The Germans Regard George Patton

I found this review at the Hoover Institute of a book about how the Germans regard George S. Patton thought-provoking:

Of the allied world War II generals, George Patton may be considered the most “German.” He had carefully studied the early Blitzkrieg campaigns against Poland and France and shared the conviction of the Wehrmacht commanders that that a war of movement — short, sharp, and furious — was the way to avoid a repetition of the endless slaughter of World War I. “Always take the offensive. Never dig in,” was Patton’s motto. He expressed his aversion to fixed positions in graphic fashion: After having found some slit trenches around a command post in Tunisia meant to protect it from air attacks, he asked the commanding officer, Terry Allen, to show him his, whereupon he promptly urinated into it. “There. Now try to use it.”

It’s not particularly surprising that the Germans have a fairly low opinion of Patton. They think that he was just lucky, unaware of Branch Rickey’s remark about luck. For the last seventy some-odd years the Germans have been trying to figure out how a rabble of mongrel lunkheads managed to prevail against their impeccable, educated, and aristocratic generals who consistently out-maneuvered them and their determined soldiers who routinely out-fought them. There are probably as many opinions as there are people rendering opinions.

The Russians’ opinion is that we didn’t win. We just held their coats while they won the “Great Patriotic War”.

Hollywood’s opinion was that free, clean-cut Yanks, pulling together despite their differences, prevailed over the beastly Huns.

If I’m not mistaken the prevailing view in the United States is that the U. S. economy beat the German economy and American logistics beat German and Japanese logistics at the same time. I think there’s merit to that. The Germans and the Japanese had a similar problem: they needed to keep the United States out of the war. As the Japanese generals recognized the only way to accomplish that was via a master strike. Unfortunately for them, that needed to be followed up by occupying the Hawaiian Islands and that was just beyond their reach. Had they accomplished that the logistical challenges of fighting a war across the Pacific might well have been insurmountable.

The Germans had a similar problem but a better position. Had they been able to defeat the British in short order, the logistical challenges might have deterred the United States. Consequently, there’s a pretty good argument that the British won World War II, not just their military but the whole British people.

8 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    On one hand, the Germans and Patton were right about fixed defenses, which is even more relevant today than it was then.

    As far as who”won” WWII, that debate is like the bullet, the rifle and the soldier all arguing about which one of them was the most important in killing the enemy soldier.

    Or it’s like the endless parochial arguments about which warfighting realm is actually “decisive” – land, air, sea (and space & cyber) when we’ve known since WWII that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and combined arms is what wins battles.

  • bob sykes Link

    I agree that American industrial power and logistics were important contributors to the Allied victory, but the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the fighting, and they would have had defeated the Germans without our help, maybe another year or two.

    The Europeans, especially the Germans, still can’t do logistics, viz. Kosovo. The Russians are trying and getting better, Syria being an example. If the Chinese complete OBOR, which includes a chain of resupply ports, they might do logistics, too.

    I’m not sure we could have defeated the Japanese without the atomic bomb. We likely would have stopped after the horrors of Okinawa and just blockaded Japan.

  • The Europeans, especially the Germans, still can’t do logistics, viz. Kosovo.

    Libya and Syria both highlighted that problem. Presently there are only five militaries in the world notionally at the highest level of readiness, i.e. able to perform their own logistics: U. S., U. K., France, Russia, and China and the U. K. may be losing that ability.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I’m not a big fan of strictly military history, but it seems to me like the Battle of Stalingrad was the great turning point. A lot of other things had to happen is well, but given that the Russian army was expected to disintegrate as it had in the Great War, Germany fell “below expectations,” and mostly they were in retreat at this point with tightening rations and controls on the domestic front.

    Bob Sykes: “they would have had defeated the Germans without our help.” I still think the Russians would have been dependent on U.S. supplies, but I wonder what a relatively unassisted Russian victory would have looked like. If exhausted, I can see Russians agreeing to a cease fire along the previous Curzon line, leaving the West to the Third Reich. That would not have been Stalin’s preference having been stabbed in the back by Hitler once, but to what extent would the USSR be able to impose a Carthaginian peace on its enemy? And whither the rest of Europe?

  • steve Link

    I have a hard time seeing Russia winning without our efforts, logistics and otherwise. Our war efforts are notable for how poorly we functioned at first, but how quickly we learned. We certainly did OK in the Pacific.

    As far as the Germans go, how well would they have performed if they did not have to cater to Hitler’s whims?


  • As far as the Germans go, how well would they have performed if they did not have to cater to Hitler’s whims?

    It wouldn’t have solved their problems. Their generals did outmaneuver ours and their soldiers did outfight ours. They just couldn’t match our ability to supply our troops.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Just TV documentaries, but they suggest Hitler may have had A.L.S., which may then have pushed his timetable to invade east too soon.
    Another take is just my own, that the NAZI’s were doomed by their own philosophy, that only the fittest should survive, (Darwin), and as the 30’s progressed, less and less people deemed “fit”. Down this path, you cannot make allies, only enemies, which they did.

  • TarsTarkas Link

    It was a team effort. The Russians couldn’t have stopped the 1942 Case Blue offensive without the convoys to Murmansk and the shipments through Persia. The British and Americans couldn’t have successfully invaded France without the Russians tying up the bulk of the German army. The German troops were better overall (up until the Falaise Gap and Operation Bagration) and better generals. But they didn’t have enough of them, they didn’t have enough supplies, and they alienated too many potential allies with their vicious ways.

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