Prevented From Conquering Europe: General George S. Patton, Jr.
American historian Rick Atkinson writes that George S. Patton, Jr. (1885-1945) is widely regarded as the best field commander in the American army during World War II. Patton was certainly the one most feared by the Germans, who complimented him before the Normandy invasion by massing defenses against a nonexistent Army Group Patton. By V-E Day in 1945, Patton commanded 18 divisions and 540,000 soldiers, a force comparable in size to the entire American military at its peak in Vietnam.
This article discusses whether Gen. George Patton was held back by Allied military leaders from conquering Europe, his activities in Europe after the war, and whether he was murdered by Allied forces after the war.
Patton Prevented from Conquering Europe
On July 28, 1944, Gen. Patton was given control of the troops of the Third Army in Europe. The Third Army made rapid advances in Western Europe under Patton’s leadership.
The Allied military leaders, however, intentionally prevented Gen. Patton from quickly defeating Germany in Western Europe. In August 1944, Patton’s Third Army was presented with an opportunity to encircle the Germans at Falaise, France. However, Gens. Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower ordered Patton to stop at Argentan and not complete the encirclement of the Germans, which most historians agree Patton could have done. As a result, probably 100,000 or more German soldiers escaped to later fight U.S. troops in December 1944 in Germany’s last-ditch counterattack known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Patton wrote in his diary concerning the halt that prevented the encirclement of Germans at Falaise: “This halt [was] a great mistake. [Bradley’s] motto seems to be, ‘In case of doubt, halt.’ I wish I were supreme commander.”
By August 31, 1944, Patton had put Falaise behind him and quickly advanced his tanks to the Meuse River, only 63 miles from the German border, and 140 miles from the Rhine River. The German army Patton was chasing was disorganized and in disarray; nothing could stop Patton from roaring into Germany. However, on August 31, the Third Army’s gasoline allotment was suddenly cut by 140,000 gallons per day. This was a huge chunk of the 350,000 to 400,000 gallons per day the Third Army had been consuming. Patton’s advance was halted even though the way ahead was open and largely undefended by the German army in retreat.
Germany took advantage of the overall Allied slowdown and reorganized her troops into a major fighting force. Germany’s counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge took Allied forces completely by surprise. The Germans created a “bulge” in the lax American line, and the Allies ran the risk of being cut off and possibly annihilated or thrown back into the sea. Patton had to pull back his Third Army in the east and begin another full-scale attack on the southern flank of the German forces. Patton’s troops arrived in a matter of days and were the crucial factor in pushing the German bulge back into Germany.
Patton was enthused after the Battle of the Bulge and wanted to quickly take his Third Army into the heart of Germany. The German army had no more reserves and was definitely on its last legs. However, once again Patton was held back by Gen. Eisenhower and the Joint Chiefs of Staff led by Gen. George Marshall. Patton was dumbfounded. Patton wrote: “I’ll be damned if I see why we have divisions if not to use them. One would think people would like to win a war…we will be criticized by history, and rightly so, for having sat still so long.”
The Western Allies were still in a position to easily capture Berlin. However, Eisenhower ordered a halt of American troops on the Elbe River, thereby in effect presenting a gift to the Soviet Union of central Germany and much of Europe. One American Staff officer bitterly commented: “No German force could have stopped us. The only thing that stood between [the] Ninth Army and Berlin was Eisenhower.”
On May 8, 1945, the day the war in Europe officially ended, Patton spoke his mind in an “off the record” press briefing. With tears in his eyes, Patton recalled those “who gave their lives in what they believed was the final fight in the cause of freedom.” Patton continued:
I wonder how [they] will speak today when they know that, for the first time in centuries, we have opened Central and Western Europe to the forces of Genghis Khan. I wonder how they feel now that they know there will be no peace in our times and that Americans, some not yet born, will have to fight the Russians tomorrow, or 10, 15 or 20 years from tomorrow. We have spent the last months since the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine stalling; waiting for Montgomery to get ready to attack in the North; occupying useless real estate and killing a few lousy Huns when we should have been in Berlin and Prague. And this Third Army could have been. Today we should be telling the Russians to go to hell instead of hearing them tell us to pull back. We should be telling them if they didn’t like it to go to hell and invite them to fight. We’ve defeated one aggressor against mankind and established a second far worse, more evil and more dedicated than the first.
A few days later, Patton shocked everyone at a Paris hotel gathering by saying basically the same things. At a later gathering in Berlin, when asked to drink a toast with a Soviet general, Patton told his translator to “tell that Russian sonovabitch that from the way they’re acting here, I regard them as enemies and I’d rather cut my throat than have a drink with one of my enemies!”
Patton Fights Allied Policies
Patton returned in June 1945 to the United State to participate in ticker tape parades in Boston and Los Angeles. He had a strong premonition of his imminent death. Before returning to Europe, Patton told his two daughters, “I’m never going to see you again. I know this. I am going to be buried in foreign soil.”
The threat of a Communist takeover in Europe had long been recognized by Allied leaders. French Marshal Alphonse Juin stated to Gen. Patton at a dinner in Paris in August 1945: “It is indeed unfortunate that the English and Americans have destroyed the only sound country in Europe–and I do not mean France–therefore the road is now open for the advent of Russian communism.” Patton himself had warned of the danger of Russian communism resulting from the destruction of Germany. Patton stated, “What we are doing is to utterly destroy the only semi-modern state in Europe so that Russia can swallow the whole.”
The many problems that arose as a result of the denazification process caused Gen. Patton, at that point Military Governor of Bavaria, to call for a less rigorous approach. He claimed that trained staff were being removed from their administrative posts and replaced with less experienced and less capable personnel. Patton asserted: “It is no more possible for a man to be a civil servant in Germany and not to have paid lip service to Nazism than it is for a man to be a postmaster in America and not have paid at least lip service to the Democratic Party or Republican Party when it is in power.” Patton was transferred after his views surfaced in the New York Times. Gen. Eisenhower stuck to a tough denazification program.
Gen. Patton was opposed to the Allied war crimes trials. Patton wrote in a letter to his wife: “I am frankly opposed to this war criminal stuff. It is not cricket and it is Semitic. I am also opposed to sending POWs to work as slaves in foreign lands, where many will be starved to death.”
Patton also opposed the Allied occupation policy of giving government-confiscated German homes exclusively to Jewish victims of the camps. Additionally, Patton vehemently opposed the unjust and lethal Morgenthau Plan, which further angered American political leaders and his military bosses. Finally, Patton opposed the repatriation of Soviet POWs and ex-patriots back to the Soviet Union. This repatriation program, known as Operation Keelhaul, ignored every tradition of asylum, and resulted in the unnecessary death and torture of large numbers of Soviets who wanted to remain in the West.
Patton, as Military Governor of Bavaria, had done his best to help the vanquished Germans get up off their knees and meet basic needs such as food, shelter and security. However, Patton became known among U.S. and Soviet leaders as a bona fide menace and a threat to world peace. In addition, Patton was viewed as insubordinate, uncontrollable, and, in the eyes of some, treasonous. Gens. Eisenhower, Marshall and other Allied leaders came to believe that Patton was mad, for Patton could not offer any rational explanation to them for what he was doing and saying.
Patton was now obviously a marked man. Everything that Patton did and said privately was closely monitored, and promptly reported to American and Soviet leadership.
Despite the perception of many American military leaders, Patton was a loyal American who was dedicated to defending the reputation of the American army. This is illustrated by Patton’s cover-up of crimes committed by American troops upon the liberation of Dachau.
Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, by the I Company of the Third Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th (Thunderbird) Division, which was part of the Seventh Army of the United States. Soldiers who liberated Dachau saw a trainload of dead bodies, horrific scenes of sick and dying prisoners, piles of dead bodies strewn around the camp, and smelled a stench in the air from the rotting dead corpses. A soldier writing home about what he had seen at Dachau wrote: “No matter how terrible, revolting or horrible any newspaper reports are about Dachau; no matter how unreal or fantastic any pictures of it may seem, believe me, they can never half way tell the truth about this place. It is something I will never forget.”
It was in this environment that American troops committed the mass murder of the German guards at Dachau. The German roll call morning report of April 29, 1945, stated that 560 German guards were stationed at Dachau on the day it was liberated by American troops. This figure of 560 was reported by Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky and a Swiss Red Cross official when they attempted to surrender the camp to American forces. Almost all of the 560 German guards at Dachau were murdered by the end of the day by American troops or inmates with assistance from American troops.
Accusations were drawn up against at least four officers and five enlisted men for the murder of the German guards at Dachau. Lt. Jack Bushyhead was accused of violating the rules of the Geneva Convention, which protect prisoners of war regardless of atrocities they may have committed. The following is a report of how Patton handled the illegal American execution of the Dachau guards:
After a brief interchange, Patton ordered every officer, who had participated in the Dachau investigation to report to his office. He also demanded that they bring every document and photograph which they had collected. He then asked if they had placed every scrap of evidence in his hands. When assured that nothing had been withheld, he dumped all the papers into a metal wastebasket, asked for a cigarette lighter and personally applied the flame to the documents. The charges against American Lt. Jack Bushyhead had been dismissed. But, of greater importance, with this act, the written records of the executions at Dachau were stricken forever from the annals of military history. The incident would remain alive only in the minds of men, and here it was buried for more than 40 years. Officially, the hour of the Avenger had never occurred.
The court martial charges were dropped and all records of the mass murder of the German guards at Dachau were destroyed. Gen. Patton had decided that to pursue the matter further would have led to adverse publicity. One of the tragedies of this episode is that most of the German guards who were killed were a hastily assembled group of replacements for guards who had fled Dachau. These replacement guards at Dachau were innocent of wrongdoing and should never have been murdered.
Patton told members of his staff in Germany that he was going to resign. He did not want to retire, as was normal for military officers in order to retain pensions and benefits, but resign so that he would have no army restraints. Patton was independently wealthy and did not need the retirement benefits. After resigning, he would be free to give his version of the war and speak the truth as he saw it. Patton knew secrets and had revelations that would be sure to make big headlines. His version of events would be a blockbuster.
Patton was prevented from returning to the United States by a car wreck that occurred around 11:45 a.m. on December 9, 1945. He was taken to an army hospital in Heidelberg, Germany following the accident with head lacerations and a broken neck. Although Patton was paralyzed from the shoulders down and had been in very serious condition for days, he had made a substantial recovery for someone with such serious injuries. However, approximately 24 hours before he was scheduled to fly home to the United States for Christmas, he had an unexpected downturn. Patton started having trouble breathing, moving blood clots called embolisms interfered with his lungs, and he became unconscious. Patton died in the hospital on December 21, 1945.
No autopsy was performed on Patton. His doctor requested an autopsy, but Mrs. Patton declined, reportedly because she did not think there was a qualified pathologist available, and under the circumstances she preferred not to have one performed.
The evidence indicates that Patton was murdered. The auto wreck was caused when a 2.5-ton GMC army truck, advancing in Patton’s direction from the opposite lane, inexplicably turned abruptly in front of Patton’s car. Patton’s driver had only enough time to stomp on the brake while turning the car to the left. The driver was largely unsuccessful, and Patton’s car hit the truck nearly head-on. Despite the fact that the truck driver was at fault in causing the crash, he disappeared after the accident, along with two unidentified passengers in the truck.
There is no good reason why the army truck driver abruptly turned in front of Patton’s car. Douglas Bazata, a former OSS agent, said in an October 1979 interview with the Spotlight that Patton’s car wreck was staged by an acquaintance whom he would not name. Since Patton had not died in the accident as was intended, Bazata was told a “refined form of cyanide that caused embolisms, heart failure and things like that” had been used to kill Patton in the hospital. Bazata passed a lie-detector test on all he had told the Spotlight, according to its staff.
American historian Robert Wilcox later interviewed Bazata about Patton’s death. Bazata admitted in these interviews that he and another agent had worked together to cause Patton’s auto wreck. After the wreck, Bazata said he shot Patton from close range in the face with a projectile designed to produce damage that would not appear to come from a bullet. The force with which the projectile hit Patton was the equivalent of a whiplash suffered at a speed of 80 to 100 miles per hour. This projectile caused Patton’s total paralysis.
In his interview with Wilcox, Bazata said that he and his coconspirator went to the hospital with a poison concoction after their botched assassination attempt of Patton. However, they could not get to Patton in the hospital. Bazata said he had not been involved in Patton’s subsequent poisoning—therefore he could always truthfully say he had not killed Patton.
Rick Atkinson correctly writes that Patton was a very complex individual. A mystic who believed in reincarnation and in his own power of prescience, Patton was also a devout Episcopalian. His fundamental prescription for waging war involved “violent attacks everywhere with everything”; yet he considered the carpet bombing of German cities to be “barbaric, useless and sadistic.” Patton was well read, fluent in French, and at home in society’s most fashionable salons; yet he could also be crude, rude and socially unacceptable.
Gen. Eisenhower said to George Marshall, “Patton is a problem child, but he is a great fighting leader in pursuit and exploitation.” Eisenhower also referred to Patton as “this mentally unbalanced officer.” The trend to characterize Patton as unbalanced, unstable and mentally ill has continued to this day. For example, biographer Ladislas Farago considered Patton “if not actually mad, at least highly neurotic,” while military historian Edward Lengel called Patton “brilliantly insane.” A recent book titled Patton’s Madness even psychoanalyzes Patton using the psychiatrist’s manual.
It is this author’s opinion, however, that Gen. Patton was totally sane. Similar to chess genius Bobby Fischer, Patton was considered insane because he contested and attempted to publicly expose the corrupt policies of the U.S. government. Patton was a loyal American who did his best to prevent the ill-treatment of Germans after the war and the takeover of Eastern Europe by Soviet communism.
 Patton, George S., War as I Knew it, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995, p. xi.
 Ibid., p. 89.
 Wilcox, Robert K., Target: Patton, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008, pp. 284-288.
 Blumenson, Martin, ed., The Patton Papers, 1940-1945, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974, pp. 508, 511.
 Wilcox, Robert K., Target: Patton, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008, pp. 290-294.
 Ibid., pp. 300-301.
 Ibid., p. 313.
 Lucas, James, Last Days of the Reich—The Collapse of Nazi Germany, May 1945, London: Arms and Armour Press, 1986, p. 196.
 Wilcox, Robert K., Target: Patton, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008, pp. 331-332.
 Ibid., p. 333.
 Sudmeier, James L., Patton’s Madness: The Dark Side of a Battlefield Genius, Guilford, CT: Stackpole Books, 2018, p. 189.
 Bacque, James, Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II, 1944-1950, 3rd edition, Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2011, pp. 172-173.
 Goodrich, Thomas, Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947, Sheridan, CO: Aberdeen Books, 2010, p. 321.
 Blumenson, Martin, (ed.), The Patton Papers, 1940-1945, Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1974, p. 738.
 Bessel, Richard, Germany 1945: From War to Peace, London: Harper Perennial, 2010, p. 196.
 Blumenson, Martin, (ed.), The Patton Papers, 1940-1945, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974, p. 750.
 Wilcox, Robert K., Target: Patton, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008, pp. 7-8, 10-11, 336-337.
 Ibid., pp. 6-7, 342.
 Ibid., p. 342.
 Buechner, Howard A., Dachau: The Hour of the Avenger, Metairie, LA: Thunderbird Press, Inc., 1986, p. 29.
 Ibid., p. 5.
 Ibid., p. 96.
 Ibid., p. 119.
 Ibid., pp. 107, 120.
 Wilcox, Robert K., Target: Patton, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008, p. 12.
 Ibid., pp. 16, 20, 50.
 Ibid., pp. 17, 205.
 Ibid., pp. 18-21.
 Ibid., pp. 49-51.
 Ibid., pp. 63-66.
 Ibid., p. 67.
 Patton, George S., War as I Knew it, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995, pp. xi-xii.
 Ibid., p. xii.
 Sudmeier, James L., Patton’s Madness: The Dark Side of a Battlefield Genius, Guilford, CT: Stackpole Books, 2018, p. xiv.