4-378 To General Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 29, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 29, 1944

Subject: World War II

To General Dwight D. Eisenhower

April 29, 1944 Radio No. WAR-29722 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

For Eisenhower’s Eyes Only from Marshall.

Reference your S 50908 regarding Patton:1 His remarks as quoted have created a stir throughout the United States. I quote excerpts from an editorial this morning in the Washington Post: “General Patton has progressed from simple assault on individuals to collective assault on entire nationalities. As Congressman Mundt observed, he has now ‘succeeded in slapping the face of every one of the United Nations except Great Britain’ the General insists that he excepted the Soviet Union too. But the distinction does not seem to us to be vital.” The editorial then refers to his remarks on welcoming the Germans and Italians into Hell and also his reference to the “English ladies” and “American dames,” with this comment “This was intended no doubt as gallantry and perhaps as a rough sort of military humor.2 The truth is however that it is neither gracious nor amusing. We do not mean to be prissy about the matter but we think that Lieutenant Generals even temporary ones ought to talk with rather more dignity than this. When they do not they run the danger of losing the respect of the men they command and the confidence of the public they serve. We think that this has happened to General Patton. Whatever his merits as a strategist or tactician he has revealed glaring defects as a leader of men. It is more than fortunate that these have become apparent before the Senate takes action to pass upon his recommended promotion in permanent rank from Colonel to Major General. All thought of such promotion should now be abandoned. That the War Department recommended it is one more evidence of the tendency on the part of members of the military to act as a clique or club. His brother officers must have had some awareness of General Patton’s lack of balance, etc, etc. We confess to some perplexity as to the entire practice of permanent promotions in the midst of war. Why cannot all of these wait until the war is over and we can judge the records of our military men with some perspective? General Patton’s case affords an object lesson.”

Like you I have been considering the matter on a purely business basis. Its effect on you and the troops and on the confidence of the public in the War Department and in you is opposed to the unmistakable fact the [that] Patton is the only available Army Commander for his present assignment who has had actual experience in fighting Rommel and in extensive landing operations followed by a rapid campaign of exploitation. Whether or not we can forego the latter advantage because of the unfavorable effects referred to I leave entirely to your decision. You carry the burden of responsibility as to the success of OVERLORD. If you feel that that operation can be carried out with the same assurance of success with [Courtney] Hodges in command, for example, instead of Patton all well and good. If you doubt it then between us we can bear the burden of the present unfortunate reaction. I fear the harm has already been fatal to the confirmation of the permanent list.3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 1, Item 28c, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. General Eisenhower informed Marshall on April 29 that Patton reported that he had spoken to about sixty people at a private gathering and was unaware that a representative of the press was present. According to Eisenhower, Patton’s actual words were: “Since it seems to be the destiny of America, Great Britain and Russia to rule the world, the better we know each other the better off we will be.” Eisenhower told Marshall that this most recent evidence of Patton’s inability to use discretion “in all those matters where senior commanders must appreciate the effect of their own actions upon public opinion” created for him serious “doubts as to the wisdom of retaining him in high command despite his demonstrated capacity in battle leadership.” Eisenhower indicated that he would delay a final decision regarding Patton’s future in the European theater until he received Marshall’s views, but Eisenhower stated that if Marshall thought Patton’s retention in command would “destroy or diminish public and governmental confidence in the War Department,” then Eisenhower recommended “that stern disciplinary action must be taken.” (Papers of DDE, 3: 1837.) For further information regarding Patton’s remarks on April 25, see Marshall to Eisenhower, April 26, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-372 [4: 437-38].

2. Marshall received the complete text of Patton’s remarks from Eisenhower’s headquarters on April 30; although described as “extemporaneous,” the remarks were given as quoted on the Press Association wire on April 25. “The only welcoming I have done for some time has been welcoming Germans and Italians into hell. I have done quite a lot in that direction and have gotten about 17,000 there,” said Patton. He then praised the British clubs as a means for the British and Americans to better know each other. “The sooner our soldiers write home and say how lovely the English ladies are the sooner American dames will get jealous and force the war to a successful conclusion and then I shall have a chance to go and kill the Japanese.” (Lawrence to Surles, Radio No. E-25641, April 30, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 1, Item 28c].)

3. Eisenhower followed his above message (note 1) with a letter, also dated April 29, in which he said: “Frankly I am exceedingly weary of his [Patton’s] habit of getting everybody into hot water through the immature character of his public actions and statements. In this particular case investigation shows that his offense was not so serious as the newspapers would lead one to believe, and one that under the circumstances could have occurred to almost anybody. But the fact remains that he simply does not keep his mouth shut.” Eisenhower enclosed a copy of a letter he had written to Patton, dated April 29, which warned him of any further indiscretions. (Papers of DDE, 3: 1838-40.) For further information, see Marshall to Eisenhower, May 1, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-380 [4: 445-46].

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 442-444.

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