Recently defence blogger Tom Ricks has been documenting some of the more outlandish, outrageous, anti-semitic, misanthropic and generally hateful things said by George S. Patton, the iconic US general of World War Two. Had Patton been in command in Afghanistan today and said any of these things, he would have been relieved of command faster than you can say Stanley McChrystal. But as Ricks points out, he was in a league of his own on the battlefield.

It’s interesting to compare and contrast Patton with US General David Petraeus. One was a hard-charging crusty cavalryman, the other is a shrewd and tactful soldier-scholar with a Ph.D. Both probably the right men for their place and time. But as Ricks reminds us, good generals don’t have to be likeable.

0 Responses

  1. I was observing on another forum that Patton's best archetype is the comic book antihero. I quote from myself:

    "I think the best archetype for Patton would be the comic book antihero.
    Bigger than life, rough, arrogant, crude, brutal, loud-mouthed, unforgiving
    of weakness in others. utterly devoted to ensuring that the right side was
    triumphant by almost any means necessary. With the occasional shocking
    gentle interlude just to mix things up.

    I wouldn't call him a good man. But I do think he was a man that God had in
    a particular place and a particular time where he was needed. There was no
    general the Germans feared more than Patton. And his men rose to the level
    he demanded of them, and performed miracles. I think Omar Bradley was also
    put in his place and time; he was hardly a brilliant general, yet he was
    exactly the sort of man needed to keep Patton's leash. Competent enough to
    know when to let Patton have his head, yet compassionate enough to know when
    he was going too far, as well as diplomatic enough to smooth the feathers
    Patton ruffled."

  2. Good comment about Patton as a comic book figure. Ironically, he and Montgomery, the man he most detested, were both well ahead of their time in developing an image or persona that was bigger than life.
    I think that's what was interesting about McChrystal, that he was the same kind of bigger than life figure. How many times did you hear that he slept four hours a day, ran 8 miles a day, only had 1 meal a day and surrounded himself with a snake-eating Special Forces entourage for a staff? Hard to think of another contemporary general with a comparable image.