6/25/08 - patton and eisenhower

In today's excerpt - two young graduates of West Point and veterans of World War I disagree: the young and flamboyant George Patton chides Dwight Eisenhower for his mundane philosophy of war:

"The two young majors met in 1919, and almost immediately they began an argument that would last until Patton's death. Patton thought the chief ingredient in modern warfare was inspired leadership on the battlefield. Eisenhower felt that leadership was just one factor. He believed that Patton was inclined to indulge his romantic nature, neglecting such matters as logistics, a proper worldwide strategy, and getting along with allies.

"A letter Patton wrote to Eisenhower in July 1926 illustrated the difference between the two men. 'Ike' had just spent a year at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. He had applied himself with almost monastic diligence to his studies and had graduated first in his class. Patton, fearful that his friend had concentrated too hard on such subjects as transportation, staff functioning and how to draft a memo, decided to set him straight. After congratulating Eisenhower on his achievement, Patton declared, 'We talk a hell of a lot about tactics and stuff and we never get to brass tacks. Namely, what is it that makes the poor S.O.B. who constitutes the casualty list fight.' Leadership was Patton's answer. Officers had to get out and inspire the men, keep them moving. One or two superheroes would not do; Patton thought any such notion was 'bull.' Finally, he concisely summed up the difference between his and Eisenhower's approach to battle. 'Victory in the next war will depend on EXECUTION, not PLANS.' By execution, Patton said, he meant keeping the infantry advancing under fire.

"Eisenhower disagreed. Plans, he said, meant that food and ammunition and gasoline would continue to reach the men at the front lines, that pressure would be applied where it hurt the enemy the most, that supreme effort would not be wasted. The most difficult tasks in the next war, Eisenhower believed, would be raising, training, arming and transporting the men; getting them ashore in the right places; maintaining good liaison with allied forces. Execution would matter, of course, but it was only one part of the total picture."


Stephen E. Ambrose


Americans at War


University Press of Mississippi


Copyright 1997 by University Press of Mississippi


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