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Lee was indefatigable in his rounds of inspections of field organizations, and was fully aware of the criticism generated by his use of a special train for that purpose. The acquisition of such a vehicle had been strongly urged on him by General Harbord. The train was intended as a timesaver, and that it undoubtedly was. General Lee refused to bow to the criticism, convinced in his own mind that the train was fully justified. As attested by members of his staff, it was a work train, and an instrument of torture. General Lee set a grueling pace on his inspection trips, and it was rare when a meal was served on the train during daylight hours, for most runs were made at night. The day’s work, consisting of inspections & conferences, normally began at five in the morning and lasted until evening. Most of the staff members who accompanied the SOS commander considered the trips agonizing ordeals and would have avoided them if possible.
One other criticism of the SOS commander was probably more justified. Lee assigned some officers to positions of authority and responsibility whose qualifications were at times obscure.
He was exceedingly loyal to these subordinates, usually placing full confidence in them. This otherwise admirable trait sometimes put him in difficult positions, and his own reputation often suffered from their actions and unpopularity. In any event, the atmosphere at the ETOUSA-SOS headquarters was not consistently conducive to the best teamwork.
However inaccurately these circumstances may have reflected the real efficiency of the SOS, it is an inescapable fact that General Lee at least gave poor first impressions and did not always immediately inspire the confidence of the various commanders of the theater. Both General Andrews and General Devers were at first disposed to make a change in the command of the SOS when they assumed command of the theater. The former commanded the theater only a few months. General Devers, after a second look at the operations of the SOS, was satisfied that General Lee was doing a very satisfactory job. General Eisenhower’s reactions were similar.
While he initially had doubts of Lee’s ability to create an efficient supply organization and was fully aware of the complaints of the combat commanders and the tensions between the various headquarters, he finally decided to abandon at least temporarily any thought of replacing the SOS commander, to put complete faith in him, and to trust in the ability of his organization to support the American forces in the coming operation. While the top-level organization and functioning of the SOS left something to be desired, and while there were shortcomings in the supply procedures within the SOS, observers from the Army Service Forces generally agreed that its field organization was functioning well and that the qualms felt by some commanders regarding the SOS’s ability to support the cross-Channel operations were unjustified. (Extracted from Ruppenthal, Roland G., Logistical Support of the Armies: Volume I, May 1941-September 1944, Center of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1953) _______________________________________________
made a strong favorable impression on Marshall. While there, the already close friendship with Omar Bradley, who was also a member of the faculty, flourished. In 1933-1934, Bradley and Hodges were classmates at the Army War College. Thereafter, Hodges served in the Philippines before returning to the United States in 1941 to become Chief of Infantry, and therefore responsible for the organization and training of what the Army still saw as its primary arm. In 1943, Hodges assumed command of Third U.S. Army from Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger. He did well in that assignment, convincing Marshall that, despite his age—he was fifty seven—he was not too old to go to war. Hodges arrived in Europe to understudy Bradley as deputy commanding general of First Army and ultimately to take command when Bradley was promoted to command 12th Army Group.
Bradley and Hodges were alike in many ways, and thought much the same way about fighting the war. That prompted some to remark that, when Hodges took over First Army from Bradley, “the new broom swept nothing.” Bradley’s aide de camp, Maj. Chet Hansen, commented that Hodges was not an inspiring presence as a soldier, looking “like a small town banker in uniform.” Bradley, he thought, exuded confidence and firmness. Hodges, on the other hand, seemed “more worrier than warrior.” That was the view of many of his subordinates. Maj. Gen. Charles Corlett, XIX Corps commander, complained that Hodges didn’t understand what was really going on in the depleted infantry divisions that were fighting in the Huertgen Forest, despite his frequent telephonic demands for information. Hodges, moreover, clearly played favorites, a fact that his subordinates couldn’t fail to note. He doted on Maj. Gen. Joe Collins, VII Corps commander. Hodges and Corlett, on the other hand, barely could exchange a civil word. Others saw Hodges differently.
Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin delivered a complimentary verdict that still said nothing about his
virtues as an Army commander:
I had served under Hodges earlier in the Philippine Islands in the 1930s. He was a fine Soldier with a distinguished record in World War I, quiet in manner and thoughtful and considerate in his relations with his subordinates. He was highly regarded in the peacetime army.
Even with their years of friendship and mutual esteem, Bradley remained concerned about Hodges and his abilities. “I began to fret privately,” he wrote years later, because “Courtney seemed indecisive and overly conservative. I hoped that my veteran First Army staff—Bill Kean in particular—would keep a fire under him.” Eisenhower seems to have shared the same worries, fearing that Hodges, separated from First Army staff, “might lack drive.” Ultimately, however, assessing the comparative merits of his major commanders, Bradley concluded that Hodges “was on a par with George Patton, but owing to his modesty and low profile, he has been all but forgotten.” (CK) _______________________________________________
Lieutenant General George Smith Patton, Jr.
Commanding General, Third U.S. Army Patton was born in California in 1885 to a wealthy family. Throughout his youth, he evidenced what appears in retrospect to have been dyslexia, which helps to account for the curious spelling that characterizes his memoir, War As I Knew It (1945), and that made academics extremely difficult for him. After attending the Virginia Military Institute for a year, he entered the U.S.
Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1909 as a lieutenant of Cavalry. Early assignments in and around Washington, D.C., gave him an acquaintance with Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who was coincidentally to occupy the same post during World War II. He competed in the modern Pentathlon at the 1912 Oympics in Stockholm. He attended the French Cavalry School at Saumur, following which he became an instructor at the Mounted Service School at Fort Riley. There, he wrote the Army manual for the saber. In 1916, Patton convinced Gen. John J. Pershing to assign him as a supernumerary aide de camp for the Punitive Expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. Patton established a reputation for daring during the following months, as well as becoming well-known to the future commanding general of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.
Selected to serve on Pershing’s staff in 1917, Patton went to France and then obtained a transfer to the new tank corps, where he was one of the principal staff officers responsible for organization and training of the new arm.
A temporary lieutenant colonel in command of the 304th Tank Brigade, he participated in the St. Mihiel Offensive, where most of his tanks suffered mechanical failures, to his chagrin, and where he did most of his fighting on foot.
In the later Meuse-Argonne Offensive, he again led tanks, this time as a temporary colonel. He was wounded in action in the latter battle and ended World War I with a Distinguished Service Cross, several Silver Stars and a number of French decorations.
In 1919, Patton commanded a brigade in the tank training establishment at Fort Meade, Maryland. Major Dwight D.
Eisenhower, who had spent the war training tank crewmen, commanded one of his battalions. In that year he reverted to his permanent grade of major and returned to the horse cavalry. Over the next twenty years, he commanded a squadron of the 3rd Cavalry at Fort Myer, served two tours in Hawaii, was a staff officer in the Office of the Chief of Cavalry, graduated from the Command and General Staff School and then the War College. He was promoted to colonel in 1938 and assumed command of the 3rd Cavalry. Elderly by Gen. George Marshall’s standards in 1940, Patton still obtained promotion to brigadier general and a brigade command in the 2nd Armored Division, which he subsequently commanded with conspicuous success as major general in the famous Louisiana Maneuvers. Later in 1941, he formed the I Armored Corps at the Desert Training Center In 1942, he commanded troops in the landings in North Africa, Operation TORCH, going ashore around Casablanca. After the disaster at Kasserine Pass, he assumed command of II Corps and led it throughout the Tunisian Campaign until April, 1943, when he took command of Seventh Army for the landings in Sicily in July. There, his earlier touchy relations with British commanders flowered and bloomed in a rivalry with Montgomery. His successes in the Sicilian campaign were overshadowed by the infamous slapping incident in a U.S. military hospital that resulted in his reassignment to a purely nominal command in the deception operation in England, Operation FORTITUDE.
In January of 1944, he was named to command Third Army and began organizing and training the force that went ashore in France on 6 July and became operational under 12th Army Group command on 1 August. In that position, he was under command of Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, who had been his subordinate in II Corps in Tunisia and in Seventh Army in Sicily. Their relationship was not always an easy one. Patton argued, unsuccessfully, for the long envelopment of German forces at Falaise. His subsequent operations to cross the Seine and exploit across France won him a reputation as America’s premier tank general.
Later appreciations of Patton’s abilities have been mixed—in part because of his enormous ego and volatile personality. He always sought the limelight and seemed to have no better understanding for operations in an Allied context than did his principal rival, Montgomery.
Unabashedly American, Patton believed that U.S. forces could have, and should have, been given priority in operations in western Europe, and that this would have led to an earlier end to the war. One recent critique that spared no Allied general, Montgomery included, reached the conclusion that Patton’s reputation was overdrawn. According to that view, he did not so much pursue the Germans across France as simply follow them, inasmuch as his forces were not actually in contact much of the time. When Patton came up against a determined defense at Metz, he did not perform well, a fact that bolstered the argument that, particularly in the pursuit, he was “the best traffic cop in the history of the U.S. Army.” American opinion, and particularly that of the armor community, held an entirely different view and pointed to his tactical innovations and intuitive feel for the battlefield.
There is no doubt, however, that his personality limited his effectiveness, and that his impulsiveness—as in the slapping incident—limited his opportunities. Patton’s taste for publicity and his rivalry with Montgomery often increased Eisenhower’s difficulties. He was no easy subordinate, and Bradley actually did not want him as commander of Third Army. Like Montgomery, however, he engendered enormous loyalty from the soldiers under his command, who performed brilliantly for him.
Patton was critically injured in an automobile accident near Mannheim in December of 1945 and died of his injuries twelve days later in Heidelberg. (CK) _______________________________________________
Lieutenant General William Hood Simpson Commanding General, Ninth U.S. Army Born 19 May 1888 and raised in the north-central Texas town of Weatherford, William Hood Simpson developed a respect for the frontier values of hard work, determination, and a cheerful calmness in the face of adversity. Despite what would soon painfully emerge as extremely poor academic preparation, Simpson received an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point in 1905. He entered the Academy that summer, joining the other members of the Class of 1909, including a “turn-back” from the Class of 1908 – George S. Patton, Jr. Patton and another member of the Class of 1908, Courtney H. Hodges, had failed mathematics during Plebe year.
Patton had been allowed to re-enter West Point with Simpson’s class; Hodges, however, was not allowed to re-enter and he enlisted in the Regular Army as a private.
Simpson became a popular, well-liked member of the class and was noted for his good nature if not for his scholarship. The 1909 yearbook describes him as “Cheerful Charlie”, and the entry
outstanding trainer of troops, Simpson began a rapid succession of training commands. From October 1941 until September 1943, he commanded the 35th Division in Arkansas and California, then the 30th Infantry Division at Fort Jackson, SC, and finally the XII Corps, also at Fort Jackson. Each of these units was, for him, a training command – someone else would take them into combat. Simpson, however, wanted to capitalize on his combat experience from the Philippines, Mexico, and World War I France. In October 1943, he began a command tour that would eventually lead him into combat, taking charge of the Fourth Army – later to be redesignated the Ninth Army – and received his third star.