Thursday, May 12, 2005

George S. Patton was right

The president is taking a lot of flack in the MSM as well as in many blogs for his comments in Latvia about the Yalta Conference and its aftermath - the 50 year occupation of eastern Europe by the Soviet Union. I paraphrase, but he apologized to the Latvian people as well as all of the formerly Soviet-occupied states for eliminating one occupier - Nazi Germany - and then allowing another to take its place. I don't link here because this story is all over the net and you have no doubt seen several mentions of it already.

I have read extensively on both sides of this issue, and I have decided that Prof. Stephen Bainbridge's response is the best that I have read to date. Today, Prof. Bainbridge tells us that he has received a lot of "hostile emails" over his Yalta posting. He responds to his critics, whose main theme apparently was that there was nothing we could have done to stop the Soviet occupation in 1945 with "horse hockey" and the following list;
1. Follow the strategy proposed by some of pursuing not a cross-channel invasion but a Balkans-based strategy of beating the Soviets to Vienna and then Berlin
2. Let either Monty or Patton beat the Russians to Berlin
3. Not send a dying man to negotiate with two of the best diplomatic card players in history
4. Not be so desperate to get the Russians to attack Japan that you give away the store
5. Not let a communist spy (Alger Hiss) be a key advisor
6. Give the free Poles and Czechs fighting in the West support.
7. Threaten to use the A-bomb
8. Keep a viable fighting force in Europe post-1945
9. Treat the Berlin crisis as a casus belli rather than a humanitarian problem
10. Support the Hungarians in 1956
Had I made up this list rather than the good professor, my list would have been considerably shorter.
1. Turn Patton loose
2. See (1) above
In 1945, according to "The Patton Papers", General George S. Patton as well as members of his staff had anticipated correctly what was about to happen and lobbied hard to be allowed to stop it while there was still time.
During a May 7, 1945 meeting in Austria between Patton and U.S. Secretary of War Robert Patterson: Patton said to Patterson: "Let's keep our boots polished, bayonets sharpened, and present a picture of force and strength to the Red Army. This is the only language they understand and respect."

Patterson replied, "Oh, George, you have been so close to this thing so long, you have lost sight of the big picture."

Patton rejoined: "I understand the situation. Their (the Soviet) supply system is inadequate to maintain them in a serious action such as I could put to them. They have chickens in the coop and cattle on the hoof -- that's their supply system. They could probably maintain themselves in the type of fighting I could give them for five days. After that it would make no difference how many million men they have, and if you wanted Moscow I could give it to you. They lived on the land coming down. There is insufficient left for them to maintain themselves going back. Let's not give them time to build up their supplies. If we do, then . . . we have had a victory over the Germans and disarmed them, but we have failed in the liberation of Europe; we have lost the war!"
Patton's diary of May 14, 1945: "I have never seen in any army at any time, including the German Imperial Army of 1912, as severe discipline as exists in the Russian army. The officers, with few exceptions, give the appearance of recently civilized Mongolian bandits."
Patton's aide, General Hobart Gay, May 14, 1945: "Everything they (the Russians) did impressed one with the idea of virility and cruelty."
Patton's diary May 18, 1945: "In my opinion, the American Army as it now exists could beat the Russians with the greatest of ease, because, while the Russians have good infantry, they are lacking in artillery, air, tanks, and in the knowledge of the use of the combined arms, whereas we excel in all three of these. If it should be necessary to fight the Russians, the sooner we do it the better."
May 20, 1945 letter to his wife: "If we have to fight them, now is the time. From now on we will get weaker and they stronger."
Let me make myself perfectly clear here. Patton was right about the Soviets. He was probably right about the ability of his army to take them on successfully. There were a lot of things that Patton was not right about and I would not defend him on those things. Things such as his growing anti-Semitism, the comparing of Nazi party members vs non party member German citizens with Democrats and Republicans, slapping a shell-shocked soldier, public criticism of Gen. Montgomery (the criticism was probably well founded - doing it publicly was dereliction of duty), and many other instances too numerous to mention.

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