General George S. Patton was a walking quotation machine. His colorful image, hard-driving personality, and success as a military commander were at times overshadowed by numerous controversial public statements. On top of that, he is often difficult to understand, in part, because he is almost a one-of-a-kind historical figure, and because a senior military officer in the United States, like Patton, could not exist today. In my over three decades of military service, the only officer I saw that possessed even a small Pattonesque persona was General Norm Schwarzkopf. And today? George Patton wasn’t “woke”; and the military establishment would have prevented him from even sniffing a promotion to flag rank, let alone ever achieving that.
Be that as it may, Patton made some remarkable observations, one of which would become true concerning Company B of the 39th Infantry Regiment. One evening, in a tent with other officers, during the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers, a pensive Patton shared his thoughts on the war he knew would surely come:
“I’m worried because I’m not sure this country can field a fighting army at this stage in our history. We’ve pampered and confused our youth. We’ve talked too much about rights and not enough about duties. Now we’ve got to try and make them attack and kill. A big percentage of our men won’t be worth a goddam to us. Many a brave soldier will lose his life unnecessarily because the man next to him turns yellow. We’re going to have to dig down deep to find our hard core of scrappers. That takes time and time is short.”
As George would later see first-hand, the 39th Infantry Regiment on a large scale, and Company B within it, would be a key part of “our hard core of scrappers.”