In The Path of Patton
The Second World War 1939-45
After the Second World War, General Gunther Blumentritt, who helped plan the Bliztkrieg against Poland in 1939 and France in 1940, stated that many German officers held General George S Patton in high regard and believed him to be “the most aggressive Panzer General of the Allies, a man of incredible initiative and lightning-like action”.
On the 8th November 1942, eleven months after America entered the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and Hitler and Mussolini declaring war on America, American troops embarked on their amphibious landings, Operation Torch, which would pit them against highly experienced Axis forces in North Africa. Part of the assault force was the Western Task Force, the only all-American unit to take part in the landing and this 33,000 strong force was commanded by General Patton who had seen service in the First World War and was highly regarded for his leadership.
As the campaign in North Africa progressed he commanded the US II Corps and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in March 1943. When the campaign in North Africa ended the Allies invaded Sicily, Operation Husky and in command of the US 7th Army was Patton who continued to demonstrate his offensive tactics. It was during this campaign that he caused controversy by slapping at least two soldiers who were suffering from shell shock, but who in his opinion, were acting in a cowardly manner.
Patton was removed from field command for eleven months until given command of the 3rd US Army in England in January 1944. He trained this unit as well as being involved with the deception plan, known as Operation Fortitude, designed to deceive the Germans into believing the Allied invasion would land in the Pas de Calais. This plan involved the completely fictitious First US Army Group (FUSAG) with Patton making prominent appearances around the Kent area.
When the D-Day landings took place on the 6th June 1944, Patton remained in England which convinced the Germans into believing that the Normandy landings were a feint and that the real attack would be at Pas de Calais. For that reason they held back tanks and troops to oppose Patton when he attacked - Patton's presence in England had worked. A month after the landings in Normandy, Patton finally arrived in France to lead his 3rd US Army, which had been landing in France throughout July and the formation became operational on the 1st August and Patton, true to form, immediately went on the offensive - casualties were high, but his methods worked.
The 3rd US Army fanned out in three directions to engage the Germans, they moved west to liberate Brittany, south-east towards the Seine and north towards Argentan, all the time attacking. Patton's troops moved fast and fought hard, pursuing the enemy relentlessly until his 3rd Army ran out of fuel just outside of Metz on the 31st August. By that time, Paris had been liberated but the war was far from over and before him lay further heavy fighting.
This tour will take in some of the battlegrounds crossed by Patton's 3rd Army where we investigate actions, his approach to war has been compared to the German method by keeping up the pressure on one's enemy. Indeed, one of his maxims was 'When in doubt, attack”, this was instilled into all his troops and never one to hold back, Patton, known as 'Blood and Guts', pushed his men hard.