Author Furman Daniel joins us today to separate fact from fiction in the classic World War II film Patton. Furman is the author of multiple books about Patton, including his latest called Patton: Battling with History.
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Dan LeFebvre: [00:01:55] The movie opens with that now famous scene of George C Scott’s version of Patton, addressing soldiers in front of a massive American flag. As soon as that is over, we get some texts on screen to establish when and where the movie begins. Kasserine pass in Tunisia in the year, 1943. Then the first time we really see Patton in the movie, not counting that.
Introductory speech is as he’s being welcomed by the Moroccans for, as the movie puts it Pattons brilliant and Fabius landing on the continent of Africa. And for a bit of geographical context here, Morocco is to the West of Tunisia along the African coast of the Mediterranean. So that means the timeline of the movie starts.
After the real George S. Patton was already a general in the U S army during world war II. But we know from history that Patton serve in the military for quite some time before 1943 rolled around. So before we get into the details of the movie itself, can you give us an overview of Patton’s military career up until the timeline of the movie begins with Pattons arrival in North Africa?
Furman Daniel: [00:03:00] So Patton’s military career was well established by the time the movie timeframe takes place. Good actually spent time at both the Virginia Military Institute and West Point as a cadet there, he had served in the United States cavalry prior to world war one. He had gotten his first taste of action in 1916, actually in Mexico, as part of General Pershing’s invasion of Mexico.
Pursuing Poncho Villa was one of the few bright spots of that campaign as he was in a gun battle with one of the top Mexican commanders and actually ended up him and his man chilling top Mexican leaders. During World War I, he was an aid to General Pershing at first, but quickly became bored with this.
So, he asked for a transfer to the tank corps. He was the first member actually of the United States tank corps. And it was kind of a foundational person. They are at establishing and developing doctrine and tactics and training programs for this new weapon and the American arsenal. He was a decorated war hero in world war II and actually ended the war in a hospital, recovering from wounds.
He had suffered leading his troops into battle. He spent some time in between world war one and world war two. Going back to try to keep tanks going in the United States, military, but quickly realizes that the depression era military has no interest and tanks, no budget for tanks. So it goes back to the horse cavalry.
He mentioned in the movie many times that he’s a. Broken down old horse cavalryman he was a horse caffer man. He was very frustrated during this period because he saw his chance for glory slipping away. But then again, when war clouds start gathering again, he sees himself as having another opportunity.
So it goes back to the tank Corps and on the Eve of world war II, again, kind of asserting himself very aggressively about the, the value of tanks in combat their ability to be a war winning weapon. Once war breaks out. His first assignment is actually to set up a training base in the desert. United States anticipated, fighting in the deserts in North Africa, and they tasked George Patton, someone who had expertise in setting up training, setting up tank tactics and doctrine.
I gave him broad latitude to come up with a training base. So he goes to the desert, the border of Arizona and California. It sets up a massive training facility there and begins honing the American tank forces for desert warfare. He then gets tapped to be one of the three commanders to the different parts of the invasion of North Africa.
And that’s where the movie after the famous speech in front of the American flag takes over.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:05:40] Sounds like you had quite the career before anything in this movie even happened.
Furman Daniel: [00:05:44] Absolutely.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:05:45] Speaking of the movie, since it does talk about him arriving in North Africa, the way the movie kind of shows. This is again, I mentioned earlier as in the year, 1943, there’s a scene with Karl Maldens version of general, Omar Bradley in Tunisia in 43 before Patton.
Is seen in Morocco where he’s welcomed there. So the idea that I get from the movie here is that the American troops were already fighting in North Africa before Patton arrived in 1943. And then upon Pattons arrival, one of the key things that we see him doing is start enacting more discipline for the troops.
How well does the movie do depicting his arrival in North Africa?
Furman Daniel: [00:06:26] You could definitely get the sense that Patton arrived later from the movie. The movie actually doesn’t really talk much except for the one line about the brilliant invasion on the coast of Africa. It doesn’t really talk much about Patton’s role before he takes over from general freedom doll after the American disaster Kasserine.
What actually happened is the allies, the British and the Americans landed at three different spots along the North African coast, simultaneously. And Patton was the commander of the Western most task force assigned with capturing the critical port of Casa Blanca. He did a fantastic job on this. The Vichy French authorities actually resisted a couple of days, but Patton used his excellent French language skills, his knowledge of French history.
And he actually got them to lay down their arms and incorporated the French authorities into his occupation plan. He said, well, we can continue fighting these people, or we can give them an honorable surrender and actually use them as police. To patrol the rear areas and keep the Arab authorities at Bay as well.
You did a fantastic job working with the French. And also as the movie suggests working with the Arab authorities in the region who were very suspicious of the British in particular. And we’re thinking about actually using the opportunity of an allied invasion as a opportunity to revolt against the French authorities that had occupied that part of Africa for quite a bit of time.
Patton does a fantastic job. The silencing, the French resistance, second, incorporating them into his plan for the region, and then getting the error authorities on, on board doesn’t make the movie. And the movie might actually make you think that this wasn’t part of the ally plan, but he does this he’s very actively involved, but he wasn’t fighting the Germans because their forces were further East.
And he actually misses some of the early battles much to his chagrin.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:08:17] Yeah, that’s a different implication than I got when I was just watching the movie. I was like, okay, this is essentially the first he’s arriving here and he’s going to come save the day is kind of what the movie seems to imply.
Furman Daniel: [00:08:29] Right.
And you know, it probably doesn’t make great Hollywood, but. Patton was very, very involved in the planning of the invasion of North Africa. His longtime friend, general Eisenhower was the overall commander of that, but Eisenhower really leaned on Patton because he trusted him because he understood that Patton was a military expert and had combat experience that Eisenhower actually lacked.
So again, Patton was very, very involved in planning the invasion of North Africa and making sure that the Western most part of it. The critical port of Casa Blanca was captured. The Arab and French authorities were pacified and that the allies could use these areas as a staging ground to push further East and actually make contact with German army.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:09:15] Earlier, you mentioned Patton knowledge of history, and that touches on something I wanted to ask you about because there’s a few different scenes that we see in movie where Patton has this knowledge of military history. There’s a scene where he arrives at some ancient battlefield. There’s some ruins in the foreground and Pattons explaining to Bradley that this was the place where the Carthaginians fought the Roman some 2000 years ago and talks about how brave they were, but the Romans ultimately won.
And there’s a, it was an ancient ties, but there’s a one line in there. Just kind of funny where Patton tells Bradley that he was there and we get the idea that he actually believes that he was there. A little later in the movie, there’s a scene where general, sir, Harold Alexander of the British army tells Patton that he would have made a great Marshall for Napoleon.
If only he lived in the 18th century Patton laughs and says, Oh, what I did, sir, Harold. And we even get it from the German side. There’s a scene where some of the German officers refer to Patton as a military historian. And even though it’s the 20th century Patton is a 16th century, man is how they phrase it.
So we get the sense, there is the Germans. Have figured out that the secret to Patton lies in the past, he’s really heavy on military history. How well did the movie do depicting Patton as a military historian and how he used that strategy during his time in world war II?
Furman Daniel: [00:10:38] Patton was a fantastic student of history from before the time he could even read, he listened to stories at his family’s house about his Confederate ancestors and warriors and his family’s past going back to the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland and things like that.
He was probably the most historically literate officer in the United States military at the outbreak of world war II. He studied history. He had a very large personal library of close to a thousand books, which you read and re-read and took very detailed notes on. He went to battlefields to study them and actually look at the ground and study how other commanders approached a battle and try to put himself in their position as the battle unfolded.
And he also, as you said, had this belief that he was part of history himself and that he perhaps was this reincarnated warrior spirit of ages past, I’m glad you mentioned the scene about the Romans and the Carthaginians. That’s actually my favorite scene in the movie. Let’s unpack that just a little bit.
Cause it hits on other parts of this. There’s no actual evidence that this scene ever happened. Neither Bradley nor Patton actually mentioned it in their writings in any time where this could have happened, as suggested by the movie, having said that this kind of notion that he could go to a battlefield quickly, look at it, put himself in the place of the commander.
Make a series of assessments about how that battle would unfold and then be able to quickly and powerfully communicate it to his subordinates is a key element of the man’s genius and ultimate success. The poem that he recites there is a point that he wrote in 1922, call through a glass darkly, which actually, again, touches on this other part that you brought up about this sense of history and this sense of the supernatural and sense of reincarnation.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:12:39] did talk
Furman Daniel: [00:12:40] very consistently from the time he was a child about being reincarnated about having spiritual connections with ancestors and warriors of, of ages
Dan LeFebvre: [00:12:52] past, he believed
Furman Daniel: [00:12:54] this and he also went out of his way to tell others that he believed it. He thought that if he could kind of create this mystical view of himself, he would make himself more interesting.
Make himself seem as if he was always in control, seem as if he had this supernatural connection to the past, my personal take on this. And I want to be clear that this is kind of my own take after understanding the man and reading his papers. My take is he wasn’t actually reincarnated. What he was is he was very, very immersed in this.
It’s all he thought about from the time that he got up to the time that he went to bed. He thought about war and history and battle and fame. And that if you do that for long enough, That’s what you think about you think about war and history and battle and fame, and you kind of believe your own myth.
So, in the academic communities, they call this going native. If you live with a group of other people long enough, you’ll start. Taken on their dress, taking on their habits, taken on their languages, seeing yourself as part of that, I think Patton went native on war because he studied it every waking moment of his life.
From the time he was a little tiny boy to the time he died, he believed that he was part of something else. He took on the manners and customs. And I think his belief in reincarnation is his belief that he was powerful. He connected to the past. He really believed it, but I don’t think he actually was reincarnated despite his Sistance upon the fact that he was,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:14:23] how much of that do you think could have been him trying to set himself up as almost a larger than life person?
It makes sense that if you’re wanting to defeat your enemies, morale, like a big part of that is to be this larger than life, character, and thinking of all the different generals and leaders throughout history that have done that. If Pattons researching them and knows so much about them, he had to have caught on that.
Okay. Here’s this common denominator that you have these, you know, larger than life characters throughout history, while I’m going to be one of those and bring that sense of fear almost to the battlefield before I even arrive.
Furman Daniel: [00:15:04] Absolutely. And he love this quote from the Duke of Wellington about the presence of Napoleon’s hat on a battlefield or 30,000 soldiers.
This notion that just knowing Napoleon was present the spirit of power and mystique that surrounded somebody would have disproportionate effects. Absolutely believe that. He also used this notion of being something spiritual and supernatural as a way to advance his own career, both with the press and with the army at the time.
And interestingly enough, the first known claim of his own, where he claimed to be reincarnated, he did it to get out of trouble as a little boy, he built a. Battle wagon out of a farm cart and actually attacked his family’s Turkey coop took this battle wagon that he had made, crashed it into a Turkey coop parents get upset, said, why didn’t you do that, George?
He said, Oh, I was reenacting the battle wagons of sir John the blind. And they’re like, well, how do you know about search on the blind? And he’s like, well, I fought with sir John the blind. And apparently he was about five or six years old when it happens. And his family bought it. You got out of trouble, he didn’t get punished or spanked or anything for destroying the coop.
And again, he know sets this pattern of, well, I can get away with stuff and I can get others to believe this, and it will advance my career. Or in this case, keep me from getting punished by my parents.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:16:29] I never thought of that when I was five. So kudos to him for that.
Furman Daniel: [00:16:34] I know. He was, Tina said a lot of ways, but yeah.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:16:37] Well, heading back to the movie, the first battle that we see happens after the Americans intercept a German radio message about an attack from Ramos 10th, Panzer division at L guitar. After this, we see Patton along with American tanks and soldiers lying in wait for a massive German force of tanks and soldiers.
Before long, the battle begins and it’s an Epic bit of action to watch the battle on screen. You have infantry Plains artillery, and of course the tanks on each side, we don’t see the full battle in the movie, but based on the part that we do see, I got the idea that the Americans one was the battle ax, El guitar, the first tank battle between Patton and Rommel, like the movie implies and how well did the movie do showing it.
Furman Daniel: [00:17:20] So Rommel was not actually the German commander at the battle. He had gone back to Germany because he’d had a severe nasal infection and he also had to report to Adolf Hitler about the progress of the North African campaign. The movie briefly mentioned this after the battle is over in a scene. That’s so quick, you could actually miss it, but the George C.
Scott character, a Patton famously says, well, I don’t want some second stringer up against me. It makes me feel bad. Right? I’m my favorite general. So the movie briefly mentioned that Rommel was not actually there. It doesn’t mention who the subordinate commander was. This guy, Hans jirga and Von RNM. It also, as you said, just shows the kind of opening phases of, of a much longer battle.
The battle of bell guitar took place over the course of a little over a week. And it was largely an indecisive battle. The Americans won the first phase of the battle where the Germans had planned a surprise attack on the American lines. But the Americans had intelligence warnings saying the Germans were going to attack and were able to preposition.
There are forces, particularly their artillery create a kill zone and a series of minefields where when the Germans attack into that, they were basically breaking their attack off against superior firepower. The movie does a good job of showing that and builds that up as a turning point of the war in North Africa.
I think from that perspective, showing the first day of that battle, showing that Patton had prepared for that battle and won it through understanding the battlespace understanding German tactics. I think for that, it does a fantastic job. I think it also does a good job of showing this as a turning point prior to this battle, the Americans had consistently lost in North Africa.
After this battle, they don’t always win, but they are no longer afraid of the Germans. They’re no longer fighting in these groups that are almost like a series of mobs. They work as a team, they coordinate their fires. They believe in their leader, George Patton. I think it does a fantastic job of that for understandable reasons.
It doesn’t talk about the. Later phases of the battle. It doesn’t talk at all about the fact that the later phases of the battle were largely inconclusive. The Americans try to counter attack. They’re not able to defeat the Germans. And it’s frustrating for Patton and the Americans. They don’t show that, but as a Hollywood depiction of why this battle was important and how Patton motivated his troops organized his troops and was essential for kind of turning the tide in North Africa.
I think it does a very good job of
Dan LeFebvre: [00:20:04] that. You mentioned the Americans being afraid. And during that battle, one key thing that stood out to me was the idea that the Germans had superior technology. When it came to their tanks, he got the idea that the German tanks can take hits and keep going. And the American tanks take a hit and they explode when the gas ignites.
Was it true that the Germans, technologically had tanks that were more advanced than the American tanks?
Furman Daniel: [00:20:31] Yes for almost the entire war, the Germans have better tanks than the British and Americans, how much that matters. You know, there are people that spend their entire life getting into the minutia of tanks and well models and sub models and penetration rates of different types of weapons at different types of ranges.
The general thing to know is the Germans had fewer tanks, but they were generally better. The Americans made a bet that we could outproduce the Germans and that it didn’t matter if their tanks were better, we would have more tanks, more gas, the ability to resupply them quickly. And we would just, rather than solving problems with tanks, we would overwhelm problems with tanks, this frustrated Patton and others, but it was the broader American strategy.
Back to the point of being afraid at that point, I think this is a hundred percent natural. Most of the people in the American army in the first stages of the war had zero combat experience. They were soldiers that had been drafted in the late 1930s, early 1940s. They had by and large minimal combat experience, very minimal training.
And they were going up against German forces that some of them had been fighting for for years by this point. So it’s only natural to be scared and Patton in both in the movie. And in real life understood this, acknowledged this and compensated for it with leadership and discipline, and eventually got the American soldiers to believe in themselves, to believe in their leaders and turn the tide that way.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:22:06] In the movie, we get the sense of there’s this rivalry starting to form between Patton and Montgomery and the British general. And we get this sense when Patton starts to explain his plan to invade Sicily, according to the movie Pattons plan is that he’ll take Palermo on the Northwestern side of the Island and then move to East.
Meanwhile, Montgomery is going to land on the Southeastern side of the Island, near Syracuse and move North. Eventually both Montgomery and Patton will meet on the Northeastern side of the Island. As Patton takes away the German escape route near Messina. Of course, the movie Montgomery doesn’t like this plant.
He proposes something else to general Walter Smith while they’re in the bathroom and in Algeria and said, he suggests that they would divide the allied forces, making it. Easier to get chopped up by the German forces. So Montgomery suggests instead of dividing up that he would land to Syracuse, his plan make his, when North to Messina and Patton would land at gala, which is on the Southeastern side and protect Montgomery’s flank as they will make their way to Messina not being completely separate, like was Patton’s plan.
Ultimately Eisenhower decides to go with Montgomery’s plan something that Patton doesn’t like at all. And in his eyes, his troops get the burden. Well, Montgomery gets the glory. Was it true that Patton’s plan to invade Sicily was overturned for Montgomery’s plan. Like we see in the movie and that kind of start this sort of rivalry that we start to see forming in the movie.
Furman Daniel: [00:23:35] true. Even down to the unusual detail about general Smith being cornered by general Montgomery and a bathroom in Algeria, him fogging a mirror and drawing a sketch map on a bathroom mirror. Absolutely true. The rivalry between the British and Americans actually went back before the decision to invade Sicily, even in the early phases of the war in North Africa, the British and the Americans, even though they realized they needed each other, had different ideas about.
Which side should take priority. What the conduct of the war would look like. The Americans saw the British is patronizing. The British saw the Americans as not knowing how to fight the Germans and overly eager and wasteful of, of lives. I think the movie for understandable reasons sets up this dichotomy between Patton and Montgomery.
When in fact it was very much an American versus British thing, and Patton and Montgomery were just two of the most outspoken members of this. The American British coalition, as you know, would fight for the remainder of the war. The plan that Patton and the Americans favored was more aggressive. It would divide the allied forces with the Americans landing in the Northwest and the British landing in the Southeast, and then pushing along different axes of attack to trap the German forces and move more rapidly.
British were more conservative. They wanted their flank protected, and didn’t really care if this put the Americans in a subordinate role, ultimately Eisenhower chooses the British plan. For reasons that the movie suggested he understand that he needed the British help. He understood that he was not just an American, but an ally.
Do you use the turn of phrase that the movie likes and. Ultimately, could he have won quicker if they’d have done the American plan possibly, but the importance of keeping the allied coalition together absolutely important. And I think, you know, one of the things historians don’t give Eisenhower enough credit for is he was instrumental in keeping the allied forces together, despite their differences.
Even if he wasn’t the best battlefield, tactician or operational planner, he kept the coalition together and that was essential. So, this is just one more example of Eisenhower, making a decision that while not popular with all the Americans and particularly Patton, I actually probably made the right decision in the broader scheme of things.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:25:59] to ask about this because in the movie. Even though Eisenhower makes the decision to go with Montgomery’s plan. Patton kinda ends up going against that order. Anyway, he ends up going to take Palermo anyway, while Montgomery is bogged down with heavy fighting on the Eastern side of the Island. So he almost ends up at least the way the movie depicts it going through with his original idea.
Anyway, even though there was one point in the movie where he received a very specific order to stop, did that happen? That did.
Furman Daniel: [00:26:30] So what happened? And the movie very briefly touches on this Patton was ordered to give up one of the highways that had been originally tasked to the American forces for their drive North, give that road, the access to that road, up to Montgomery so that he could bring troops and supplies to his front line more quickly.
This in effect gave the Americans nothing to do. And Pat and I acted opportunistically on this. He went to the British commander, general Alexander says, can I push West a little bit? It does this in a kind of a vague enough way to where he gets approval to do so even doesn’t do the best job of keeping the British in the loop as to how far West he’s pushing.
And at some point actually does ignore pretty strong orders from the British to slow down his movements. He was still frustrated by this because he thought he was still being Patton thought he was being hemmed in by the British still. He thought if he’d have been able to actually land further North, he would have been able to cut off the retreat of some of the Italian and German forces on the Island.
But yes, the movie does a good job of this and it does it. In a way that shows that Patton purposely did not want to be constrained by the plan, kind of the plan be damned. I’m going to go for the glory. I’m going to go to be famous. And it also shows quite correctly that this created friction within the allied coalition and friction within the American chain of command when subordinate commanders like Lucian trust Scott and Omar Bradley, I actually saw Patton as.
Potentially destroying the British American coalition, but also gambling with the lives of his troops in order to make it bigger slash on the map then Montgomery.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:28:14] Yeah, we see that. And that leads right into the next question, because that’s exactly the sense that I got while I was watching the movie, you know, after Patton takes Palermo, then he’s the one that’s bogged down tables.
Turn a little bit, he’s bogged down with German divisions while Montgomery then manages to make his way out of the tough fighting he was involved in earlier. And now Montgomery wants to beat Patton to Messina. Meanwhile, Patton insists on pushing his own men through the heavy fighting. And the sense that I got was he’s really doing this just because he wants to beat Montgomery to Messina.
He wants the glory of doing that. How well did the movie do show this back and forth between Patton and Montgomery is they’re trying to beat each other to Messina. The
Furman Daniel: [00:28:56] movie does a fantastic job of showing how much Patton wanted to be famous and how he was willing to take extraordinary. And I would say unnecessary risks with the lives of his people to do so.
What the movie actually gets wrong though, is the British, didn’t see themselves in a race at all. Most of the Americans did not see themselves in a race at all. The one person that really saw themselves in a race was George Patton himself. He put this enormous pressure on himself. He talked very big to his subordinate commanders.
He wrote to his wife and his friends about this horse race at which the honor of the American army is at stake. He created a race out of nothing. And to the extent that the movie gets this wrong, as it creates this kind of dynamic foil, this dynamic tension between Montgomery and Patton, both of whom are racing.
When in fact it was mostly Pattons who created this race who got swept up in this figment of his own imagination.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:29:55] That’s a great point because when I watched the movie, I think Montgomery is essentially a British version of Patton and they’re both in it for the glory, the racing against each other was exactly what I got, but it sounds like it was not necessarily the case.
Furman Daniel: [00:30:09] One of the things that the movie gets wrong about this is Montgomery was plotting and slow, but for a reason, the British public was very, very casually averse after the disastrous experience in world war one. They could not and would not accept high numbers of casualties. And Montgomery realized that he was cautious and careful and was often described as a master of planning or the master of the battlefield.
He wouldn’t commit his troops until he knew that he would have a very, very high probability of success. This is very different than Patton Patton was willing to take risks. Patton was willing to, except that combat and military operations are often fluid and embrace that in a way that Montgomery wasn’t.
So the movie kind of tries to create this, their posts the same. They were both incredibly arrogant. They were both incredibly pompous. They both argued with each other and argued with everybody around them. They were both kind of disagreeable in that way, but in terms of actual style of general ship, they were very, very different.
And. The movie, I think for understandable reasons makes this choice to create a direct counterpart to Patton a British Patton, if you will, where that really kind of isn’t the case.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:31:21] Hmm. Interesting. speaking of the movie, there’s a scene where we see general Patton visiting a hospital tent, and he’s talking to each of the soldiers who have been shot or injured for their country is handing out purple hearts.
Then Patton comes across a man who doesn’t seem to have any physical injuries when Patton asks what’s wrong with him, the man replies something to the effect of, I guess I just can’t take it, sir. The movie, doesn’t say this at all. But as I was watching this, I got the impression he probably had PTSD.
Although that term wasn’t coined until the Vietnam war, but Patton gets angry and he calls the man a coward, slaps the soldier with his gloves and the soldier starts breaking down, crying. He orders, the man removed from the hospital. He can’t be in the same hospital as these other men who are injured and orders and sent back to the front.
Well, talk about the fallout that the movie shows about this event in a little bit, but did that actually happen the way that we see it in the movie?
Furman Daniel: [00:32:17] Pretty close. What the movie gets wrong. However, is it happened twice. It happened on August 3rd and then a week later on August 10th, 1943, both incidences were very similar.
He comes to a hospital he’s decorating wounded troops personally because he took this as a lesson from Napoleon and got to decorate wounded troops to keep morale up. He sees these soldiers with no apparent injuries that we now know suffering from psychological casualties, PTSD, battle fatigue. As they called it during the time, he was very upset at both of these soldiers.
In both cases, he yelled at them and when the yelling did not motivate them, slapped them movie does a pretty good job. What it gets wrong is it simplifies to very similar instances a week apart and make some one because why do you need to show the same scene? Twice to make the point that Patton lost his temper Patton got in trouble and there was subsequent fall off for this one real quick point on this Patton himself actually was desperately afraid of being thought of as a coward.
And if you read his diary entries, his letters to his trusted friends and his wife, he frequently talked about how difficult it was to motivate himself to go up to the front lines and how desperately afraid he was of being hurt. Now, what we know about him is he was able to overcome this fear. play this role of a leader, play this role as somebody who was always up at the front, play this role with somebody that wasn’t scared.
But interestingly enough, he was very, very afraid to put himself at risk. And he often worried privately that he was a coward himself. So. You know, I’m not, I’m not a psychologist. I don’t mean to get to 40 in here, but there’s some interesting kind of stuff at play here. He was very, very tired. He had put an enormous amount of pressure on himself with this race to Messina that he created.
He was actually very afraid of this. And when he saw somebody that was similarly afraid and not helping him push forward. You know, there’s, there’s this interesting kind of dynamic of perhaps he was experiencing psychological trauma as well. Perhaps he was projecting his own feelings of insecurity and, and whatnot on his soldiers, private coal, one of the soldiers that he slapped actually after the fact forgave Pattons on the theory that Patton himself was suffering from battle fatigue.
When he slapped him.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:34:41] Oh, wow. Yeah. That’s not anything that I would have gotten from the movie at all. You, you never get the sense that he’s afraid of going to the front lines. The sense I got was he relished that, you know, the exact opposite of that, but it sounds like that may have been very different.
Furman Daniel: [00:34:56] Yeah, the closest the movie comes to it is very early on in the movie. When he’s talking with Bradley about the American failures at Kasserine, he talks about, well, I understand it. I think he said every Fox hound is gun shy. The first time out. I can remember the first time I was in combat the idea of a bullet heading for my nose, you know?
But other than that, yeah, it doesn’t, it portrays him as someone who is invincible or thought of himself as being invincible. Truth is actually much more interesting. He was scared all the time, but he was able to overcome it and work through it and kind of play this role of the fearless general.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:35:32] Speaking of the journey to Messina the way the movie shows this is that a. In the movie we’ve we see general Montgomery getting there. First, the British troops arrive. There’s bagpipes playing. He’s taking in all this adoration. And then all of a sudden it stops and the camera cuts to Patton he’s already there.
The American tanks are already arranged in the Plaza, along with all the American soldiers they’re sitting there waiting for the British did Patton end up beating Montgomery to Messina. Patton
Furman Daniel: [00:36:02] beat Montgomery to Messina, but that wonderful scene about where he does that wonderful flip. Oh, the British one.
Oh goodness. They’re in the band strikes up, you know, March tune and they have that moment in the square. That’s all Hollywood. It’s a great scene. Kind of too bad. It didn’t happen. But yes, the Americans won no that scene. It did not happen. Anything closely resembling how it’s portrayed in the film.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:36:28] Well, that makes sense though, because in the movie they do push the idea that Montgomery was also racing.
And so if he wasn’t racing then, okay, whatever, you know, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Furman Daniel: [00:36:37] Exactly.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:36:38] After arriving in Messina Patton gets a letter from general Oswald. And this is about the soldier that Patton slapped that we talked about earlier, Eisenhower reprimands Patton for the incident, telling him that.
He’s going to have to apologize, not just to the soldier that he slapped, but to all the doctors, nurses, the soldiers who were in the hospital, 10 at the time, also to the entire seventh army as a whole. And we get the sense in the movie. You know, Pattons is very proud guy, so that’s just very, very humbling.
In the movie, he does apologize. It’s more him explaining why he did what he did than a flat out apology. But I guess it’s as close to an apology as you would get from someone who’s proud as Patton seems to be in the movie. As soon after this, we get the word that Patton has been relieved of his command of the seventh army.
The movie briefly suggests that perhaps it’s. So he might be given command of the American forces landing in Europe for operation overlord, but that’s quickly shot down. When we see Sergeant George Meeks telling Patton that the job has been given to general Bradley makes also has a line of dialogue saying that this was all due to quote unquote one measly little slap.
So how well did the movie do showing the fallout from Patton’s incident? Hitting the soldier?
Furman Daniel: [00:37:55] Great question. The apologies that Patton gave were very hard for him to do and were very similarly worded and the defensive I’m gonna apologize, but not really apologize kind of way that he does in the movie, including the, the line that you’ve used there.
I wanted to see if show you, if I was as big as son of a bitch, as you thought, I would, you actually returned to using that type of language multiple times during his career to kind of excuse jerky, bad behavior. You know, Oh, everybody thinks I’m a son of a bitch. I’m going to show you. So it gets that part, right?
The timeline and the fallout, it doesn’t quite get. Right. So in fact, the story did not become a national story until late November of 1943, when an American journalist drew Pearson broke the story on his radio program. General Eisenhower actually understood that this could be a potentially explosive story and asked the local press that was following the American army and Sicily to suppress the story.
And they did. I got out through back channels where people were talking about the incident drew Pearson was very much what we would today. Call a shock jock kind of journalists back then he broke the story specifically to cause controversy. Did this cost Patton his shot at commanding the American invasion of Normandy, probably not.
Eisenhower was a fantastic manager of talent. He was always able to kind of pick the right person for the right job. And I think he realized that Patton was not the right person to pick for this job. There’s also decent evidence that if you look at Eisenhower’s diaries and if you look at Eisenhower’s memoirs after the war, he said that he had already chosen Bradley as early as September of 1943, a good two months before these Patton slapping stories broke.
I think Eisenhower made a really good decision here. Bradley was an organizer. Bradley was a go along to get along type leader. Bradley was somebody who could work better with the British could work better with the United States Navy. Could manage the massive political and logistical challenges that Patton probably couldn’t have done as well.
And in, in, by not tasking Patton with that and keeping him as a army level commander or an army group level commander, he was able to then use Hatton’s talents where they were best used, which is as a kind of operational battlefield commander, not as a planner, not as a politician. So I think Eisenhower made a fantastic choice and the evidence was suggesting, made that choice before the slapping incidences were published.
And that this, despite the, how the movie would suggest it. Didn’t actually do much or anything to change that decision. Hmm.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:40:38] That’s interesting. Yeah, that’s very different. Cause again, I, while I was watching the movie, I got the sense that it was directly because of that, the slatwall, the one slapping incident in the movie, but you know, directly because of that, that he was not given.
A bigger command or a bigger role.
Furman Daniel: [00:40:55] It’s also one of those things. I mean, it’s the tyranny of high expectations. Patton certainly wanted the top command for the invasion of Europe. He was extremely disappointed. He didn’t get it. But he’s still got to command third army, which is arguably, you know, it’s one, it’s one layer down right on the American side.
It’s Eisenhower commands, all of the allied expeditionary force, the top American commanders, Bradley and Pattons on that. Very next run. So anybody other than a George Patton type person, would’ve been really, really impressed, really satisfied with that awesome opportunity that was presented for him, Patton however, had other ideas, but, you know, Humbling, but probably at the right decision all the way around.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:41:39] Well, speaking of the invasion of Europe, we see what happens to Patton there. After being relieved of command, the movie shows him being ordered to Malta. And then from there, he goes to Cairo. Eventually we see him in London and then it flips to the German side. And the Germans, interestingly don’t believe the report that Patton has been reprimanded over slapping a soldier.
They don’t believe that the allies will sacrifice what they call the best commander for something so trivial in their words. So they determined that if a Patton is in Cairo, he must be there to confer with the Greek and Yugoslav governments that are an exile there. And there must be planning an attack from Egypt.
Meanwhile, the allies in the movie decide that they’re going to let it out. That Patton is there undercover. And he’s planning to invade Pata Calais in France. They’re building this fictitious 12 divisions around Patton and they try to convince the Germans that he’s going to lead an attack. As a diversionary tactic, so that the idea to move he puts forward is that they’re going to pin down the German 15th army there so that they can’t be used at Normandy.
Where of course we know from history, that real invasion was so how well did the movie do showing what happened to Patton after he was relieved of command there? And was he used as a diversion for the allies when they invaded Europe,
Furman Daniel: [00:43:02] Patton was used as a diversion. He did travel to places like Cairo and Malta.
They did build a fictitious army around him. They did simulate radio traffic. They put inflatable tanks and invasion craft. One thing the movie doesn’t show is they actually had German spies in the United Kingdom that they had identified and flipped. And we’re using the past information that Patton was going to invade at the pot of Kalay.
All of that’s true. And the German 15th army was pen down around Kallai for about a month after the allies actually invaded enormity. And one of the interesting what ifs of the war is, well, what if the Germans would have realized that the main allied effort was at Normandy and either move their forces there before the invasion or responded quickly as a counter attack after could they have thrown the Americans back in the seat?
We’ll never know. Cause they didn’t. The second part of that question first, did it happen like in the movie? Yeah, more or less. I mean, if anything, the movie doesn’t say enough, but I understand why, how important was that and how important was Patton’s effort in that kind of the follow on question? It is very, very important that the Germans were confused that they did not have their forces properly arranged to respond to an American invasion.
Very, very important there. How important was Patton in making that happen? I don’t think very important. What I think was much more important was the fact that the Nazi military was fundamentally dysfunctional. It was run by Adolf Hitler who had a whole bunch of harebrained ideas and who purposely set general officers within his own chain of command against each other, made them compete for loyalty, made them compete for fame, made them compete for Germany’s increasingly limited resources of men and material.
So there was a completely dysfunctional German chain of command that went all the way to the top and the dysfunction and weirdness of Adolf Hitler, the German intelligence service, the op there was also deeply flawed, not the least of which what I already mentioned. Most of their, I actually, all of their agents in the United Kingdom had actually been either captured and the were being used to pass false information off or captured and actually just imprisoned.
And the kind of scopes went dark on that. The other thing is the Germans, by this point in the war did not have good aerial reconnaissance of the United Kingdom. The few flights they had could easily be spoofed by things like dummy invasion, barges, dummy tanks, and stuff like that. So how important was Patton per se in this?
He was part of it didn’t hurt. The Germans were tracking his movements. Would this have worked without Patton as a diversion, probably just Morrow into the deep dysfunction within the German high command, the failures of German intelligence and so forth. The Germans also did the classic mistake of they really thought the logical place to attack was Cali.
It was the narrowest part of the channel. The allies had previously only invaded at or near major ports. Yep. The invasions in North Africa, the invasions and Sicily. So they thought, well, the, this fits a pattern. This is what we would do. This is the easiest to plan. And it just so happened that the allied efforts for counter-intelligence and deception fit right into that as well.
And they believed what made logical sense they could have probably done this just as easily without Pat.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:46:36] Speaking of the German side, the way the movie portrays things. Of course the movie is called Pattons, but they make it seem like they call him the, the best commander that the allies have. What was the German perception of him at that time?
Did they believe that Patton was one of the allies best commanders, and maybe that could have been one of the reasons why they fell for the diversion
Furman Daniel: [00:46:57] at that point in the war. The Patton was definitely on the German radar screen in terms of a dangerous commander, a commander to pay attention to his movements, to claim that he was in the German eyes by the summer of 1943 or the early spring of 1944 is clearly the top American commander.
I think it’s some creative license on behalf of the movie. Understandably, like you said, they call the movie Patton. I don’t think by that point in the war, the Germans thought he was the top American commander and for understandable reasons, he had only really faced the Germans for a couple of weeks in North Africa.
And about a month in Sicily, whereas they’d actually had much more experience fighting other allied commanders. Particularly if you count the Russian front, I think their interests, their efforts were very widely spread and to save it, Patton was their number one target. Number one kind of person on the radar screen is creative license.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:47:56] Hmm. In my mind after watching the movie, I get the sense, we talked about this earlier, but the competition between Montgomery and Patton, but then there’s a third character in there that we get a lot of competition from and that’s Rommel on the German side. And so I get the sense of, okay, it’s Patton and Montgomery against Ramadan in the movie.
Not only does, do we see Patton actually studying Rommel strategies, reading his book, but then we also see, I think there’s a point where Patton and Montgomery face Rommel in Europe, again, a resurgence of three liters, two on the allied side with Patton Montgomery facing off against Rommel in this, these huge clashes that the movie seems to imply
Furman Daniel: [00:48:42] not really.
Interestingly enough, the Germans themselves did not think of Rommel as one of their top commanders. His fame was very much a product of the German press and the allied press the inside politics of the German army. They actually didn’t see Rommel as a particularly important or famous guy, Rommel jumped to get his command because he ingratiated himself to Hitler.
He was the commander of Hitler’s bodyguard in the late 1930s and got a command of this. Rommel also becomes very famous during the war because the British press are playing up. Our best general Montgomery is fighting the Germans best general Rommel. The Germans would have never considered Rommel their best job.
So there’s a lot of creative license, both in history, but also in the movie, our best versus their best. We sent our best British sent their best Germans, sent their best to the Western army, to the Eastern front to fight the Russians. Patton actually never fought directly against Rommel for various reasons.
Montgomery did multiple times. And again, this fed into the creation of this dual, between generals first in the deserts of North Africa, and then in France, after the invasion. The other interesting thing about Rommel and his. Role in history and his role in the press, particularly after world war II is Rommel was tangentially related to the Stauffenberg bomb plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and actually was forced to take poison when his role became exposed, because the Germans didn’t want to admit that this general, that they had built up in their press, it was disloyal to Hitler.
So they gave him the opportunity to take poison the British then, and even some American historians after the war. We cast Rommel as the good Nazi. When in fact it a Nazi, he wasn’t particularly good. He only flipped at the very last moment, oppose Hitler, but oppose him because he didn’t think he was making sound military decisions as much as opposed him because he actually disagreed with the previous 11 years of the Nazi party rule and stuff like that.
So the movie. Make some many of the same errors that casual historians make our best versus third best Rommel was good. Nazi Rama was this kind of honorable figure and stuff like that. And that Patton fought him. When he, in fact, he did. Well,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:51:01] heading back to the movie. After the invasion of Europe Patton seems to have learned his lesson.
He promises to keep his mouth shut. While he’s meeting with general Bradley and France, Bradley tells Patton about something called operation Cobra. They reinstate Patton and he’s given commander the third army for the operation. The movie doesn’t really give any sort of timing here other than we talked about the invasion of Europe.
And so we know it’s after D-Day, but how well did the movie do showing Patton getting command of the third army for something called operation Cobra? You’re
Furman Daniel: [00:51:34] exactly right. The movie doesn’t really show a timeline. It shows that it’s after the invasion, it shows quite correctly that the allied push and land had been bogged down and talks about operation Cobra.
As a plan break out from the Normandy operational area. It gets that mostly right. What it doesn’t get right. Is it suggests that Patton was still on probation and had not been incorporated in the American plan. Going back to September, 1943. It makes it seem like if they ha if Patton and Bradley hadn’t met at the field headquarters and had this conversation and Patton, hadn’t a promise to be nice and had an egg for a job that it wouldn’t have gotten a job.
That meeting never really took place. And Patton was already picked the better part of a year before this to actually command third army. So that part of the movie is a wonderful scene. Didn’t happen what also the movie clauses over. But if you know what to look for, you can tease out some interesting stuff on this is that pan was actually very active.
In the American planning process, he opposed the American invasion in Normandy because he had traveled to that exact region in 1912 and 1913 on a series of honeymoons with his wife. And so we knew that while you might avoid attacking the end of the teeth of the German defenses, it was not a good area geographically because of the hedge rows.
These areas where farmers had pushed hundreds of years worth of tailings off of their fields to the edges basically made. Ready-made trenches for the Germans to defend from. He knew about this and it actually opposed the invasion at that point, because of that, he takes command of third army on July 1st, 1944.
So not quite a month after the initial invasion on June six, 1944, but even before third army is activated. And he takes an active command there. He was very much part of the planning process for Cobra and other operations in the Normandy region. My favorite story on this is I’d already mentioned. He had gone to that region in 1912 and 1913 as part of his honeymoons with his wife while he was there on his own.
Initiative had created a series of maps about the road network and had actually planned and had predicted to his wife that he would fight a decisive battle there. Kind of a weird talk, on your honeymoon. But you know, we’re, I don’t know what you did on your honeymoon. I didn’t plan a March across your, but he actually created these intelligence reports in 1913.
They’ve got filed in the archives and forgotten. In the days before satellites in the days before geo intelligence advances, we have now the allies didn’t actually have good maps of the region. So they were actually planning the breakout from normally using commercially available Michelin auto club maps.
They weren’t detailed enough and specifically they didn’t have good Intel about the road network and its ability to absorb water. The roads could get really muddy. That part of France rains quite a bit. Cause it gets moisture off the English channel. What Penn actually did before I even took active command of third army on July 1st is he actually helped them plan.
How do we use roads? And what he did is he sent back, said I filed this report in 1913 after my honeymoon. Get it out. Cause it’s the best survey we have of the local road network.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:55:09] That goes perfectly back to what you were talking about earlier. Whereas he eats sleeps and breathes battles and war. It just makes perfect sense that he would do that on a tiny margin.
It is a great story.
Furman Daniel: [00:55:22] And it’s also really interesting because he also want us on, on what he considered his honeymoon trips there in 1912 and 1913. He went around to local city archives and looked up data about the local kind of military history of the region. And he also on his honeymoons interviewed French veterans from the Franco-Prussian war while they were still alive, that it fought in 1870 1871.
His wife spoke very fluent, French. He spoke okay. French at that time. And they went around again on their honeymoon in their spare time. Interviewing Franco-Prussian war, veterans and learning how to fight the Germans on your honeymoon. You know, it’s one of those things I couldn’t make it up. And if I did, nobody believed me, but it’s a hundred percent true.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:56:09] At least she knows what she’s getting into. Right. Well heading back to the movie. It’s winter time now, and the allies are making their way across Europe and pushing the Germans back it’s here. That Patton predicts the unthinkable. He says absolutely no reason for us to assume the Germans are mounting major offensive, whether it’s awful or supplies are low, the German army hasn’t mounted an attack since Frederick to great.
And that is exactly why Patton thinks they’re going to do it. Of course we know from history, the Germans mounted the, our dental counter offensive, the battle of the bulge in December of 1944. So as the movie would have us believe it, Pattons starts to prepare his men for a German attack and is one of the first to be able to mobilize against the German attack because of his knowledge of history.
Again, it’s really emphasized there. In the movie. So his men had to pull out of a winter battle, move some hundred miles with no rest, no sleep, no hot food, go right back into a major attack. And then according to the movie, it was Patton’s third army, along with the fourth armor division who were the ones to relieve the a hundred and first airborne defending best on how much of that really happened.
Furman Daniel: [00:57:25] movie has to compress a massive campaign, the battle of the bulge and to, you know, 10 minutes or so is screen time overall. It does a pretty good job on it. It hits on the fact that Patton, I was thinking about history when he was understanding the German potential to attack. It makes a good point of talking about the difficulty of Patton responding.
He was actively engaged, attacking in one direction. He pulls them out of the line. He pivots them. 90 degrees moves them a hundred miles through awful weather with no sleep, no hot food and get some right back into the attack to relieve Bastogne on the day after Christmas. And I think it does a fantastic job of also highlighting his personal upfront leadership, his willingness to take chances.
All of that. I think it is a very good job on that. Despite having to make some editorial decisions to simplify it. One thing it doesn’t do is there was actually just some fantastic Intel work that Patton matched up with his understanding of history that really helped him with that. It had some really great planning from his staff.
The movie briefly talks about how he tasked his staff to plan three different responses to a hypothetical German attack. Actually true movie shows that, but doesn’t really explain it. It’s actually kind of a confusing part of the movie if you don’t know what you’re looking at, but overall I think the movie does a really good job on that.
One thing I have about the battle of the bulge that irks me ever since I found it out was the wonderful, wonderful scene about the prayer for good weather. So right until I found out that this was wrong, it was my favorite scene in the movie, right. I’m going to get a chaplain in here. I’m going to make him pray for the snow to stop.
And by God, the snow stops the American army attacks, the Germans lose, and God bless America. Right? It’s such a wonderful scene. It didn’t really attend like that Patton did get a chaplain to pray for better weather, not at the battle of the bulge and it wasn’t for snow. So a couple weeks prior to the battle of the bulge, there had been extremely rainy weather that had made the roads very muddy and impassable Patton got a chaplain to pray for the rain.
This stop, the rain did apparently stop. But it was rain, not snow. And it wasn’t as this turning point on the battle of the bulge, the movie would suggest, like I said, that was my favorite scene in the movie. Right? In the point I found it was creative license and the timeframe is several weeks off, but had to mention that is the one part of the battle of the bulge narrative in the movie that really doesn’t fit and is very much played up to fit to the store
Dan LeFebvre: [01:00:06] was Patton a very religious man.
And me, it sounds like the mere fact that he would have called somebody in for that. Makes him more on the religious
Furman Daniel: [01:00:15] side Patton was very religious. Despite the fact that he had a famously foul mouth, despite the fact he often lost his temper. Despite the fact he had some sexual escapades, including one with his cousin, despite having a deeply flawed, deeply imperfect life.
He was also very, very religious. One of the things that I find so interesting about Patton and the movie actually talks about this, that the German, Intel officer that’s talking about Patton, we’ll talk about how he’ll curse like a soldier, then pray on his knees, like a choir boy or something like that.
It’s just one more of these contradictions. And the movie does an interesting job when the chaplain that he does call in at the wrong time about snow at a wrong battle. The chaplain says it’ll take a pretty thick rug, praying for good weather to kill our fellow man and Patton response. I don’t say I don’t care if it takes a flying carpet, that’s the kind of person he was.
He. Saw the contradiction and embraced it, right? I’m a lover of war and a lover of God. At the same time, he absolutely did call and chaplains for all sorts of things because he thought they were good for morale. He thought they were good to prevent desertion and all these things. And he also thought they were good for stopping in this case.
Rain, not snow, but adverse weather that it affected the American army.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:01:35] Huh. That’s very interesting. Yeah. I like what you mentioned there about contrast, because that’s the exact same thing, what you were talking about earlier, where he’s has this fear of going to the front and of actually being harmed himself, which again is a big contrast to what he actually did.
He, you know, always being in combat.
Furman Daniel: [01:01:55] Absolutely. And the movie does such a fantastic job of contrast and a whole bunch of things vulgar yet religious modern yet ancient. Quiet and loud, you know, fearful and, and brave at the same time, it purposely plays up this kind of person who doesn’t fit person that even among his own character has this deep tension within it.
I think the movie hits on that. That was definitely part of his character. Definitely part of what made him tick. Is this contrast. The movie does a fantastic job of playing this, this up.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:02:32] Speaking of the movie, at the very end, we see the German headquarters. Men are destroying all their documents. One of them looks at a photo of Patton and he predicts that Patton will be destroyed by the absence of war.
And we find out from some reporters interviewing Patton that president Roosevelt promised Patton a command in the Pacific. But since Roosevelt died, Patton, doesn’t think he’s going to get it because it ends up going to MacArthur. And probably doesn’t help that Patton tell some reporters that he agrees with the idea that most Nazis joined the party in the same way.
Republicans and Democrats joined their parties in the United States. Not a comparison that a lot of people are gonna like. And then, in the movie when general Smith calls him about it, Patton goes onto a tirade about if it’s left to him, he’ll have us at war with the Russians in 10 days and it’ll look like it’s their fault.
He doesn’t think the Americans should be disarming the German and said, we should use them to help fight the Russians. And then before long, we see general Patton saying goodbye to his men as they’ve taken the third army away from him. So I’m guessing that all those things that he said in those ideas, again, Pattons, mouth getting him into trouble.
So how well did the movie do showing the end of Pattons military career?
Furman Daniel: [01:03:48] It does a pretty good job given the amount of time dedicated to it. It’s a hundred percent true that Hatton had a very difficult time adapting to the post world war II world. They quickly saw the Soviet union as the enemy. He opposed.
Demobilization of the American army. He believed that history was repeating itself just as we’ve kind of retreated from the world stage after world war one, he saw this as happening again. He thought that Americans and the movie actually briefly mentioned this, that American planners were putting too much faith and the, both the Goodwill of the Soviets, but also the transformative power of atomic bombs and modern weaponry to make war impossible.
He definitely believed this. He definitely said things including the quotes about how the average Nazi was like a Democrat or Republican. He definitely advocated for rearming the Germans far before it became politically acceptable to advocate a reconstruction of Germany and things like that. It does a very good job of showing in just a couple of minutes of movie time.
Something that actually played out over the better part of nine months. Patton like repeatedly getting himself in trouble with the press, thinking that he was doing the right thing and nobody was listening. When in fact he was way out in front of the anti Russia and way out in front of the, maybe we should rebuild Europe way out in front of the, Hey, maybe we’re going to have to fight Wars, even though we do have atomic weapons, it does a really good job of showing that.
It shows correctly enough that third army was taken away from him. It even has a really interesting detail where he says, and the room where he’s, he’s addressing the staff members of the third army, that the greatest thing to happen to him was commanded third army goodbye. And God bless you. Direct quote that again.
If you don’t know what to look for, you’ll just miss it. You’ll think, Hey, nice. Kind of throw away line. One thing it doesn’t do is it doesn’t talk about the very, very final act of Pattons Greer. I think for understandable reasons, it’s kind of odd. And a lot of people don’t care about it. Rather than just being fired and sent home.
Like the movie suggests he was actually reassigned. He was given command of the U S army and tasked with writing a history of world war II in Europe. Actually it was a job that while he saw it as a demotion and a punishment, it was actually a job. That was a pretty nice job for him. Hey, go write history.
Stay out of trouble, remain on active duty. And if there is a dust up with the Russians, well, where you call you to active duty. During this period, he does a pretty good job of keeping his mouth shut. He does a fantastic job of managing the so-called reports of the general board. Were they right? Some of the historical lessons learned from world war II.
And during this period, he writes most of his memoirs, which become posthumously published as war, as I knew it a couple years after his death. So the interesting kind of thing that the movie doesn’t give us is he starts doing this reclamation project. In the last couple months of his life, when third army does get taken away from him.
It’s an interesting, what if, if you deliver, what have you been able to revive his reputation? What do you have been able to live long enough to see some of the things you said about the emerging cold war come true? Would he have lived long enough to serve in the Korean war? Maybe it was actually younger than MacArthur the commands in the Korean war.
So it’s kind of one of these interesting what ifs, but the movie doesn’t really show that again for understandable reasons. But I think it’s an interesting last act. If you will, for Pattons that just doesn’t have time to be shown in detail in the movie.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:07:19] That makes sense. I mean, again, in movie, it’s going to have to trim everything down on that note.
If you had directed the movie, what’s something that you would have done
Furman Daniel: [01:07:27] differently. Two really minor things. I would have had an onscreen Eisenhower character. I think it’s really odd that there’s not an onscreen Eisenhower character given how many different things are pushed. You know, oil Eisenhower said this, or you’re in trouble with Eisenhower, just have an onscreen character.
The other thing is I would have tried to figure out one or two more scenes to include with Sergeant George Meeks is African American personal assistant. The scenes with, with Sergeant makes, I think are fantastic. They’re fantastic for showing his relationship with a common soldier in this case, an African American one.
I think it’s fantastic for actually pushing the plot along and explaining things. And I think the acting is really good too. I would have done an extra scene or two, a real quick thing about George Meeks. Patton’s family loved George Meeks and insisted that after Patton’s death, that George makes be one of his pallbearers, even though they got a lot of pressure because Meeks was African American.
And because he was an enlisted personnel, just a Sergeant and all of the other pallbearers were white and general officers, high ranking officers. They had a lot of pressure to remove him and replace a massage. The more famous. Out of loyalty to him, the Patton family insisted that he carry Patton’s body to barrel, but yeah, I’d have an on screen Eisenhower character and I would play up the relationship with Sergeant makes a little more.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:08:48] Thank you so much for coming on to chat about the movie Patton. I know you have multiple books that you’ve written about Patton. Can you give someone listening an overview of your books and where they can get a copy?
Furman Daniel: [01:08:58] Absolutely. So support your local bookstore or amazon.com. Yeah, would love to, I don’t get rich off my books, but I love to have people highest compliment.
They can tell me is read your book and I didn’t want to throw it away. So two books I wrote in 2016, 21st century Patton strategic insights for the modern era. I edited. A bunch of Pattons, military writings. So this interview’s done a fantastic job of bringing up this point, that Patton thought about history and used history and wrote about history.
So this is, I wrote some introductory essays and cobbled them around about eight essays that Patton wrote about military leadership development as an officer, how to win on the battlefield, the importance of reading and things like that. My second book, it came out in 2020 university of Missouri press is called Patton battling with history.
And it builds out a lot of, again, a lot of the things we’ve talked about today, Patton was a student of history Patton used history to understand the battle space, to promote his own career, to create this mythos and talks about how he used history, not only to better himself, but to defend his place in it and provides an overview of a bunch of his campaigns.
Both of these, if there’s a common theme, is they have the general outlines of Pattons biography. But they take this line that he was a thinker and just strictly George C. Scott Patton movie, or the strictly general and spurs with a riding crop and Polish boots while true. Is only part of who Patton really was.
He really was a study in contrast like you and I discussed, he really was somebody who took his place in history and his job as a commanding general, much more seriously than popular movies and popular press, popular imagination. We’ll think about them.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:10:45] Thank you again so much for your time.
Furman Daniel: [01:10:47] I’ve really enjoyed it, Dan. Thanks.