  For example The 82nd airborne took that second last bridge in operation market garden with high casualties.  If the British had immediately then pushed onto Arnhem instead of stopping for the night, they would have had no resistance and taken the Arnhem bridge.

 

The point I was making is that they are always credited with doing things that were bigger and better than any other belligerent involved in the conflict yet they only entered the European theatre of the war in 1943.  A good analogy for the war is a game of football.  Two teams go head to head in a football game (this is the allies against Germany) and have been playing hard for 2 hours (the war) and both teams are getting tired.   Then in the last quarter with 5 minutes to go, one team (the allies) decide to bring on two new players (the USA) These two new players are rested and immediately after coming on they kick 5 quick goals winning the game.  Then these two players (the USA) get all the accolades for winning the game yet they only played for 5 minutes. WW2 was the same.  The US didn’t enter the conflict until halfway through it and everyone thinks they won the war on their own.  Yet by the time they entered the war, the war had already turned in the favour of the allies.  Germany had suffered the massive defeat at Stalingrad, the Japanese had suffered their first land defeat at Milne Bay and the germans/Italians had been defeated at al alemain.

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1 hour ago, stevehnz said:

 though Patton must surely deserve credit for getting himself in the right place at the right time at a crucial phase of the battle.

Probably his best attribute?

 

I think we may have done this topic to death, Guys. Everyone has their own views on who was best, as seen above. 

We can only really comment on what we've learnt from books and documentaries etc. It was a very different, turbulent time in history.

Is it time to move on to another subject before people star to fall out? As has previously happened on here in the past.

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As one of the great generals of WW1, the Australian Sir John Monash once said “Australia is a country of sportsmen.  We like to see the score on the board”

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And the last thing I’ll add is that one of the things that delayed the American entry into the First World War was that they refused to fight under British or French command.  This caused arguments and delays.  Eventually the Americans were given permission to only fight under American command.

 

It would have been so different if Australia and New Zealand had been given that permission when they entered the war.

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38 minutes ago, Migfan said:

It would have been so different if Australia and New Zealand had been given that permission when they entered the war.

With you on that one. 

Steve.

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57 minutes ago, Pete in Lincs said:

Probably his best attribute?

 

I think we may have done this topic to death, Guys. Everyone has their own views on who was best, as seen above. 

We can only really comment on what we've learnt from books and documentaries etc. It was a very different, turbulent time in history.

Is it time to move on to another subject before people star to fall out? As has previously happened on here in the past.

With you on that too Pete. 👍

Steve

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Talking of bad generals, Maybe the worst general of WW2 would be French general Maurice Gamelin.  I don’t think he ever made one good decision.  He made a complete mess of the French campaign and is the sole reason France lost the battle.

 

And let’s not forget Charles De Gaulle.  A Brigadier General that was a big advocate of armoured warfare and was another commander who believed that all tanks should be grouped together under one command and not spread amongst the infantry as infantry support vehicles.  But unfortunately he could not get the government to act on his ideas.  He did eventually get command of an armoured brigade and was the only general in the French campaign to actually use his armoured theory in attacking the flank of the German advance and causing the only German retreat in the campaign.  He almost broke through the German lines near sedan I think. Not many people mention De Gaulle when talking about WW2 generals, but he deserves credit as a good commander.

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There are many generals that 'almost' broke through the enemy lines - hardly a reason to call De Gaulle a good general, especially since he spent the next four years being wined and dined in London and being a thorn in Churchills side while his country was under occupation by the Germans.

He was similar to Patton in the respect that they both understood the role of the tank in the modern battlefield far better than many of their contemporaries of the time, much like Doolittle and his fight against the navy as to the effectiveness of airpower against the modern battleship.

As for going for glory before more strategic aims, look at it this way. The second world war cost the US 300 billion dollars. Of that total 185 billion dollars had been raised through the sale of war bonds. That's almost two thirds! When people went to the cinema and saw the pathe news reels and and saw images like Patton relieving Bastogne or Clark in Rome and so on it made them proud to be American. When people are happy and proud, they buy more war bonds. In wartime people need heroes and Patton with his ivory handled pistols fit the bill.

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Well, this has been an interesting read with some good points and views about individual Generals.

 

I considered how this equated to my former working life, and this is how I saw it ....  

 

Eisenhower - strategic ... he decides the objectives which are set by the powers that be, which happens to be a second front in the west, so decides on an invasion of  Europe from the sea. 

 

Montgomery and others - Tactical .... they develop the plan, working with others to meet the strategic objectives, which are fed back to Eisenhower. 

 

Patton, Clark, Bradley and company - Operational ... they are 'the doers', responsible for executing the Tactical plan with the resources they've been allocated.  Sometimes, things change and the plan has to change ... this is fine, but any change must be communicated both to other commanders and up the command chain. 

 

A different approach, granted; but having worked at all levels mentioned above, and once mentored by a strategic manager, there are times when you don't need to know how to do a task, you need to know who to ask.  In this case, Eisenhower with not much combat experience asking Montgomery who did. 

 

As a 'doer', it's about getting a job done ... not necessarily being liked, but able to motivate and drive those who are doing the actual tasks ... a bit like Patton. 

 

I'm not writing this to create a storm. I recognise that there are some truly great leaders on both sides of the WW2 conflict, but based on qualities, skills, experience and personal attributes some may not have been in the right position, while others will have. 

 

Keith 😁

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Migfan - you seem to think Montgomery was a good general. Tell us how Monty's performance compares to that of Slim or Alexander for example. Demonstrate how the challenges he faced differed from those the others faced and why that makes Montgomery a good commander compared to them.

 

The fundamentals  of 'command', not just during WWII but at any other time in history. don't change. Unless you understand how those many and varied elements (both positive and negative) work together, it's very difficult to determine who was 'good' and who was not. It's not all about what they achieved on the battlefield, it's also about their ability to operate in a wider environment involving politics, compromise and inspiring confidence. Don't rely on the opinions of others. Do your own independent research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Market Garden was a great plan but failed. And it doesn't matter if failed because of this or that detail that went wrong, the whole operation failed. And it was not all because of  errors from the people in the field, there were a number of things that made the whole plan risky. Montgomery, who was generally a very cautious commander, came up with a daring plan but in the end failed. Too easy to blame the guys on the ground, it is a general's duty to do his best to ensure that everyone does exactly what the commander has expected.

As for the El Alamein victory, really should we consider Montgomery a brilliant general because of El Alamein ? A battle where the allied had such an advantage in terms of men, armament, and most important supplies (ammo, fuel etc.) that really almost everybody would have won that battle.

 

The thing is that Monty was a capable but not particularly imaginative commander however he was extremely good at self-promotion. He never moved without his PR men such was his obsession with publicity (IIRC it was Eisenhower who noted that Montgomery never started a public meeting until his trusted journalists had arrived). Between his own work and the general propaganda of the era El Alamein has become a triumph against the odds and the best enemy commander ( Rommel) while Market Garden has become one of those heroic defeats that people remember as more glorious than a victory, like a WW2 version of the charge of the Light Brigade.

 

Not that other allied commanders were particularly more imaginative than Montgomery, the Italian campaign in particular was led as if nobody was particularly interested in ending the matter quickly. That makes sense from a strategic point of view: why push the Germans outside of Italy when it was more effective to tie in the Country a decent number of divisions ?

Patton had one thing going for him: he was, or at least he appeared, aggressive. A good part of his "reputation" stems from this. He was a perfect character from this point of view, one of those who seem to go against the old rules and this is what people love in books and movies.

 

On the US and their contribution to WW2... US soldiers may have entered later than others but without the US production capability there would have been no El Alamein, no D-Day and no victory in Europe! Not to mention the war in the Pacific... Did the US misappropriate military merits from the British in the postwar years ? Probably, in the end history is written by the victors and the US had not only given a huge financial contribution to the final victory but they were also those financing the rebirth of Western Europe in the immediate postwar years.

Should the British veteran have felt bad about it ? I can see how they would and I can see how people may feel the same today. At the same time the same could be said about how the Soviet contribution is rated in the West: was on the Eastern front was a war of extermination where the Germans wanted to clear a land of its people and enslave them, While British and US prisoners ended in POW camps the soviets were sent to concentration camps to be worked to death. Civilians were killed by the millions among brutalities of all kind. Brutalities that the Soviets were then all too happy to return when they invaded Germany. It was a massive meat-grinder where in the end Germany was bled white losing over 3.5 milion soldiers. Germany on the Western front lost approximately 300,000 soldiers....

Ok, I know these last comments are off topic, sorry about that !

 

 

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American production was probably the single most important factor in winning WW2.

 

Although the Russians are great at saying how they won most of the war by themselves, they might not have won at all if it wasn't for the American Lend-Lease programme. Even Khrushchev himself admitted that "If the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war," he wrote in his memoirs. "One-on-one against Hitler's Germany, we would not have withstood its onslaught and would have lost the war. No one talks about this officially, and Stalin never, I think, left any written traces of his opinion, but I can say that he expressed this view several times in conversations with me." 

 

Historian Boris Sokolov; "In a hypothetical battle one-on-one between the U.S.S.R and Germany, without the help of Lend-Lease and without the diversion of significant forces of the Luftwaffe and the German Navy and the diversion of more than one-quarter of its land forces in the fight against Britain and the United States, Stalin could hardly have beaten Hitler," Sokolov wrote in an essay for RFE/RL's Russian Service.

 

In 1963, KGB monitoring recorded Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov saying: "People say that the allies didn't help us. But it cannot be denied that the Americans sent us materiel without which we could not have formed our reserves or continued the war. The Americans provided vital explosives and gunpowder. And how much steel! Could we really have set up the production of our tanks without American steel? And now they are saying that we had plenty of everything on our own." All quotes from Radio Free Europe

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On 3/20/2024 at 4:14 PM, Migfan said:

Hi all

 

I find it fascinating that Patton is regarded as a great soldier and one of the best generals of WW2.


Why is Patton held in such great esteem?  He saw 5 minutes of action in WW1 before being wounded and not seeing action again in that war.  Then in WW2, (America didn’t enter the war until the end of 1941) and Patton didn’t see any action until 1943 and he only spent about 18 months of WW2 in combat zones.

 

All I see in Patton is just an egomaniac with a huge ego and not much ability. Anyone that carried two shiny ivory handled Colt single action army .45s in cowboy holsters, always organising and generating his own media attention and treated working with his allies as a game or a race to see who would get to a certain place first like operation husky- the invasion of Sicily - when he treated getting to Messina as a race to beat Montgomery instead of following his orders.  Patton allowed kesserling to evacuate thousands and thousands of German and Italian soldiers to escape across the straits of messina as he was to focused on beating Montgomery there disobeying orders.  Not to mention the US casualties incurred by his actions as well.  That’s just one example I see.

 

I fail to see anything that made Patton a good general or soldier.   I welcome anyone that can show why Patton should have this reputation of being a great general and soldier when he was in fact an inexperienced officer with hardly any combat and leadership experience.

 

Certainly the collusion between Patton and Bradley didn't help the war effort on the western front too well. Most of it was at the expense of Montgomery and 21st Army Group which was literally robbed of supplies. In addition, Patton 'liberated' huge swathes of France which were pretty much devoid of German troops but he exploited the publicity to a rediculous and vainglorious degree. It was Bradley's 1st Army which made the hard yards in the American sector of Normandy. Patton's 3rd Army then exploited the breakthrough but, by then, German 7th Army was pretty much destroyed and in full retreat. 

 

Patton was never confronted with the mass panzer divisions which Montgomery had to deal with but was consistently critical of Montgomery's leadership despite this.

 

I once read a comment on You Tube about the fall of Singapore which claimed that if Patton had been in charge it would never have happened. The point which was completely lost on the commentator was that Patton was never in such a position and, of course, failed to recognise the  disaster in the Phillipines and Corrigedor.

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