Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF Memorial Day: Patton

 

So we’re celebrating Memorial Day and I wrote an essay on Patton, the greatest American war movie. It’s a good day to watch the movie again, and to remember the great man. In my essay, I talk about the importance of great men in times of crisis, the limits of institutions and the specific character of the modern executive, and the way this ties to American character.

If I may also recommend VDH on Patton, perhaps as good a starter for conversation as the movie itself:

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  1. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus,

    Still my favorites from Patton.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #1
    • May 25, 2020, at 9:24 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Jim Beck Member

    Morning Titus,

    I will quote my uncle Oran, who was in Patton’s 6th Armored Third division. Oran’s started in Brest. “We all had impressions of Patton, our impression was, I think this is a general, that we knew was a hell of a general, and the Germans knew it. Hell, we would ld take prisoners and they would talk about Patton. We knew he was a hell of a general, and also he had a reputation of not getting any more people killed that was necessary, if he could avoid it, and that was a hell of a popular thing.”

    ”They weren’t used to Patton’s style of fighting, and, hell, we would just run through them, and we would run into some little pocket of Germans, and another thing Patton would do, if they couldn’t hurt us, he would just go around them. He didn’t give a damn. He wasn’t adverse to capturing them or killing them, and all that, except if he could reach his objectives without that, why hell, he was good at it, but he had to have gasoline. It was very exhilarating to be going 30 miles a day, and also it was not, we had some awareness that we were doing something that hadn’t been done before, but we didn’t know to what extent entirely. It was exhilarating as hell when we were not in great danger, and also, we were aware that, boy, if we kept moving—that is what stunned us, we had been moving fast, and you get hit by snipers and various little things, it was dangerous as hell, but we did not run into a stone wall, like we did at Brest, and we had dead people all over the place.”

    From and interview in 1990.

    • #2
    • May 26, 2020, at 7:26 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  3. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Jim, thanks for the comment–the wife & I enjoyed your uncle’s remarks, they seem exactly right!

    • #3
    • May 26, 2020, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Mr. Gawron,

    yes, indeed–Patton was proud of his men, they achieved something considered as necessary as impossible. America should be proud of them-

    • #4
    • May 26, 2020, at 9:12 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Richard Easton Member

    An interesting question is what would have happened in 1944 if Patton had gotten his way. Rather than go after the Falaise pocket, Patton wanted to sweep east of Paris and cross to the other side of the Seine, surrounding th whole German army in the West. This would have been similar to what the Israelis did in the October war. In December, he wanted to cut off the whole Bulge rather than relieve Bastogne. If the whole German Army had been surrounded south of the Seine, the war could have ended in 1944 and many lives would have been saved.

    • #5
    • May 26, 2020, at 9:19 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    An interesting question is what would have happened in 1944 if Patton had gotten his way. Rather than go after the Falaise pocket, Patton wanted to sweep east of Paris and cross to the other side of the Seine, surrounding th whole German army in the West. This would have been similar to what the Israelis did in the October war. In December, he wanted to cut off the whole Bulge rather than relieve Bastogne. If the whole German Army had been surrounded south of the Seine, the war could have ended in 1944 and many lives would have been saved.

    Richard,

    Imagine if some higher-up had second-guessed Spruance at the last moment and stopped him from pulling the trigger at Midway. “We were outnumbered and it was too much of a wild gamble” so the rap might have gone. The Pacific War would have been much worse than what if was for sure.

    It takes brains but it also takes guts. Without both you’re done.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
    • May 26, 2020, at 10:14 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Glad to hear Adm. Spruance brought up–amazing day that man had in a situation no one had any right to expect he achieve much. America has these kinds of stories, substituting a QB & suddenly you’re off to the Super Bowl, but I don’t know any such story quite as impressive as his!

    The recent Midway movie was very good on the whole war from Pearl Harbor to Midway, but simply wrote him out of the story. I see why they did it, but it’s a terrible idea in an America where there’s no popular story to tell the truth about the man’s moment of greatness…

    • #7
    • May 26, 2020, at 10:18 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Glad to hear Adm. Spruance brought up–amazing day that man had in a situation no one had any right to expect he achieve much. America has these kinds of stories, substituting a QB & suddenly you’re off to the Super Bowl, but I don’t know any such story quite as impressive as his!

    The recent Midway movie was very good on the whole war from Pearl Harbor to Midway, but simply wrote him out of the story. I see why they did it, but it’s a terrible idea in an America where there’s no popular story to tell the truth about the man’s moment of greatness…

    Titus,

    I’ve been thinking about something for a long time. You are just the guy to ask this question. We have been going down a road with the cinema where we keep getting better and better CGI. Unfortunately, we seem to get worse and worse acting and storytelling along with the hot CGI. When I was a child I would watch this series on our old B&W TV called Victory at Sea. It only had old WWII 16mm newsreel footage to work with. Yet, a brilliantly written narration, an able narrator, and a fantastic symphonic musical score, this series told the story so the hair stood up on the back of your neck. Is it possible that we’ve gone so far with the CGI that it won’t matter what we do anymore with computers unless we can get back to the basics of good storytelling and good acting? Through the miracle of YouTube I can show you what I’m talking about. This is the Battle of Midway story that I watched about 60 years ago on that awful old B&W little screen with that awful old monoaural speaker. Tell me what you think.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #8
    • May 26, 2020, at 11:08 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Thanks for sharing!

    I don’t think the effects are a problem; I think people do not want great storytelling. Certain things are anchored in greatness; without it, mediocrity gradually gets worse.

    It is no easy matter to reverse this trend even in some small way. I, too, think about this with some worry. I have reason to believe that if my work becomes successful, it will be possible both to educate new storytellers & to encourage audiences to understand what they’re seeing, & therefore to appreciate the arts that make that possible. But persuading people to support this work has been infinitely difficult-

    • #9
    • May 26, 2020, at 11:47 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Thanks for sharing!

    I don’t think the effects are a problem; I think people do not want great storytelling. Certain things are anchored in greatness; without it, mediocrity gradually gets worse.

    It is no easy matter to reverse this trend even in some small way. I, too, think about this with some worry. I have reason to believe that if my work becomes successful, it will be possible both to educate new storytellers & to encourage audiences to understand what they’re seeing, & therefore to appreciate the arts that make that possible. But persuading people to support this work has been infinitely difficult-

    Titus,

    I didn’t mean to imply that you or anyone alone could reverse the trend. Something Rob Long always says might be relevant. The business end is always looking for a formulaic work that will automatically be a hit. Rob says that this is an illusion. Nobody knows what will be a hit. The public and the artists are much too unpredictable. Some strange chemistry that nobody foresaw will break out and run away with everybody’s imagination.

    At least this gives us hope that a banal past won’t be the prologue to a boring future.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #10
    • May 26, 2020, at 12:19 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    This is what I mean–people don’t even think it can be done. They’d rather trust to chance…

    • #11
    • May 26, 2020, at 2:27 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Barry Jones Thatcher

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Glad to hear Adm. Spruance brought up–amazing day that man had in a situation no one had any right to expect he achieve much. America has these kinds of stories, substituting a QB & suddenly you’re off to the Super Bowl, but I don’t know any such story quite as impressive as his!

    The recent Midway movie was very good on the whole war from Pearl Harbor to Midway, but simply wrote him out of the story. I see why they did it, but it’s a terrible idea in an America where there’s no popular story to tell the truth about the man’s moment of greatness…

    Adm Spruance was not in overall tactical command. Frank Fletcher was. Spruance had command of Halsey’s Task Force(USS Enterprise and USS Hornet plus their screen) only Spruance had the other task force (USS Yorktown) as well as overall tactical command. Frank Fletcher and his accomplishments are really rather over looked in the early part of the war. At least partly because he managed to really tick off Ernie King (and it was probably a flaw on King’s part due to miss reading and misunderstanding an early series of radio reports on Fletcher’s intentions and actual location in actions just prior to Coral Sea). Food for thought.

    • #12
    • May 26, 2020, at 5:33 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Yeah, Adm. Fletcher’s also written out of the 2019 story, whereas Adm. Spruance is seen, if very little, which follows from the focus on his Task Force. The movie’s really concerned with connecting the highest of the high–Adms Nimitz & Halsey & Col. Doolittle, no other admirals–with the lowest of the law: Ensign George Gay & Frank O’Flaherty, as well his gunner, Airman Machinist Bruno Gaido. Three Lt.Coms are also important in the story, two as pilots–Wade McCluskey & Dick Best–& then the combat intelligence officer Edwin Layton, for his relationship to Nimitz. But the Captain of the USS Enterprise, Miles Browning, is almost entirely absent, which is a big problem for the story. He’s also the kind of American the story wanted to show–something of a rugged individualist…

    There’s a difference between a historical account & a story; it makes sense to focus on one ship, especially since it makes it easier to put together admirals & ensigns, so that the audience will understand what a navy does, & this 2019 Midway is the best movie on the Pacific War in 1942, especially on the battle. But there are a few problems in characterization; & there are two more serious failures of a higher order, but which only a great movie could fix: First, you don’t really learn the American war hierarchy, how it works & why. If you know your history even a little, there’s much you can glean from the movie; but not otherwise–so you don’t quite understand what war does to Americans, which is a very important matter. Secondly, the contrast between Japan & America is very interesting–the movie arranges it as aristocracy v. democracy, which is, of course, true, but it’s beyond the scope of the story to show how different the two ways are. For example, Americans are rather more bureaucratic than the Japanese, even though they are more informal. At the same time, American individual initiative–the movie singles out the moment Halsey spot promotes Gaido for jumping into a plane & machine gunning a Japanese bomber to prevent a kamikaze attack–is far more compatible with obedience than was Japanese honor, which involved catastrophes in all parts of political organization, in government, in the military, in operations…

    • #13
    • May 27, 2020, at 12:44 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    To all,

    As to the Midway battle itself, I think a little context is in order. Aircraft Carrier fleets engaged each other well beyond visual contact for the first time in history at the Battle of Coral Sea only one month before Midway. The Midway plan was contingent on the breaking of the Japanese code so that we could have our carriers ambush the Japanese carriers who were a larger force with more experienced pilots.

    To say that the plan was audacious is an understatement. To say that Spruance had nerves of steel to give the command to launch his attack is not doing him justice. So many unknowns, so much riding on it. To this day the battle seems miraculous as if the hand of Gd reached out and destroyed the Japanese fleet in retribution for Pearl Harbor.

    At the beginning of 1942, both in Europe and the Pacific, the War looked like the Allied cause was in terrible jeopardy. With the Midway and El Alamein victories, the tide had shifted to the Allies. Both theaters of war were still going to need long and painful efforts but clearly a path to victory was now opened up.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #14
    • May 27, 2020, at 6:59 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Richard Easton Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    To all,

    As to the Midway battle itself, I think a little context is in order. Aircraft Carrier fleets engaged each other well beyond visual contact for the first time in history at the Battle of Coral Sea only one month before Midway. The Midway plan was contingent on the breaking of the Japanese code so that we could have our carriers ambush the Japanese carriers who were a larger force with more experienced pilots.

    To say that the plan was audacious is an understatement. To say that Spruance had nerves of steel to give the command to launch his attack is not doing him justice. So many unknowns, so much riding on it. To this day the battle seems miraculous as if the hand of Gd reached out and destroyed the Japanese fleet in retribution for Pearl Harbor.

    At the beginning of 1942, both in Europe and the Pacific, the War looked like the Allied cause was in terrible jeopardy. With the Midway and El Alamein victories, the tide had shifted to the Allies. Both theaters of war were still going to need long and painful efforts but clearly a path to victory was now opened up.

    Regards,

    Jim

    This video has interviews with the Enterprise pilots. https://youtu.be/C4dya7mMSLE

    • #15
    • May 27, 2020, at 8:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  16. Barry Jones Thatcher

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    To all,

    As to the Midway battle itself, I think a little context is in order. Aircraft Carrier fleets engaged each other well beyond visual contact for the first time in history at the Battle of Coral Sea only one month before Midway. The Midway plan was contingent on the breaking of the Japanese code so that we could have our carriers ambush the Japanese carriers who were a larger force with more experienced pilots.

    To say that the plan was audacious is an understatement. To say that Spruance had nerves of steel to give the command to launch his attack is not doing him justice. So many unknowns, so much riding on it. To this day the battle seems miraculous as if the hand of Gd reached out and destroyed the Japanese fleet in retribution for Pearl Harbor.

    At the beginning of 1942, both in Europe and the Pacific, the War looked like the Allied cause was in terrible jeopardy. With the Midway and El Alamein victories, the tide had shifted to the Allies. Both theaters of war were still going to need long and painful efforts but clearly a path to victory was now opened up.

    Regards,

    Jim

    It is

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    To all,

    As to the Midway battle itself, I think a little context is in order. Aircraft Carrier fleets engaged each other well beyond visual contact for the first time in history at the Battle of Coral Sea only one month before Midway. The Midway plan was contingent on the breaking of the Japanese code so that we could have our carriers ambush the Japanese carriers who were a larger force with more experienced pilots.

    To say that the plan was audacious is an understatement. To say that Spruance had nerves of steel to give the command to launch his attack is not doing him justice. So many unknowns, so much riding on it. To this day the battle seems miraculous as if the hand of Gd reached out and destroyed the Japanese fleet in retribution for Pearl Harbor.

    At the beginning of 1942, both in Europe and the Pacific, the War looked like the Allied cause was in terrible jeopardy. With the Midway and El Alamein victories, the tide had shifted to the Allies. Both theaters of war were still going to need long and painful efforts but clearly a path to victory was now opened up.

    Regards,

    Jim

    It is important to note that Spruance was using Halsey’s staff…in particular his Chief of Staff, Captain Miles Browning (a brilliant if some what unstable officer) and Spruance folllowed Browning advice and recommendations on each part of the air battle. It was Brownings plan to launch the aircraft strike when they did with the expectation the strike would catch the Japanese carriers in that in between mode of landing and refueling the planes returning from the Midway strike. A point in which aircraft carriers are extremely vulnerable as they have Av gas hoses, bombs, etc all over the place and fully fueled and armed aircraft on deck. Not a good place to be in…
    Titus Techera (View Comment)
    :
    Glad to hear Adm. Spruance brought up–amazing day that man had in a situation no one had any right to expect he achieve much. America has these kinds of stories, substituting a QB & suddenly you’re off to the Super Bowl, but I don’t know any such story quite as impressive as his!

    The recent Midway movie was very good on the whole war from Pearl Harbor to Midway, but simply wrote him out of the story. I see why they did it, but it’s a terrible idea in an America where there’s no popular story to tell the truth about the man’s moment of greatness…

    Adm Spruance was not in overall tactical command. Frank Fletcher was. Spruance had command of Halsey’s Task Force(USS Enterprise and USS Hornet plus their screen) only Spruance had the other task force (USS Yorktown) as well as overall tactical command. Frank Fletcher and his accomplishments are really rather over looked in the early part of the war. At least partly because he managed to really tick off Ernie King (and it was probably a flaw on King’s part due to miss reading and misunderstanding an early series of radio reports on Fletcher’s intentions and actual location in actions just prior to Coral Sea). Food for thought.

    It is important to note that Spruance was using Halsey’s staff…in particular his Chief of Staff, Captain Miles Browning (a brilliant if some what unstable officer) and Spruance folllowed Browning advice and recommendations on each part of the air battle. It was Brownings plan to launch the aircraft strike when they did with the expectation the strike would catch the Japanese carriers in that in between mode of landing and refueling the planes returning from the Midway strike. A point in which aircraft carriers are extremely vulnerable as they have Av gas hoses, bombs, etc all over the place and fully fueled and armed aircraft on deck. Not a good place to be in…

    and somehow or another this reply and comment are totally messed up…sorry Titus!!!

    • #16
    • May 27, 2020, at 12:25 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.