Words That Men Live By
Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. (1944)
ON THE AVRANCHES FRONT, France, July 31, 1944 – The American Army’s fightingest general, and its most controversial one – Lieutenant General George S. Patton – prepared tonight to send his newly designated Third Army into one of the war’s bitterest actions, with a brief talk reminiscent of Napoleon or Sherman, to both of whom he already has been compared.
He talked to his army, now comprising the most powerful single armored unit yet put into the field, through a staff of several score officers. The scene of his talk – given by a general to a group with whom he has shared countless nights of sleepless planning – was the blacked-out interior of improvised headquarters at a secret location.
His words, from the minutes of the meeting, follow:
We become operational officially tomorrow, and doubtless from time to time there will be some complaints that we are punishing people too hard. I don’t give a good goddam about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat is worth a gallon of blood.
The harder we push, the more Germans we’ll kill, and the more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means lower casualties. I want you to remember that.
There is another thing I want you to remember. Forget this goddamed business of worrying about our flanks. We must guard our flanks, but not to the extent that we don’t do anything else. Some goddam fool once said that flanks must be secured, and since then sons-of-bitches all over the world have been going crazy guarding their flanks. Flanks are something for the enemy to worry about, not us.
Also, I don’t want any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and are not interested in holding anything, except onto the enemy. We’re trying to hold onto him and kick the hell out of him all the time.
Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under or through the enemy. We have one motto, “Audacious, audacious, always audacious.” Remember that. From here on out, until we win or die in the attempt, we will always be audacious.
~ Postlogue ~
There remained yet a long period in which General Patton must instill the rule of audacity in his troops. With them after this date he experienced both great triumphs and great disappointments, but war raised his controversial figure to the highest rank.
Not long after the victory which he helped to win, he was killed – not in battle as he had once predicted he would be – but in an accident involving a truck and the car in which he was riding.Printable version