4-380 To General Dwight D. Eisenhower, May 1, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 1, 1944

Subject: World War II

To General Dwight D. Eisenhower

May 1, 1944 Radio No. WAR-30586 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

Eyes Only to Eisenhower from McNarney.

This message just received from General Marshall to be passed on to you: “Reference your No. S-50965 and my No. WAR 29722 regarding Patton the decision is exclusively yours.1 My view, and it is merely that, is that you should not weaken your hand for OVERLORD. If you think that Patton’s removal does weaken your prospect, you should continue him in command. In any event, I do not want you at this time to be burdened with the responsibility of reducing him in rank. Send him home if you see fit, and in grade, or hold him there as surplus if you so desire, or as I have indicated above, continue him in command if that promises best for OVERLORD. I fear my quotation from one editorial may have resulted in over emphasis in your mind of the necessity for drastic action to meet difficult resulting situation here at home. Incidentally, the numerous editorials, while caustic regarding his indiscretion, lack of poise or dignity, suitable to his position have not demanded his release from command.

Do not consider War Department position in the matter. Consider only OVERLORD and your own heavy burden of responsibility for its success. Everything else is of minor importance.”2

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. Eisenhower informed General Marshall on April 30 that he had sent for Lieutenant General Patton to report and explain his actions, but based “on all of the evidence now available I will relieve him from command.” Eisenhower indicated his faith in the ability of Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges to replace Patton as Third Army commander, but recognized that “the big difference is that Patton has proved his ability to conduct a ruthless drive whereas Hodges has not.” He also expressed his regret that Major General Lucian K. Truscott was unavailable to OVERLORD as a result of his position in the Mediterranean theater. Eisenhower asked Marshall whether Patton should be returned to the United States in his permanent rank or sent home in some higher grade to serve in a training command. “His relief from an active theater will certainly be interpreted by everyone as definite and severe disciplinary action,” wrote Eisenhower, “but you would have the immediate problem of absorbing him as a lieutenant general.” Eisenhower added, “After a year and a half of working with him it appears hopeless to expect that he will ever completely overcome his lifelong habit of posing and of self-dramatization which causes him to break out in these extraordinary ways.” (Papers of DDE, 3: 1840-41.) For Marshall’s Radio No. WAR-29722, see Marshall to Eisenhower, April 29,1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-378 [4: 442-44].

2. Eisenhower replied on May 3 that because of the adverse effects Patton’s relief would have on OVERLORD, he would retain Patton in command of the U.S. Third Army. “There is no question that relief of Patton would lose to us his experience as commander of an army in battle and his demonstrated ability of getting the utmost out of soldiers in offensive operations,” wrote Eisenhower. (Papers of DDE, 3: 1846.)

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. 445-446.

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Holding ID: 4-380

Rights: Public Information