‘No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country’

Men of a US Army infantry division file into a briefing tent in one of the sealed-off and closely guarded assembly areas near the south coast of England, May 1944.

Men of a US Army infantry division file into a briefing tent in one of the sealed-off and closely guarded assembly areas near the south coast of England, May 1944.

 Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr., 1943. (pictured before his promotion to full General). U.S. Army Signal Corps. "George Patton as Lt. General." March 30, 1943.

Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr., 1943. (pictured before his promotion to full General). U.S. Army Signal Corps. “George Patton as Lt. General.” March 30, 1943.

After an unfortunate incident during the battle for Sicily General George S. Patton had spent most of his time on the sidelines of the war. Now he was to command the U.S. Third Army in Normandy – but he was not to arrive in France until late in the battle.

His absence made even more credible the existence of the fictitious First United States Army Group, FUSAG. The Germans could not believe that a General of the calibre of Patton would not be taking a leading role in the ‘Second Front’.

Patton failed to appear when the Normandy landings took place – and the Germans were then even more certain that he would be leading the ‘second invasion’ of the Pas de Calais area, probably landing at about the end of June. Hitler would keep his 15th Army waiting on the sidelines as the battle for Normandy unfolded, ready and prepared for this massive new Allied formation to arrive.

Patton was nevertheless preparing to lead the U.S. Third Army, like the other commanders he spent time making himself known to them. When he addressed the men from its different units he had to remind them:

Don’t forget, you don’t know I’m here at all. No word of that fact is to be mentioned in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what the hell they did with me. I’m not supposed to be commanding this army. I’m not even supposed to be in England. Let the first bastards to find out be the goddamned Germans. Some day, I want them to rise up on their piss-soaked hind legs and howl ‘Ach! It’s the goddamned Third Army and that son-of-a-bitch Patton again!’

The 31st May is the day he is believed to have first included the memorable line “no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country”:

Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans, love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers … Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.

Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The Bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post, don’t know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating. Now we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world.

You know … My God, I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against. My God, I do. We’re not just going to shoot the bastards, we’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel.

Now some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you’ll chicken out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you’ll all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo, that a moment before was your best friends face, you’ll know what to do.

Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything, we’ll let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly, and we’re not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy.

We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re going to kick him in the ass. We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re going to go through him like crap through a goose. Now, there’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it.

Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, What did you do in the great World War Two? You won’t have to say, Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.

Alright now, you sons of bitches, you know how I feel. I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere.

That’s all.

Patton gave this speech several times, with slight variations. There was no official version, it was written down by some of the men who heard it. Historians have constructed a longer, more complete version by combining different sources, see “Terry Brighton: Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War”.

US Engineers are briefed on their objectives for the forthcoming invasion, May 1944. Left to right: Private Albert V Ottolino; PFC (Private First Class) Howard D Kraut; Private J H James.

US Engineers are briefed on their objectives for the forthcoming invasion, May 1944. Left to right: Private Albert V Ottolino; PFC (Private First Class) Howard D Kraut; Private J H James.

US Army Lieutenant Ralph Vernon and men of his unit study a map of their objective in a briefing tent in one of the assembly areas on the south coast of England, May 1944.

US Army Lieutenant Ralph Vernon and men of his unit study a map of their objective in a briefing tent in one of the assembly areas on the south coast of England, May 1944.

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