Last year, as both a candidate and the president-elect, Donald J. Trump frequently cited General George Patton as an inspiration for his mission to “make America great again.” In a May 2016 speech attacking Hillary Clinton’s congenitally atrocious judgment, Trump emphasized that his top-ranked generals, including Patton and Douglas MacArthur, would never publicly complain about America’s military weaknesses.
In December 2016, when Trump nominated James “Mad Dog” Mattis as Secretary of Defense, the president-elect praised the retired Marine general as the “closest thing we have to General Patton.”
When President Trump travels to Brussels next month just before Memorial Day to attend a NATO meeting, he should visit the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg City (132 miles from Brussels), where General Patton and 5,075 other Americans are buried.
General Patton died of injuries sustained in an automobile accident in December 1945, seven months after V-E Day. Many of the other American heroes resting eternally in peace in the Luxembourg Cemetery were killed in the epic Battle of the Bulge between December 16, 1944 and January 26, 1945, which is the bloodiest battle in American military history, with 81,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed in action, 15,000 captured and 47,000 wounded.
The German breakthrough occurred in the southern sector of General Courtney Hodges’ First Army, and on December 19, 1944, three days after the counteroffensive was launched, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied armies on the Western Front, called an emergency meeting with his top generals. When Eisenhower asked Patton, whose Third Army was attacking the Germans south of the embattled American First Army, “when can you attack” the southern salient of the German penetration, Patton replied on the “morning of December 22 with three divisions.”
General Patton’s promised lightning re-deployment fortified a “stunned and disheartened” General Eisenhower and his leading lieutenants, who quickly shed their pessimism that the “balance of the war had dramatically changed to favor the Germans,” according to Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett’s superb book “A War To Be Won: Fighting The Second World War.”
General Patton kept his word and on December 22, his III Corps – consisting of the Fourth Armored Division and the 26th and 80th Infantry divisions – had been disengaged from an attack on the Germans on the Lorraine-Saarland border, had rushed 100 miles to the west and north, and began an assault to relieve 101st Airborne Division and other American units surrounded in Bastogne, Belgium.
On December 26, 1944, a tank force of the Fourth AD, headed by Lt. Col. Creighton Abrams (who in 1968 was appointed commanding general of American forces in the Vietnam, and four years later the Army chief of staff), broke through the southern cordon around Bastogne. Five days later, General Patton’s Sixth Armored (the division my father had joined in November 1944), arrived in Bastogne, passed through the Fourth AD and spearheaded the counterattack that over the next three weeks wrecked the German Army and drove it out of Belgium.
The intensity of the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge is exemplified by the 1,542 battlefield casualties that the 10,000-soldier Sixth AD incurred in its one month of fighting, which accounted for 29 percent of its total 5,042 battlefield casualties in its nearly nine months of continuous combat from Normandy to the Mulde River, a tributary of the Elbe.
In August 1961 when I was 11 years old, I accompanied my father, mother and older brother, and a dozen other Sixth AD veterans and their families, on the division’s first return trip (organized by my parents) to the European battlefields. We attended a memorial service in Bastogne, officiated by the current mayor and the mayor in 1945, and then we drove over to the nearby American Cemetery in Luxembourg to pay our respects to General Patton and the more than 150 Sixth AD soldiers buried there.
By contrast, in the 71 years since General Patton’s death, I can find no evidence that any of the 12 presidents between Harry Truman (sworn into office after President Franklin Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945) and Barack Obama ever visited the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg. However, in July 1946, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the war, visited the cemetery and paid his respects to General Patton.
Unfortunately, as compared to President Donald J. Trump, Barack Obama repeatedly lied to the American people that his maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, fought in General Patton’s mighty Third Army. In a speech to an anti-Iraq War rally in Chicago in October 2002, Obama, then a junior member of the Illinois state senate, falsely claimed that his grandfather “fought in Patton’s army.” In an October 2012 campaign speech in Ohio, the day after his second presidential debate with Republican Mitt Romney, President Obama again lied that his grandfather “fought in Patton’s army.”
In reality, an Associated Press article in June 2009 by Nancy Benac authoritatively documents that Dunham served in the 1830th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Company, and he was never in combat. Benac also proves that Dunham spent his entire eight months on the European continent exclusively in France, mostly attached to Hodges’ First Army, and thus he never “marched across Europe” in Patton’s Third Army, as Obama falsely claimed in his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
The last word on the Third Army’s Napoleonic advances between August 1, 1944 and May 9, 1945, whose twin engines were the Fourth and Sixth armored divisions, rightfully belongs General Patton and the encomium (General Orders No. 98) that he sent to the “soldiers of the Third Army, past and present” on V-E Day:
During the 281 days of incessant and victorious combat, your penetrations have advanced farther in less time than any army in history…Prior to the termination of active hostilities, you had captured in battle 960,000 enemy soldiers and killed or wounded at least 500,000 others. France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia bear witness to your exploits…In proudly contemplating our achievements, let us never forget our heroic dead whose graves mark the course of our victorious advances, nor our wounded whose sacrifices aided so much to our success…The one honor which is mine and mine alone is that of having commanded such an incomparable group of Americans, the record of whose fortitude, audacity and valor will endure as long as history lasts.