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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Is General Patton Overrated?

This post is mainly sourced from "The German View of Patton".

Patton, along with Eisenhower and McArthur, is one of the most acclaimed American generals of the last century. Indeed, much of that praise is deserved. He was bold, charismatic, and decisive. He helped American forces in North Africa bounce back from the disaster at Kasserine and drive the Germans from the continent. His successes in Sicily and France are also notable.

However, there are a number of legends that have sprung up about Patton that are not true. Contrary to popular belief, Patton was not uniquely feared by the Germans. They regarded him as the Allies' best tank general, but had he been in the German army, he would have merely been above average.
According to General Gunther Blumentritt:
We regarded general Patton extremely highly as the most aggressive panzer-general of the Allies. . . His operations impressed us enormously, probably because he came closest to our own concept of the classical military commander.
However, aggressiveness does not equate to brilliance. Patton was famous for his distaste for digging in even when attacking is not sensible. At Normandy, fuel and supply shortages prevented Patton from making large-scale attacks, but that did not stop him from ordering many small attacks. German SS commander Max Simon said “Had you made such attacks . . . on the eastern front, where our anti-tank guns were echeloned in depth, all your tanks would have been destroyed.” Even Patton said “While my attack was going forward by short leaps, it was not very brilliant.”

In every campaign Patton took part in, the Germans were outnumbered, outgunned, and in the process of retreating. The war against Germany in general was a contest between the superior resources of the Allies vs. the superior fighting of German soldiers. During the Battle of the Bulge, Patton observed that “The Germans are colder and hungrier than we are, but they fight better.”

Had Patton been a Russian general on the Eastern front, his aggressive style would have led to the same appalling casualty rates as the other foolhardy commanders. Patton deserves credit as a successful and well-spoken general, but he was hardly a military genius.

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