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Top Brass visit the 80th Division Command Post at Dieulouard, France during the crossing of the Moselle.  Shown from L-R are Unidentified Driver, General George C. Marshall, 80th CG McBride, XII Corps Commanding General Manton Eddy, General George S. Patton, Jr. and Unidentified Aide.

 

Patton And The 80th

Bob Cook

(From a 1977 Issue of the Blue Ridge Service Magazine, of which Bob was the Editor)

 

During the ETO Campaign, Third Army comprised 42 divisions; 26 Infantry, 14 Armored, two Airborne.  Of these, five divisions fought through practically all of Third Army's actions, and are known as "Patton's Iron Men"  They are:

 

4th Armored 280 days

5th Infantry 276 days

80th Infantry 274 days

90th Infantry 272 days

6th Armored 252 days

 

It was your acting editor's assignment in combat to work as an Operations Sergeant in Division HQ G-3 Section in close cooperation with then Major George N. Craig, who later became the first W.W. II G.I. to head the American Legion as National Commander, from which post he advanced to the office of Governor of the great State of Indiana.  Craig, in response to my request, sent his recollections of the division's contacts with General George S. Patton, Commanding General of the Third Army.  The first related incident follows:

 

One morning, accompanied by his cortege of M.P.'s, with flags flying, Patton arrived at the Division Command Post on the Moselle River.  Stars were really in our eyes, for lo and behold, who was with Patton but none other than General of the Armies, George C. Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff.  As was usually the case, citation for decorations was of prime importance, Silver Stars being the order of the day.  Patton, with tears streaming down his face as he read the citation for an Aid Man (Medic) who had been heroic under fire, turned to Marshall and said, "By God, this man doesn't deserve the Silver Star, he should have the Distinguished Service Cross!", and turned to his aide, directing him to depart and get one.  As the Aide hastily took off, Marshall pinned the Silver Star on the soldier and said, "This will have to suffice until General Patton's DSC gets here!"

 

On another occasion, Patton arrived at headquarters and asked the 80th CG H. L. McBride if he had made any battlefield promotions.  Following McBride's negative answer, Patton with considerable profanity, explained why such promotions of enlisted men were necessary and that he would make some right away.  Major Coe Kerr-G2 Section, Patton, McBride and Craig proceeded to Landremont Ridge and after stopping at a safe distance from the top departed their vehicles and proceeded up the hill on foot.  Kerr was dispatched to get a sergeant who had been commanding a company (Normally a Captain's job, five ranks above his station) and Craig for a corporal who had been commanding what was left of a platoon (normally a 1st Lt.'s or 2nd Lt.'s job, four or five ranks above his station).  Patton, in all his splendor, remained near the top of the ridge where occasional falling mortar fire failed to bother him even though he made us all a target for the unseen German mortar crew.  He promoted the sergeant to second lieutenant and congratulated him.

 

Turning, he sternly eyed the corporal who was rather short in stature, and like all of us, had not shaved, showered or changed clothes in some time.  The seat of his pants hung below his knees much like a Bill Maudlin character.  Under his helmet-net, he had put a piece of burlap to conceal his corporal insignia.  As we stood there a bit uneasy about the mortar fire, Patton addressed the corporal saying, "What in the Goddamn Hell rank are you anyhow?"  Following the corporal's answer, Patton shouted "How in the Hell could I tell?  Are you ashamed of it?"  The soldier stated that he wasn't, but that they were in pretty close quarters on the ridge, and his white insignia provided the Germans with a target.  Patton replied, "If ever the time comes in this Goddamn war when the Germans start specializing in shooting corporals, we might as well wrap up and go home!"  He then added, "I came up here to make you a second lieutenant, but I'll be Goddamned if I'm not going to make you a first lieutenant!", and turned to his Aide who you may remember was a bit on the heavy side.  The Aide, not having any first lieutenant's bars, had to run down the hill and back for a set of bars from Patton's jeep.  After the general had pinned them on the G.I. and saluted them, we all returned back down the hill to safety.

 

On Christmas Eve 1944, Kerr and Craig got caught out, and after spending the night in a barn, returned to the Division CP near Recklange, Luxembourg.  After entering the G-3 Section to prepare for the next night's duties, Craig was told that Fleischer-G2 was in the Chief of Staff's section with General Patton and wanted him down there.  Craig hastily took a look at the G-3 situation map, went down, paid his respects to the General and Fleischer, and left, much relieved, as he was not briefed on our situation and that was what Patton wished.  Finding the C/S map not up to date, Craig placed the current situation on it as best he could while Patton sat in a chair with his feet on the desk and started to talk.  Just said he was coming by to wish a Merry Christmas to McBride and then he was going over to the 5th Division to see his old friend "Red" Blake, CG of the Red Diamond Division, and then started to reminisce…he said, "Soon we will have this Army back in a column of corps.  That was the way we dashed across France to the Moselle…three corps, the XII, XX, and the Vth."  He added, "This is the best of all formations.  History records that it has only been done once in modern warfare, and that was our trip across France."  He said, "I'll show that paperhanging S.O.B. (Hitler) what war is really like!"  About that time, McBride came in, wet clear to his waist.  As usual, he had been up front all day, and Patton proceeded to lecture about staying up front too long.  He commented on the fact that there had been quite a few generals as casualties, indicating it was proof that they were up where they ought to be.  McBride appeared to not relish the idea of being wet and half frozen and then receive a lecture on being close to the front line too long.

 

 

 

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