Saturday, October 8, 2022

"Life Lessons From George S. Patton, Jr."

Full screen recommended.
"Patton Speech"
Patton speech in Los Angeles 1945 and death.
 Narrated by Ronald Reagan.
"Life Lessons From George S. Patton, Jr."
by John Wilder

"I have been a long-time fan of General George S. Patton, Jr. It started when I was a kid, and my history teacher even ordered a few extra Patton films for the World War II section of U.S. history because he knew I was a Patton fan. Probably the biggest accolade that he could have was from the Germans who he fought, one of whom said simply, “He is your best.”

For whatever reason, though, I had never read "The Patton Papers 1940-1945."  On a whim a week or so ago, I ordered a copy, and I cracked it open at lunch the day it arrived before I headed back to work. I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed a book more. I’m not sure The Mrs. feels the same way, since when I’m reading it, about every five minutes I’ll come up with a snippet to read to her. She keeps saying, “Thanks, but no tanks.”

The book itself is a compilation of diary entries, letters Patton wrote, and orders he gave in the period from 1940-1945. To have the ability to read through those are amazing, even when he just writes about the mundane aspects of his life or his son having trouble in math at school. I didn’t start at the beginning, I just picked it up and started reading at a more-or-less random spot, which coincided with his taking command of American troops in North Africa. And then I couldn’t put it down.

While many passages have resonated with me, I decided to write about one in particular today. It consists of his instructions that were provided to his officers prior to launching Operation Husky, where he and Montgomery launched a naval invasion of Sicily. Spoiler alert: he did pretty well. This is one passage I’ll make sure to share with Pugsley and The Boy because there is so much truth not only in a military sense, but in life to what Patton wrote on June 5, 1943. Stuff in italics is Patton’s (from page 261 and page 262). My comments are in plain text.

"Discipline is based on pride in the profession of arms, on meticulous attention to details, and on mutual respect and confidence. Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than the excitement of battle or the fear of death.

Discipline can only be obtained when all officers are imbued with the sense of their lawful obligation to their men and to their country that they cannot tolerate negligence. Officers who fail to correct errors or praise excellence are valueless in peace and dangerous misfits in war."

Discipline starts with a single individual. In my case, it doesn’t come from without, it must come from within. Getting up on time. Paying the bills. Having a sense of purpose in life. It has been my observation that people will do what you want when you’re looking if they fear punishment. If they are being judged, they might do it when others are around. When it becomes a value, however, they do it every time, all the time, even when no one is looking, and even when no one will ever know.

"Officers must assert themselves by example and by voice."

People watch. And people listen. Letting things slide never creates excellence.

"There is no approved solution to any tactical situation."

There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is: “To so use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wounds, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum of time.”

Obviously, war isn’t a game, but the lesson for life outside of attacking Sicily in 1943 still exists. And it’s not to use Claymores (FRONT TOWARD ENEMY) and a mortar barrage to open a business meeting. But I have been involved in business and life situations where time was of the essence, and being polite just had to go out the window.

"Never attack [enemy] strength, [but rather his weakness]..."

"You can never be too strong. Get every man and gun you can secure provided it does not delay your attack..."

"Casualties vary directly with the time you are exposed to effective fire... Rapidity of attack shortens the time of exposure..."

"If you cannot see the enemy, and you seldom can, shoot at the place he is most likely to be..."

"Our mortars and our artillery are superb weapons when they are firing. When silent, they are junk – see that they fire!"

One thread that runs through Patton’s writing and actions is his devotion to attacking. Defending wasn’t something that he was interested in. In life, I think that attitude is required. It’s easy to give up, it’s easy to fall into the trap that there’s nothing more to do, nothing more to gain. It’s similar to having all A’s on my eighth-grade report card and deciding to coast on that for the rest of my life.

Potential can only be realized if we push ourselves, and we can only push on the attack. So, attack life like a poodle going after a pork chop, up to the very last breath.

"Never take counsel of your fears. The enemy is more worried than you are. Numerical superiority, while useful, is not vital to successful offensive action. The fact that you are attacking induces the enemy to believe that you are stronger than he is..."

"A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution ten minutes later..."

"IN CASE OF DOUBT, ATTACK ..." "Again, attack. But the additional thought is added: don’t listen to your fears. Fear is something that will paralyze even a strong man. And from my experience, the best way to get over fears and avoid the paralysis that comes with them is to take action. What action? Any action that leads you toward your goal. Even the smallest action often sets off a cascade of following actions that lead to...success."

"Mine fields, while dangerous, are not impassable. They are far less of a hazard than artillery concentrations..."

"Speed and ruthless violence on the beaches is vital. There must be no hesitation in debarking. To linger on the beach is fatal."

We are going to run into problems. Some of them huge. Some of them of our own making. The idea is to push through. The Mrs. and I watched a kid on the local wrestling team that was just awful in terms of skills, experience, and well, brains. But, he’d get it in his head that he could win, and he would go out and win some very, very unlikely matches. Why? He didn’t hesitate. He jumped on the chances he made.

I’ll probably have a few more of these as I go through the book. And, as much fun as it is to read, I’m going to take my time to enjoy it. I’d best show a little bit of discipline... Patton might be watching."
Full screen recommended.
"Patton" (1970), 27:32 - 30:21, Reincarnation scene.
Freely download "The Patton Papers 1940-1945" here:

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