This is a three part document that talks about the famous speech
given by General George Patton.
Part I: Introduction
by Bill Moore, Major General, US Army, Retired
Part II: The Background research
Part III: The Speech
Part II: The Background research
Anyone who has ever viewed the motion picture PATTON will
never forget the opening. George Campbell Scott, portraying
Patton, standing in front of an immensely huge American flag,
delivers his version of Patton's "Speech to the Third Army"
on June 5th, 1944, the eve of the Allied invasion of France,
code named "Overlord".
Scott's rendition of the speech was highly sanitized so
as not to offend too many fainthearted Americans. Luckily, the
soldiers of the American Army who fought World War II were not
so fainthearted. After one of my lectures on the subject of
General Patton, I spoke with a retired Major General who was
a close friend of Patton and who had been stationed with him
in the 1930's in the Cavalry. He explained to me that the movie
was a very good portrayal of Patton in that it was the way he
wanted his men and the public to see him, as a rugged, colorful
There was one exception, however, according to the Major
General. In reality, Patton was a much more profane speaker
than the movie dared to exhibit. Patton had a unique ability
regarding profanity. During a normal conversation, he could
liberally sprinkle four letter words into what he was saying
and the listeners would hardly take notice of it. He spoke so
easily and used those words in such a way that it just seemed
natural for him to talk that way. He could, when necessary,
open up with both barrels and let forth such blue flamed phrases
that they seemed almost eloquent in their delivery. When asked
by his nephew about his profanity, Patton remarked, "When I
want my men to remember something important, to really make
it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice
to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party,
but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can't run an army
without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army
without profanity couldn't fight its way out of a piss-soaked
paper bag. As for the types of comments I make", he continued
with a wry smile, "Sometimes I just, By God, get carried away
with my own eloquence."
When I appeared on a local San Diego television show to
discuss my Patton Collection a viewer living in a suburb of
San Diego, was very interested for personal reasons. Her husband
had been a lieutenant assigned to General Patton's Third Army
Headquarters, code named "Lucky Forward" and he had known General
Patton quite well. He had recently died and had left to his
wife a box that he had brought home with him from the European
Theater of Operations. The lady invited me to her home to inspect
the box to see if there was anything in it that might be useful
to me in my search for "collectibles." Opening the box, I immediately
thanked her. Inside was one of only a couple hundred copies
printed of the Official United States Third Army After Action
Reports. It is a huge two volume history of the Third Army throughout
their 281 days of combat in Europe. She said that she had no
use for it and that I could have it. I left with my new treasure.
When I arrived at my office and removed the foot-thick,
oversized books from the box, I had an even greater surprise.
Under the Reports lay a small stack of original Third Army memos,
orders, AND a carbon copy of the original speech that had been
typed by some unknown clerk at Lucky Forward and had been widely
distributed throughout Third Army. A few years earlier, I had
discovered an almost illegible Xerox of a carbon copy of a similar
speech. This one came from the Army War College and was donated
to their Historical Library Section in 1957.
I decided to do some research on the speech to obtain the
best one possible and to make an attempt to locate the identity
of the "unknown soldier" who had clandestinely typed and distributed
the famous document. I began by looking in my collection of
old magazines, newspapers, books that have been written about
Patton since his death, and dozens of other books which had
references to Patton and his speech. I discovered some interesting
The most interesting probably being that George C. Scott
was not the first actor to perform the speech. In 1951,
the New American Mercury Magazine had printed a version of the
speech which was almost exactly the same version printed by
John O'Donnell in his "Capitol Stuff" column for the New York
Daily News on May 31, 1945.
According to the editors of the New American Mercury, their
copy was obtained from Congressman Joseph Clark Baldwin who
had returned from a visit to Patton's Headquarters in Czechoslovakia.
After publication, the magazine received such a large reader
response asking for reprints of the speech that the editors
decided to go one step further. They hired a "famous" actor
to make an "unexpurgated" recording of the Patton speech. This
recording was to be made available to veterans of Third Army
and anyone else who would like to have one.
The term "famous" was the only reference made by the editors
about the actor who recorded the speech. In a later column they
explained, "We hired an excellent actor whose voice, on records,
is almost indistinguishable from Patton's, and with RCA's best
equipment we made two recordings; one just as Patton delivered
it, with all the pungent language of a cavalryman, and in the
other we toned down a few of the more offensive words. Our plan
was to offer our readers, at cost, either recording."
Unfortunately, a few years ago, their was a fire in the
editorial offices of the magazine which destroyed almost all
of their old records. The name of the actor was lost in
that accident. Only one master recording of the speech was made.
The magazine Editors, not wanting to offend either Mrs. Patton
or her family, asked for her sanction of the project.
The Editors explained the situation thusly, "While we had
only the master recordings, we submitted them to our friend,
Mrs. Patton, and asked her to approve our plan. It was not a
commercial venture and no profits were involved. We just wanted
to preserve what to us seems a worthwhile bit of memorabilia
of the Second World War. Our attorneys advised us that legally
we did not need Mrs. Patton's approval, but we wanted it." "Mrs.
Patton considered the matter graciously and thoroughly, and
gave us a disappointing decision. She took the position that
this speech was made by the General only to the men who were
going to fight and die with him; it was, therefore, not a speech
for the public or for posterity."
"We think Mrs. Patton is wrong; we think that what is great
and worth preserving about General Patton was expressed in that
invasion speech. The fact that he employed four letter words
was proper; four letter words are the language of war; without
them wars would be quite impossible." When Mrs. Patton's approval
was not forthcoming, the entire project was then scrapped, and
the master recordings were destroyed.
Patton always knew exactly what he wanted to say to his
soldiers and he never needed notes. He always spoke to his troops
extemporaneously. As a general rule of thumb, it is safe
to say that Patton usually told his men some of his basic thoughts
and concepts regarding his ideas of war and tactics. Instead
of the empty, generalized rhetoric of no substance often used
by Eisenhower, Patton spoke to his men in simple, down to earth
language that they understood. He told them truthful lessons
he had learned that would keep them alive. As he traveled throughout
battle areas, he always took the time to speak to individual
soldiers, squads, platoons, companies, regiments, divisions
or whatever size group could be collected. About the only difference
in the context of these talks was that the smaller the unit,
the more "tactical" the talk would be. Often he would just give
his men some sound, common sense advice that they could follow
in order to keep from being killed or maimed.
From innumerable sources; magazine articles, newspaper clippings,
motion picture biographies and newsreels, and books, I have
put together the most complete version possible that encompasses
all of the material that is available to date.