This is the fifth in a series of posts in which the “Great Captains” of military history will be examined. Unusually, this will be in video format, posting compelling biographical material.
The title of Great Captain is awarded to those military commanders who display not just excellence, but a true genius for war. Authors from time-to-time have produced their lists; most notably Theodore Ayrault Dodge, and Basil Liddell Hart. Here, in this series, I will highlight my own pics.
This installment is on one of America’s greatest generals: “Old Blood and Guts”, George Smith Patton, Jr. From the polished black helmet on his head, to the ivory-handled six-shooter on his hip, to the tall riding boots on his feet Patton was the iconic image of the American combat general. Tall and commanding (though never swaggering), Patton was more than mere imaging: he was a consummate tactical and strategic master.
Patton was America’s primary exponent of combined arms mobile warfare before the war; arguing against the prevailing theories that suggested that tanks should be scattered among and used to screen infantry, advancing at the pace of the foot soldiers. Once America entered the war, he quickly became our foremost “tank man”, displaying a boldness and aggressiveness that are the hallmark of great commanders throughout history.
The only American commander admired and feared by the German high command, Patton was the ultimate progenitor of mobile warfare. He used every vehicle in his Third Army, from artillery caissons to supply trucks to the backs of his tanks to transport his infantry; allowing them to keep up with the relentless pace he set for his armor. Not since the Mongols has any army moved faster and further than Patton’s Third.
Young Patton commanded America’s only tank brigade in WWI.
The ultimate warrior, he was the US Army’s Master of the Sword and an Olympic competitor (in 1912, in the Military Pentathlon). In 1913 he invented a new sword pattern for the US Cavalry, after careful examination of various fencing techniques; the last combat sword ever designed for American cavalry. As a young cavalry officer, he chased Pancho Villa into Mexico. During this campaign he got into an Old West style gunfight with two of Villa’s lieutenants in a Mexican cantina, killing them both!
As both warrior and commander, Patton is the general against which every American general since has measured himself and sought to emulate.
A video bio narrated by Ronald Reagan!
The iconic “Patton Speech” scene from the award-winning 1970 film.
HERE IS MORE ON THE GREAT CAPTAINS OF HISTORY: