All About Lieutenant General, Army of The United States George Smith Patton, Jr.(08)…
As a result of his performance in North Africa, Patton received command of the Seventh Army in preparation for the 1943 invasion of Sicily. The Seventh Army’s mission was to protect the left (western) flank of the British Eighth Army as both advanced northwards towards Messina.
Officers quoted General Patton’s speech to them before the invasion of Sicily, referring to Italians and Germans:
When we land against the enemy, don’t forget to hit him and hit him hard. When we meet the enemy we will kill him. We will show him no mercy. He has killed thousands of your comrades and he must die. If your company officers in leading your men against the enemy find him shooting at you and when you get within two hundred yards of him he wishes to surrender—oh no! That bastard will die! You will kill him. Stick him between the third and fourth ribs. You will tell your men that. They must have the killer instinct. Tell them to stick him. Stick him in the liver. We will get the name of killers and killers are immortal. When word reaches him that he is being faced by a killer battalion he will fight less. We must build up that name as killers.
– George S. Patton
The Seventh Army repulsed several German counterattacks in the beachhead area before beginning its push north. Meanwhile, the Eighth Army stalled south of Mount Etna in the face of strong German defenses. The Army Group commander, Harold Alexander, exercised only the loosest control over his two commanders. Montgomery therefore took the initiative to meet with Patton in an attempt to work out a coordinated campaign.
Patton formed a provisional corps under his Chief of Staff, and quickly pushed through western Sicily, liberating the capital, Palermo, and then swiftly turned east towards Messina. American forces liberated the port city in accordance with the plan jointly devised by Montgomery and Patton. However, the Italians and Germans used their air and naval supremacy to evacuate all of their soldiers and much of their heavy equipment across the Strait of Messina to the Italian mainland.
Slapping Incident and removal from command…
The „slapping incident” of August 3, 1943, nearly ended Patton’s career. The matter became known after newspaper columnist Drew Pearson revealed it on his November 21 radio program, reporting that General Patton had been „severely reprimanded” as a result. Allied Headquarters denied that Patton had been reprimanded, but confirmed that Patton had slapped a soldier. While one incident received wide publicity, two soldiers in similar circumstances were slapped, the second was Pvt. Paul G. Bennett on August 10, 1943 at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital.
In the first incident, according to witnesses, General Patton was visiting patients at a military hospital in Sicily, and came upon a 27-year-old soldier named Charles H. Kuhl, who was weeping. Patton asked „What’s the matter with you?” and the soldier replied, „It’s my nerves, I guess. I can’t stand shelling.” Patton „thereupon burst into a rage” and „employing much profanity, he called the soldier a ‘coward'” and ordered him back to the front. As a crowd gathered, including the hospital’s commanding officer, the doctor who had admitted the soldier, and a nurse, Patton then „struck the youth in the rear of the head with the back of his hand.” Reportedly, the nurse „made a dive toward Patton, but was pulled back by a doctor” and the commander intervened. Patton went to other patients, then returned and berated the soldier again.
When General Eisenhower learned of the incident, he ordered Patton to make amends, after which, it was reported, „Patton’s conduct then became as generous as it had been furious,” and he apologized to the soldier „and to all those present at the time,” After the film Patton was released in 1970, Charles H. Kuhl recounted the story and said that Patton had slapped him across the face and then kicked him as he walked away. „After he left, they took me in and admitted me in the hospital, and found out I had malaria,” Kuhl noted, adding that when Patton apologized personally (at Patton’s headquarters) „He said he didn’t know that I was as sick as I was.” Kuhl, who later worked as a sweeper for Bendix Corporation in Mishawaka, Indiana, added that Patton was „a great general” and added that „I think at the time it happened, he was pretty well worn out himself.” Kuhl died on January 24, 1971.
Kuhl’s parents had avoided mention of the matter „because they did not wish to make trouble for General Patton.” Eisenhower thought of sending Patton home in disgrace, as many newspapers demanded, but after consulting with Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, Eisenhower decided to keep Patton in the European theater, though without a major command. This decision was not based on the slapping incident alone, but also on confirmed intelligence that the Germans believed Patton would be leading the Allied assault into Nazi-held territory. Eisenhower used Patton’s „furlough” as a trick to mislead the Germans as to where the next attack would be, since Patton was the general the German High Command believed would lead the attack. During the ten months Patton was relieved of duty, his prolonged stay in Sicily was interpreted by the Germans as an indication of an upcoming invasion of southern France. Later, a stay in Cairo was viewed as heralding an invasion through the Balkans. German intelligence misinterpreted what happened and made faulty plans as a result.
In the months before the June 1944 Normandy invasion, Patton gave public talks as commander of the fictional First U.S. Army Group (FUSAG), which was supposedly intending to invade France by way of Calais. This was part of a sophisticated Allied campaign of military disinformation, Operation Fortitude. The Germans misallocated their forces as a result, and were slow to respond to the actual landings at Normandy.
In a story recounted by Professor Richard Holmes, just three days before D-Day, during a reception in the London Ritz Hotel, Patton shouted across a crowded reception in the direction of Eisenhower „I’ll see you in Calais!”, much to the consternation of all those around him. The ploy appears to have worked as reports of overnight troop movements north from Normandy were detected by Bletchley Park code decrypts.
Following the Normandy invasion, Patton was placed in command of the U.S. Third Army, which was on the extreme right (west) of the Allied land forces. Beginning at noon on August 1, 1944, he led this army during the late stages of Operation Cobra, the breakout from earlier slow fighting in the Normandy hedgerows. The Third Army simultaneously attacked west (into Brittany), south, east towards the Seine, and north, assisting in trapping several hundred thousand German soldiers in the Chambois pocket, between Falaise and Argentan, Orne.
Patton’s units generally took positions by frontal assault with his armor used in the infantry support role. Once the breakthrough was achieved the armor was used for exploitation in the manner of Civil War Cavalry advancing unopposed over vast distances, covering 60 miles (97 km) in just two weeks, from Avranches to Argentan. Patton’s forces were part of the Allied forces that freed northern France, bypassing Paris. The city itself was liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division under French General Leclerc, insurgents who were fighting in the city, and the US 4th Infantry Division. The French 2nd Armored Division had recently been transferred from the 3rd Army, and many of the unit’s soldiers thought they were still part of 3rd Army. These early 3rd Army offensives showed the characteristic high mobility and aggressiveness of Patton’s units, which however was only possible because of the absence of German heavy armor. Patton demonstrated an understanding of the use of combined arms by using the XIX Tactical Air Command of the Ninth Air Force to protect his right (southern) flank during his advance to the Seine.