By Mitchell Kaidy

Did he write it -the letter dated 25 April, 1945- one of the boldest and most eloquent communications in military history?

George S. Patton was not only one of the most audacious generals in American history, but one of the most literate -and widely- read. He, like Winston Churchill, appreciated the power of the English sentence. His poetry written to his fiancee, later his wife, showed that despite dyslexia which led to spelling errors and his relatively late grasp of English, he understood better than other commanders the significance of communications to lay the basis for history.

Even today, his comprehensive knowledge of military history is legendary, playing a role in the way he is depicted in movies and television.

So throughout the war he wrote and spoke widely, some of the speeches famously embarrassing both himself and the Army. Although he was suspicious of the press, he never missed an opportunity to strut his stuff -if the occasion proved opportune. His decision to write the rousing letter to one of his principal commanders, Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton and the
VIIIth Corps, was intended to commend Middleton’s tactical prescience as well as the VIIIth Corps’ exploits. But it also underscores Patton’s understanding of both history and the value of communication.

So Patton wrote
the historic letter. Dated two weeks before the end of World War II in Europe, it contained language that still resounds today and will continue to do so over time. "None of us will ever forget" Patton wrote Middleton, "the stark valor with which you and your Corps contested every foot of ground during Von Rundstedt’s attack. Your decision to hold Bastogne was a stroke of genius."

Several former journalists were attached to
Third Army headquarters, known as "Lucky Forward", and indeed they might have played a role in writing the letter in the Spring of 1945. Offsetting this are internal signs that Patton wrote it himself. Born before the turn of the 20th century, Patton hewed to such obsolescent English forms as "my dear General" and "thence" in a style that, even in 1945, sounded dated, and certainly was uncharacteristic for any journalist to have employed.

Offsetting this evidence of authorship is the curious omission of the Moselle River, which, weeks before the Rhine and after the Kyll River, was conquered by his plunging troops in broad daylight. How could a general who commanded the overall conduct of that signal event have overlooked that major body of water when it directly conducted his
87th Division troops into one of the strategic German cities -Koblenz- on the way to ending the war? Yet, curiously, there is no mention of the Moselle River in Patton’s letter.

There might be a simple answer -a stenographic error. He signed it without noting the significant omission. Among the eloquent passages in the letter, Patton praised the
VIIIth Corps’ victories as "events which will live in history and quicken the pulse of every soldier." He might have justifiably observed that his letter of April, 1945, was an event that will quicken the pulse not only of every soldier but of every person who reads it.

Site design & initiative: Hans Houterman
Page text by: Mr. Mitchell Kaidy (D Company, 345th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division)
Page created by: Jeroen Koppes
Last update: 28.05.2003-CSS