Correcting History - Patton
The movie 'Patton' inaccurately portrays a battle of prima
donnas in the relationship between George Patton and Bernard Montgomery.
Historians could not know the truth and took some poetic license in the construction
of the story. Ike had ordered Patton never to repeat publicly of what he
had said to Eisenhower privately. Patton obeyed the order.
Patton detested Montgomery because he considered him incompetent. After the
battle of El Alamein, the British press blew Montgomery up into a national
hero and were loath to discuss facts. British General Alexander sent Montgomery
to take charge of British forces that were to attack Rommel from Egypt. At
this point, Montgomery had instructions from Alexander and he also had an
excellent support staff working for him. He listened to all concerned.
Montgomery won the engagement not for any great battle field legerdemain,
but because he should have. Allied Naval assets had devastated Rommel's supply
lines across the Mediterranean. He couldn't get parts for damaged tanks nor
did he have ample fuel. Montgomery, on the other hand, had an endless supply
of gas from Egypt. He had an advantage in tanks, men and aircraft.
By the numbers, Montgomery should have won and did.
Unfortunately, he also decided to believe his press and stopped listening
to anyone who wasn't willing to say what he wanted to hear. Montgomery is
single-handedly responsible for over 200,000 Allied deaths due solely to
his own incompetence.
In Sicily, Montgomery was to close off avenues of egress for the Germans.
He didn't Fifty to seventy-five thousand escaped to Italy to
fight another day.
On D-Day, Americans forces were hammered at Omaha and Utah beaches. The Brits
had far less resistance and made their landings with a relative amount of
ease. Instead of hot footing it to Caen, ten miles away, and taking the town,
Montgomery decided that the British Army would take the day off and have
tea. Hitler, believing that the Normandy invasion was a diversion,thought
the real invasion would be led by Patton at Calais. Hitler withheld deployment
of the Panzers. Yet, by the time Montgomery did get to Caen, the Panzers
were deployed and dug in waiting for him.
Omar Bradlet set Patton and Montgomery into a pincer movement. Patton was
to do an end run around them to the east with Montgomery moving from the
West. However, Montgomery refused to close the pincer and roughly 75,000
Germans escaped the trap - again.
With his head bloated beyond recognition, Montgomery would end up demanding
from Ike that a secondary invasion go through Holland - Operation Market
Garden. This was Montgomery's plan and it was a poor one that was badly executed.
Ultimately 100,000 Brits and Americans would be killed when it fell apart.
It also resulted in the 101st Airborne being surrounded at Bastogne - The
Battle of the Bulge. Not surprisingly, it was Patton who broke off a battle
and moved north 100 miles north to engage the Germans relieving Bastogne.
As a matter of ego, the 101st disputes this.
It was at this point that Ike quit being the poltician and saw that Patton
had been right all along. Montgomery was no longer trusted after Market Garden
and the Brits didn't make a stink about it.
Today, Patton is well regarded publically. However, at that time, he wasn't.
The Russians hated him, The Brits hated him and Bradley could only just barely
tolerate him. He was a plain spoken person who told you exactly what was
on his mind and if you were offended, that was your problem. On the flip
side - Ike liked him and knew his skills to be vital to winning the war.
While Patton was long dead by the time Desert Storm rolled around, his military
legacy is still with us. Patton was the second author of Shock and Awe. It
had been invented by the Germans and was originally called Blitzkreig. Clearly,
it would not have been poltically correct to give it the Nazi name.
Patton saw the problem with the battle plan and corrected it. In a blitz,
the tanks are moving so fast that infantry and other support can't keep up
with them. This results in a vulnerability at their rear. It also exploits
the idea of don't sweat the small stuff.
By pass smaller targets and go for the important ones. Again, the vulnerability
at the rear or on a flank became an issue.
In desert storm, the same weaknesses appeared. However, using Patton's modifications,
enough forces were left at by passed targets to keep them bottled up while
the main force moved on. When we were outrunning supply lines, the advance
was halted until they could catch up. The last time an army moved this
fast and captured this much real estate in a small amount of time was when
Patton cut across Europe.
On the flip side of the equation, who today remember's (or could name) Montgomery's
accomplishments? They were few and paid for in blood needlessly shed..