In April 1941 Patton, who had been acting commander of the Second Armored Division for six months, was given permanent command and promoted to major general. His most important priority was training men for war. One of his first acts as commander had been to build an amphitheater in the wooded hills of Fort Benning that could accommodate the entire division. It was soon known as the “Patton Bowl.” The earliest versions of his soon-to-be-famous “blood and guts” speeches were delivered there. As one soldier recalled:
I am positive the Patton image was born on the first day he spoke in that bowl. Following an old cavalry credo to the effect you should always “Hit ’em where they ain’t,” he said to us: “You have to grab ’em by the[censored] and kick ’em in the [censored] . . . .” At the end of the speech he said, “I am taking this division into Berlin and when I do, I want every one of your tracks to be carrying the stench of German blood and guts.”
But it was not just a speech, it was a performance. Patton was not blessed with a deep, booming voice. His voice was actually rather high, certainly not the gravelly bass of George C. Scott in the Hollywood movie Patton. But he was a master of the dramatic pause, lowering his voice to great effect, forcing the audience to listen carefully, before bellowing out a line of profanity. With the skill of a method actor, Patton would also strive to achieve an intimidating mien—his “war face”—that would communicate his intensity to his audience.
Many elements of the speech were recycled over and over. Some lines became classic.
Men this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit. Americans love to fight. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle.
Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of 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 lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.
Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all men. Yes, every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he’s not, he’s a liar. Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men or they get the hell slammed out of them watching other men fight who are just as scared as they are. The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared . . . . Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and probably more so.
A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If you’re not alert, some time a German son of a bitch is going to sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a sockful of shit!
An Army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is pure horseshit. The bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about f***ing!
We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons of bitches we’re going up against. By God, I do!
I don’t want to hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he has been hit. Even if you are hit, you can still fight back.
All of the real heroes are not storybook combat fighters, either. Every single man in this Army plays a vital role . . . . Don’t ever think that your job is unimportant. Every man has a job to do and he must do it. Every man is a vital link in the great chain.
Some day I want to see the Germans raise up on their piss-soaked hind legs and howl, “Jesus Christ, it’s that goddamned Third Army again and that son of a bitch Patton.”
Sure we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son of a bitch Hitler, just like I’d shoot a snake!
My men don’t dig foxholes. I don’t want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don’t give the enemy time to dig one either.
We’re not just going to shoot the sons of bitches, we’re going to rip out their living goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel-f***ingbasket.
I don’t want to get any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We are not holding a goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy’s balls!
There is one great thing you men will be able to say when you go home…. Thirty years from now, when you are sitting around the fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks what you did in the great World War II, you won’t have to say, “I shoveled shit in Louisiana.”
The vivid and profane inspirational speeches garnered much attention and some detractors, but Patton also gave countless speeches intended to educate his officers and troops on the topics of strategy, tactics, discipline, and how to conduct the new deadly form of armored warfare:
You men and officers are, in my opinion, magnificently disciplined….You cannotbe disciplinedin great things and undisciplined in small things . . . . Brave, undisciplined men have no chance against the discipline and valor of other men.
An armored division is the most powerful organization ever devised by the mind of men . . . . An armored division is that element of the team which carries out the running plays. We straight-arm, and go around, and dodge, and go around . . . .
People must try to use their imagination and when orders fail to come, must act on their own best judgment. A very safe rule to follow is that in case of doubt, push on just a little further and then keep on pushing
. . . .
There is still a tendency in each separate unit . . . to be a one-handed puncher. By that I mean that the rifleman wants to shoot, the tanker wants to charge, the artilleryman to fire . . . . That is not the way to win battles. If
the band played a piece first with the piccolo, then with the brass horn, then with the clarinet, and then with the trumpet, there would be a hell of a lot of noise but no music.
Patton’s speeches typically included humor, almost always profane and often self-deprecatory:
I do not know of a better way to die than to be facing the enemy. I pray that I will fall forward when I am shot. That way I can keep firing my pistols! I was shot in the behind in World War I! I do not want to be hit there again. I got a medal for charging at the enemy, but I have had to spend a lot of time explaining how I got shot in the behind!
Every man is expendable—especially me.
Patton’s communication was not limited to his speeches; he also projected strength in his demeanor and in his dress. He sought to present the striking image of a leader, an image that demanded attention and inspired his troops by its swagger. In 1941, on the day the men of the Second Armored Division completed their orientation at Fort Benning, Patton appeared wearing a new uniform, which, characteristically, he had designed himself. It was a two-piece dark green corduroy outfit. The jacket was waist length with brass buttons up the right side in the style of an old Confederate officer’s uniform. The trouser legs were skinny and shoved into his black, laced-up field boots. His head was encased in a tight-fitting leather helmet with goggles. A heavy ivory-handled revolver rested in a shoulder holster draped under his left arm. The admiring troops immediately dubbed him the Green Hornet.
This article is part of our larger selection of posts about the George S. Patton. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to General Patton.