One of my very interesting readers, War Pig, was inspired by the General Patton quotes this week to provide a personal remembrance of General Patton the Younger in the comments. On hearing that he had more stories I asked if he’d provide them and allow me to post them here. He kindly agreed and here is the second installment.
I drove for Patton the Younger at Ft Hood, Texas when he commanded the 2d Armored Division in the mid seventies. His regular driver was on leave and he called my brigade commander for a replacement. The colonel sent me. It was interesting, and he was as spectacularly profane as his father had been. It seemed to me he must have gone straight from West Point to a captain’s commission as he despised lieutenants. When he saw a young lieutenant doing something stupid, which young lieutenants often do, he was almost overcome with apoplexy. At such times he was wont to become obscene, profane and entirely disrespectful, to the delight of sergeants and privates in earshot.
One day he had me take him down to the division’s motor pool and as we drove around a lieutenant saw us and came running. Patton turned to me and said; “Loot a that! The sonuvabitch must think he’s a f***ing unguided missile.” The Lt ran up, saluted and reported. Patton told him to go back to his business and asked where the motor sergeant was. The Lt did not know and Patton blew up like Mt Vesuvius. After the tirade we found the motor sergeant and Patton spoke to him about maintenance (Patton was big on supply and maintenance). Then he called the Lt over and made the motor sergeant sign a hand receipt for the Lt, and told him to take charge of the Lt and to train him in maintenance on all wheeled vehicles. Basically he put a Lt under the command of a Sergeant First Class. Patton then said’; “And you WILL f***ing learn, lieutenant, or I’ll have your f***ing bars, your f***ing ass and the honor of your motherf***ing family. Then I’ll nail your d**k to my trophy board!”
Maybe Patton didn’t despise all lieutenants. If they had common sense, listened to their sergeants’ advice, showed initiative and, most of all, if they took the blame when they screwed up and didn’t try and lay it off on the troops or NCOs, Patton liked them. He liked them even better if the lieutenant took the blame when the troops did screw up, then handled it himself within the platoon.
When I was driving for him it was time for the annual battle simulation between the First Cavalry and the 2nd Armored division, both stationed at Ft Hood at the time. It was supposed to be a heavily scripted battle. The First Cav was to attack from one side and represent the Warsaw Pact, while Patton and the 2nd AD defended. Patton treated this mock battle as if it were life and death for the entire nation. Ft Hood was divided by Cowhouse Creek. The First Cav was to attack across the creek into “West Germany”. The 2nd AD was to absorb the attack and slowly give ground, a fighting withdrawal as was the plan for the US Army in Europe. Patton said, simply; “F**k that”. He had his engineers dam up Cowhouse creek so that it was too deep to ford with tanks except at certain points. At those points he had his engineers lay down beautiful simulated mine fields. As the First Cav advanced they’d be slowed and concentrated into choke points where we had camouflaged tanks sitting, covering the points with interlocking fields of fire and the divisional artillery had the choke points zeroed in for a barrage and the Cobra attack helicopters were loaded and waiting, too.
The First Cav commanding general complained that he could not cross the creek and start the battle because it was flooded. Patton refused to remove the log and earthen dams. “I was told to defend, and Goddammit, I’m defending.” The corps commander had to fly out, chase Patton down and order him, in person, to open the dams. They reset the beginning of the battle for two days later to let the creek drain. Patton changed his battle plan and HE attacked. A “spoiling attack”. He got yelled at again, which he found to be quite funny. Finally the First Cav crossed the creek and the battle began in earnest but by then the Cav had little chance. Patton had kept recon very busy and we knew where all the Cav’s assets were and their likely avenues of approach so it was a pretty big show, but for naught for the First Cav. Patton and the 2nd Armored Division won the Battle of Cowhouse Creek pretty convincingly. In victory he had his Cobra attack helicopters fly in the formation of a big “X” across the First Cav areas and that of the III Corps HQ.