The Day Patton Cried

After the successful capture of Sicily, the hard charging Seventh Army Commander, LTG George S. Patton, was easily the most popular American general after Eisenhower. He drove his troops hard and beat Monty to Messina. However, Patton unexpectedly gave up command of his army and was relegated to be the viceroy of Sicily. He went from commanding 100,000 men to less than 5000 a few months later. To put it mildly, civil military relations was something he was not very interested in, and everyone knew it. Very few people knew why the change occurred. The Germans assumed he would command the invasion of France since he was America’s most effective general and not fighting in Italy.

Eisenhower privately wished Patton had Mark Clark’s job. But during the Sicilian campaign, Patton visited two field hospitals where he slapped soldiers suffering from PTSD and called them cowards. At Eisenhower’s request, the press sat on the story for months. In late November the story broke and the American press called for his head. Patton assumed his career was over.

On 9 December 1943, FDR and Gen George C. Marshall were returning from a marathon series of conferences with the Soviets, British, and Chinese in Tehran and Cairo. They stopped in Sicily on the way home. On the tarmac to meet them stood Eisenhower and Patton. While standing there, FDR said that Gen Marshall would stay in Washington and Eisenhower would command the Allied invasion of France. A few seconds later in an offhand comment, he mentioned that Patton would have an army command in France. For the next five minutes, Patton continued the small talk next to the plane but then excused himself.

He walked behind a maintenance building, looked around to see if no one was watching (someone was) and then cried like a baby in joy for two full minutes.

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