Before Sailing for France

Christmas card with prayer distributed to all soldiers of Patton's 3rd Army, Dec. 44

The Corps Chaplain gave the invocation, the men standing with bowed heads, asking divine guidance for the great Third Army that they help speed victory to enslaved Europe. Major General Cook, then introduced Lt. General Simpson, whose army was still in Africa, preparing for their part in the war.

"We are here", said General Simpson, "to listen to the words of a great man. A man who will lead you into whatever you might face with heroism, ability and foresight. A man who has proven himself amid shot and shell. My greatest hope is that some day soon, I will have my own great army fighting with him, side by side."

General Patton arose and strode swiftly to the microphone. The men snapped to their feet and stood silently. Patton surveyed them grimly. "Be seated." The words were not a request, but a command. The General's voice arose high and clear.

"Men, this stuff we hear about Americans wanting to stay out of this war, not wanting to fight, is alot of bullshit. Americans love to fight traditionally. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner, and do not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost, and will never, never lose a war; for the very thought of losing is hateful to an American."

He paused and looked over the silent crowd. "You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you here, in a major battle, would die. Death must not be feared. Every man is frightened at first in battle. If he says he isn't, he's a God dam liar. Some men are cowards, yes, but they will fight just the same, or get the hell shamed out of them watching men who do fight who are as scared. Some get over their fright in a few minutes under fire, some take hours, for some it takes days. The real man never lets the fear of death ovepower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood. All through your career of Army life you men have bitched about what you call this chicken-shit drilling. That is all for one reason, INSTANT OBEDIENCE TO ORDERS AND TO CREATE CONSTANT ALERTNESS! I don't give a dam for a man who is not always on his toes. You men are veterans or you wouldn't be here. You are ready. A man, to continue breathing, must be alert at all times. If not, sometime a German son-of-bitch will sneak up behind him and beat him to death with a sockful of shit."

The men roared. Patton's grim expression did not change. "There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily," he roared. "All because ONE MAN went to sleep on his job." He paused and the men grew silent. "But they are German graves," he said softly, "for we caught the bastard asleep before they did."

The General cluched the microphone tightly, his jaw out-thrust. "An army is a team. Lives, sleeps, eats, fights as a team. This individual hero stuff is a lot of crap. The bilios bastards who wrote that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don't know any more about real battle than they do about fucking."

The men slapped their legs and rolled in glee. This was the old boy as they imagined him to be, and in rare form, too. He had it.

"We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit and men in the world," Patton bellowed. He lowered his head and shook it pensively. Suddenly, he snapped his head up, facing the men belligerently. "Why, by God," he thundered, "I actually pity men those sons-of-bitches we're going up against; by God, I do." The men clapped and howled delightedly. There would be many barracks tales about the Old Man's choice phrases. This would become part and parcel of Third Army history.

"My men don't surrender," Patton continued. "I don't want to hear of a soldier under my command being captured unless he is hit. Even if you are, you can still fight, and I want you to. That's not just bullshit, either. The kind of men I want is like a Lieutenant in Libya, who, with a Luger against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the gun aside with his other hand, and busted the hell out of the Boche with his helmet. Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another German. By this time, this man had a bullet through his chest. That's a man for you."

He halted and the crowd waited. "All the real heroes are not story book combat fighters, either," he went on. Every man in the army plays a vital part. Every little job is essential to the whole scheme. What if every truck driver suddenly decided that he didn't like the whine of those shells and turned yellow and jumped head-long into the ditch? He could say tohimself, "they won't miss just one man in thousands." What if every man said that? Where in hell would we be now? No, thank God, Americans don't say that. Every man does his job. Every man serves the whole. Every man, every department, every unit is important in the vast scheme of things. The Ordnance men are needed to supply the guns, the Quartermaster to bring up the food and clothes for us, for where we are going there isn't a heel of a lot to steal. Every dam last MAN IN THE MESS, HELL, EVEN THE ONE HEATS THE WATER TO KEEP us from getting diarrhea, has a job to do. Even the Chaplain is important, for if we get killed and he was not there to bury us, we'd all go to hell. Each man must not only think of himself, but think of his buddy fighting beside him. We don't want yellow cowards in this Army. They should be killed off like fleas. If not, they will go back to that States after the war and breed more like them. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the God dam cowards and we'll have a nation of brave men. One of the bravest men I saw in the African campaign was one of the fellows I saw on top of a telegraph pole in the midst of a furious fire while we were plowing towards Tunis. I stopped and asked him what in the hell he was doing up there at that time. He answers, "fixing the wire, Sir." "Isn't that a little uhealthy, right now," I asked. "Yes Sir, but this God dam wire has got to be fixed." There was a real soldier. There was a man who devoted his all to his duty, no matter how great the odds, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty may have seemed at that time. You should have seen the trucks on the road to Gabes. The drivers were magnificent. All the day they drove along those sons-of-a-bitching roads, never stopping, never diverting from their course, with shells bursting all around them. We got through on good old American guts. Many of the men drove over forty consecutive hours.

The General paused, staring challengingly out over the silent seas of faces. You could hear a pin drop anywhere on the vast hillside. The only sound was the breeze stirring on the leaves and the animated chirping of the birds in the branches on the General's left.

"Don't forget," Patton barked, "you don't know I'm here at all. No word of that fact is to be mentioned in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what the hell they did with me. I'm not supposed to be commanding this Army, I'm not supposed to be in England. LET THE FIRST BASTARDS TO FIND OUT BE THE GOD DAM GERMAN. Some day, I want them to raise up on their hind legs and howl, JESUS CHRIST, it's the God dam Third Army and that son-of-a-bitch Patton again."

The men roared and cheered and roared delightedly. This statement had real significance behind it; much more met the eye, and the men instinctively sensed the fact, and the telling mark they themselves would play in world history because of it, and they being told as much right now. Deep sincerity and seriousness lay behind the General's colorful words, and well the men knew it, but they loved the way he put it, as only he could do it.

"We want to get the hell over there," Patton yelled. "We want to go over there and clean the God dam thing up. And then, we'll have to take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japanese and clean out their nest out too, before the Marines get all the credit."

The crowd laughed and Patton continued quietly, "sure, we all want to go home, we want this thing over with, but you can't win a war lying down. The quickest way to get it over is to get the bastards. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we go home. THE SHORTEST WAY HOME IS THROUGH BERLIN. When a soldier is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, the Boche will get him eventually and probably get him first.

"The hell with taking it; give it to them first. There is no such thing as a foxhole war anymore. Foxholes slow up an offensive. KEEP MOVING. We'll win this war, but we'll win it by fighting and showing our guts." He paused and his eagle-like eyes swept over the crowd and hillside.

"There's one great thing you men will be able to say when you go home. You may all thank God for it. Thank God that at least thirty years from now, when you are sitting around the fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you what you did in the Great World War II, you won't have to say that you shoveled shit in Louisiana."