The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man… Thomas Robert MALTHUS

All About Lieutenant General, Army of The United States George Smith Patton, Jr. (07)…

WORLD WAR II…

During the buildup of the United States Army prior to its entry into World War II, Patton commanded the 2nd Armored Division, which performed with mixed results in 1941 in both theLouisiana Maneuvers and Carolina Maneuvers. The 2nd Armored was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, until the unit, along with its commander, was ordered to the newly established Desert Training Center in Indio, California, by the Chief of the Armored Force, Major General Jacob L. Devers. Patton was subsequently appointed commander of the newly activated I Armored Corps by Devers, and he was in this position when the corps was assigned to Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.

In preparation, Patton trained his troops in the Imperial Valley. He commenced these exercises in late 1941 and continued them well into the summer of 1942. Patton chose a 10,000-acre (40 km2) expanse of unforgiving desert, known for its blistering temperatures, sandy arroyos and absolute desolation. It was a close match for the terrain Patton and his men would encounter during the campaigns in North Africa. To this day, one can still find tank tracks, foxholes and spent shell casing in an area about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Palm Springs.

NORTH AFRICAN Campaign…

In November 1942, Major General Patton commanded the Western Task Force of the U.S. Army, which landed on the coast of Vichy French-held Morocco in Operation Torch for the North African Campaign. Patton and his staff arrived in Morocco aboard the heavy cruiser USS Augusta, which came under fire from the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart while entering the harbor of Casablanca. Casablanca fell after four days of fighting. So impressed was the Sultan of Morocco that he presented Patton with the special Order of Ouissam Alaouite, with the citation: „Les Lions dans leurs tanières tremblent en le voyant approcher” (The lions in their dens tremble at his approach).

In 1943, following the defeat of the U.S. II Corps (then part of British 1st Army) by the German Afrika Korps, first at the Battle of Sidi Bou Zid and again at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, General Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Major General Ernest Harmon to assess the II Corps.

On March 6, 1943, as a result of Harmon’s report, Patton replaced Major General Lloyd Fredendall as commander of the II Corps. Patton was also promoted to lieutenant general. Soon thereafter, Patton had Omar Bradley reassigned to his corps as deputy commander. Thus began a long wartime association between the two different personalities.

It is said that his troops preferred to serve with him rather than his predecessor since they thought their chances of survival were higher under Patton. For instance, Patton required all personnel to wear steel helmets (even physicians in the operating wards) and required his troops to wear the unpopular lace-up canvas leggings and neckties since the leggings prevented injury from scorpions, spiders and rats which would climb up under soldiers’ trousers. A system of fines was introduced to ensure all personnel shaved daily and observed other uniform requirements. While these measures may not have made Patton popular, they did tend to restore a sense of discipline and unit pride that may have been missing when Fredendall was still in command. In a play on his nickname, „Old Blood and Guts,” troops joked that it was „our blood and his guts.”

The discipline Patton instilled paid off quickly. Patton found victory at the Battle of El Guettar. By mid-March 1943, the counter-offensive of the U.S. II Corps, along with the rest of the British 1st Army, pushed the Germans and Italians eastwards. Meanwhile the British Eighth Army, commanded by General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, simultaneously pushed them westwards, effectively squeezing the Germans and Italians into a smaller and smaller portion of Tunisia and out of North Africa altogether by mid-May.

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