Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ike almost fires Patton - May 1944

From The Marshall Papers - Volume four:

"Eisenhower informed General Marshall on April 30 that he had sent for Lieutenant General Patton to report and explain his actions, but based "on all of the evidence now available I will relieve him from command.” Eisenhower indicated his faith in the ability of Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges to replace Patton as Third Army commander, but recognized that "the big difference is that Patton has proved his ability to conduct a ruthless drive whereas Hodges has not.” He also expressed his regret that Major General Lucian K. Truscott was unavailable to OVERLORD as a result of his position in the Mediterranean theater. Eisenhower asked Marshall whether Patton should be returned to the United States in his permanent rank or sent home in some higher grade to serve in a training command. "His relief from an active theater will certainly be interpreted by everyone as definite and severe disciplinary action," wrote Eisenhower, "but you would have the immediate problem of absorbing him as a lieutenant general.” Eisenhower added, "After a year and a half of working with him it appears hopeless to expect that he will ever completely overcome his lifelong habit of posing and of self-dramatization which causes him to break out in these extraordinary ways." (Papers of DDE, 3: 1840-41.) "
Marshall Responded to Ike on May 1, 1944:

My view, and it is merely that, is that you should not weaken your hand for OVERLORD. If you think that Patton's removal does weaken your prospect, you should continue him in command. In any event, I do not want you at this time to be burdened with the responsibility of reducing him in rank. Send him home if you see fit, and in grade, or hold him there as surplus if you so desire, or as I have indicated above, continue him in command if that promises best for OVERLORD. I fear my quotation from one editorial may have resulted in over emphasis in your mind of the necessity for drastic action to meet difficult resulting situation here at home. Incidentally, the numerous editorials, while caustic regarding his indiscretion, lack of poise or dignity, suitable to his position have not demanded his release from command. Do not consider War Department position in the matter. Consider only OVERLORD and your own heavy burden of responsibility for its success. Everything else is of minor importance."
Ike reconsidered and after reprimanding Patton, informed Marshall he had decided to keep him in command of 3rd Army.

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