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Daniel Scrivner

General Patton's "Speech to the Third Army" on the Eve of the Invasion of Europe

“You are not all going to die…. The real hero is the man who fights even though he’s scared. Some get over their fright in a minute under fire, others take an hour, for some it takes days, but a real man will never let the fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his manhood.”

GENERAL GEORGB S. PATTON, JR., who proudly bore the sobriquet Old Blood and Guts, led a tank brigade on the Western Front in World War 1 and, a generation later, led the U.S. 3rd Army's armored division's sweep across France and Germany in World War II. His tanks relieved the surrounded U.S. forces at Bastogne in the crucial December 1944 Battle of the Bulge.

In his diary of May 17 of that year, Patton—in England helping Eisenhower prepare for the invasion—noted, "Made a talk.... As in all my talks, I stressed fighting and killing." Martin Blumenson, editor of the 1974 two-volume collection of The Patton Papers, wrote that it was about this time "he began to give his famous speech to the troops. Since he spoke extemporaneously, there were several versions. But if the words were always somewhat different, the message was always the same: the necessity to fight, the necessity to kill the enemy viciously, the necessity for everyone, no matter what his job, to do his duty. The officers were usually uncomfortable with the profanity he used. The enlisted men loved it."

For the third edition of this anthology, I sought out Blumenson in late 2003 for an authentic copy of "the" Patton motivational speech. He informed me that no definitive text exists. Reports of the speeches the general was making in that month before D-Day have been collected and patched together over a half century.

The most famous version-expurgated and much shortened-was the one that dramatically opened the 1970 movie Patton, starring George C. Scott. I recall it being played and replayed in the screening room of the Nixon White House.) It began with the line certainly characteristic of Patton: Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." That is not in any of the contemporaneous accounts I know about, but surely sounds like Patton. That's the problem with pre. senting any amalgamated text of what was a series of ad-lib speeches: What was added for effect, or taken out to avoid repetition or skirt obscenity? However, even a patched-together version can reflect much of what he said in many of the words he probably used. Here is my assembly of the several accounts, no more "authentic" than the belated account of the "give me liberty" speech in the eighteenth century by Patrick Henry, but a faithful summary of his message.

The general's reference to the "bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post" was his angry dismissal of an article about his slapping of an ailing soldier he thought malingering. The subsequent controversy temporarily cost Patton his command.

The anecdote he relates about the gutsy soldier fixing wires atop a telephone pole during a battle in the North African campaign is an example of self-deprecating humor that broke the pace of the intense speech and must have been well received.

In line with the general's sobriquet, the collated address is both bloody and gutsy.

Speech Transcript

Here is General Patton's speech to motivate the 3rd Army on the eve of the invasion of Europe:

Be seated.

Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting to stay out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit.

Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war.

You are not all going to die. Only 2 percent of you right here today would be killed in a major battle. Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all of us. And every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he's not, he's a goddam liar. Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men or they get the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as scared as they are. Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and probably more so. They are not supermen.

The real hero is the man who fights even though he's scared. Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire, others take an hour, for some It takes days, but a real man will never let his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country and to his manhood.

All through your army careers, you men have bitched about what you call "chickenshit drilling." That, like everything else in this army, has a definite purpose. That purpose is alertness. Alertness must be bred into every soldier. A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If you're not alert, sometime, a German son-of-a-bitch is going to sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a sockful of shit! There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily, all because one man went to sleep on the job. But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep.

An army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual hero stuff is a lot of horseshit. The bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don't know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about fucking! We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-bitches we're going up against.

My men don't surrender, and I don't want to hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he has been hit. Even if you are hit, you can still fight back. The kind of man that I want in my command is just like the lieutenant in Libya, who, with a Luger against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the gun aside with one hand, and busted the hell out of the Kraut with his helmet. Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another German before they knew what the hell was coming off. And, all of that time, this man had a bullet through a lung. There was a real man!

Every single man in this army has a job to do and he must do it. Every man is a vital link in the great chain. What if every truck driver suddenly decided that he didn't like the whine of those shells overhead, turned yellow, and jumped headlong into a ditch? The cowardly bastard could say, "Hell, they won't miss me, just one man in thousands." But, what if every man thought that way? Where in the hell would we be now? What would our country, our loved ones, our homes, even the world, be like? No, goddamnit, Americans don't think like that. Every man does his job, serves the whole. Ordnance men are needed to supply the guns and machinery of war to keep us rolling. Quartermasters are needed to bring up food and clothes because where we are going there isn't a hell of a lot to steal. Every last man on KP has a job to do, even the one who heats our water to keep us from getting the "GI Shits." Each man must not think only of himself, but also of his buddy fighting beside him.

One of the bravest men that I ever saw was a fellow on top of a telegraph pole in the midst of a furious firefight in Tunisia. I stopped and asked what the hell he was doing up there at a time like that, He answered, "Fixing the wire, Sir." I asked, "Isn't that a little unhealthy right about now?" He answered, "Yes, Sir, but the goddamned wire has to be fixed." I asked, "Don't those planes strafing the road bother you?" And he answered, "No, Sir, but you sure as hell do!"

Now, there was a real man. A real soldier. There was a man who devoted all he had to his duty, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty might appear at the time, no matter how great the odds. And you should have seen those trucks on the road to Tunisia. Those drivers were magnificent. All day and all night they rolled over those son-of-a-bitch-ing roads, never stopping, never faltering from their course, with shells bursting all around them all of the time. We got through on good old American guts. Many of those men drove for over forty consecutive hours. These men weren't combat men, but they were soldiers with a job to do. They did it, and in one hell of a way they did it. They were part of a team. Without team effort, without them, the fight would have been lost. All of the links in the chain pulled together and the chain became unbreakable.

Remember, men, you men don't know I'm here. No mention of that fact is to be made in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what the hell happened to me. I'm not supposed to be commanding this army.

I'm not even supposed to be here in England. Let the first bastards to find out be the goddamn Germans. We want to get the hell over there. The quicker we clean up this mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the Japanese and clean out their nest, too. Before the goddamn Marines get all of the credit.

Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper-hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I'd shoot a snake!

When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a German will get to him eventually. The hell with that idea. The hell with taking it. My men don't dig foxholes. I don't want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don't give the enemy time to dig one either. We'll win this war, but we'll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we've got more guts than they have; or ever will have.

War is a bloody, killing business. You've got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it's the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you'll know what to do!

I don't want to get any messages saying, "I am holding my position." We are not holding a goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding on to anything, except the enemy's balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy.

From time to time there will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don't give a good goddamn about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder we push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that.

There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now, when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you won't have to shift him to the other knee, cough, and say, "Well, your granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana." No, sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, "Son, your granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a son-of-a-goddamned-bitch named Georgie Patton!"

That is all.

Browse more of history's greatest speeches →

About the author

Daniel Scrivner is an award-winner designer and angel investor. He's led design work at Apple, Square, and now ClassDojo. He's an early investor in Notion,, and Anduril. He founded Ligature: The Design VC and Outlier Academy. Daniel has interviewed the world’s leading founders and investors including Scott Belsky, Luke Gromen, Kevin Kelly, Gokul Rajaram, and Brian Scudamore.

Last updated
Dec 16, 2023

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