Patton's speech to units within Third Army were directed to the private.
It was directed in a language he thought would appeal to them. Appearing
to be extemporaneous, the speech was actually a well rehearsed
performance. The Patton Museum has several copies of the speech dating
from March to May. Patton kept no record of the speech. Each was copied
by someone in the audience. The variations in the text may have come
from the recorder or Patton's variation in the presentation. With minor
variations such as "toughest boxer" for "All American football teams"
and cowards should die like "rats" or like "flies," each version of the
speech is remarkably consistent.
Men, this stuff we hear about America
wanting to stay out of the war, not wanting to fight, is a lot of
bullshit. Americans love to fight - traditionally. All real Americans
love the sting and clash of battle. When you were kids, you all admired
the champion marble player; the fastest runner; the big league ball
players; the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not
tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win - all
the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed.
That's why Americans have never lost, not ever will lose a war, for the
very thought of losing is hateful to an American.
You are not all going to die. Only two
percent of you here today would die in a major battle. Death must not be
feared. Every man is frightened at first in battle. If he says he isn't,
he's a goddamn liar. Some men are cowards, yes! But they fight just the
same, or get the hell shamed out of them watching men who do fight who
are just as scared. The real hero is the man who fights even though he
is scared. Some get over their fright in a minute under fire, some take
an hour. For some it takes days. But the real man never lets fear of
death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to this country and his
All through your army career you men have
bitched about "This chickenshit drilling." That is all for a purpose.
Drilling and discipline must be maintained in any army if for only one
reason -- INSTANT OBEDIENCE TO ORDERS AND TO CREATE CONSTANT ALERTNESS.
I don't give a damn for a man who is not always on his toes. You men are
veterans or you wouldn't be here. You are ready. A man to continue
breathing must be alert at all times. If not, sometime a German
son-of-a-bitch will sneak up behind him and beat him to death with a
sock full of shit.
There are 400 neatly marked graves
somewhere in Sicily all because one man went to sleep on his job -- but
they were German graves for we caught the bastard asleep before his
officers did. An Army is a team. Lives, sleeps, eats, fights as a team.
This individual heroic stuff is a lot of crap. The bilious bastards who
wrote that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don't know any
more about real fighting, under fire, than they do about fucking. We
have the best food, the finest equipment, the best spirit and the best
fighting men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity these poor
sons-of-bitches we are going up against. By God, I do!
My men don't surrender. I don't want to
hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he is hit.
Even if you are hit, you can still fight. That's not just bullshit,
either. The kind of man I want under me is like the lieutenant in Libya,
who, with a Lugar against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the
gun aside with one hand and busted hell out of the Boche with the
helmet. Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another
German: All this with a bullet through his lung. That's a man for you.
All real heroes are not story book combat
fighters either. Every man in the army plays a vital part. Every little
job is essential. Don't ever let down, thinking your role is
unimportant. Every man has a job to do. Every man is a link in the great
chain. What if every truck driver decided that he didn't like the whine
of the shells overhead, turned yellow and jumped headlong into the
ditch? He could say to himself, "They won't miss me -- just one in
thousands." What if every man said that? Where in hell would we be now?
No, thank God, Americans don't say that! Every man does his job; every
man serves the whole. Every department, every unit, is important to the
vast scheme of things. The Ordnance men are needed to supply the guns,
the Quartermaster to bring up the food and clothes to us -- for where
we're going there isn't a hell of a lot to steal. Every last man in the
mess hall, even the one who heats the water to keep us from getting the
GI shits has a job to do. Even the chaplain is important, for if we get
killed and if he is not there to bury us we'd all go to hell.
Each man must not only think of himself,
but of his buddy fighting beside him. We don't want yellow cowards in
this army. They should all be killed off like flies. If not they will go
back home after the war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed
brave men. Kill off the goddamn cowards and we'll have a nation of brave
One of the bravest men I ever saw in the
African campaign was the fellow I saw on top of a telegraph pole in the
midst of furious fire while we were plowing toward Tunis. I stopped and
asked what the hell he was doing up there at that time. He answered,
"Fixing the wire, sir." "Isn't it a little unhealthy right now?," I
asked. "Yes sir, but this goddamn wire's got to be fixed." There was a
real soldier. There was a man who devoted all he had to his duty, no
matter how great the odds, no matter how seemingly insignificant his
duty might appear at the time.
You should have seen those trucks on the
road to Gabes. The drivers were magnificent. All day and all night they
rolled over those son-of-a-bitching roads, never stopping, never
faltering from their course, with shells bursting around them all the
time. We got through on good old American guts. Many of these men drove
over forty consecutive hours. These weren't combat men. But they were
soldiers with a job to do. They did it -- and in a whale of a way they
did it. They were part of a team. Without them the fight would have been
lost. All the links in the chain pulled together and that chain became
Don't forget, you don't know I'm here. No
word of the fact is to be mentioned in any letters. The world is not
supposed to know what the hell became of me. I'm not supposed to be
commanding this Army. I'm not even supposed to be in England. Let the
first bastards to find out be the goddamn Germans. Someday I want them
to raise up on their hind legs and howl, "Jesus Christ, it's the goddamn
Third Army and that son-of-a-bitch Patton again."
We want to get the hell over there. We
want to get over there and clear the goddamn thing up. You can't win a
war lying down. The quicker we clean up this goddamn mess, the quicker
we can take a jaunt against the purple pissing Japs an clean their nest
out too, before the Marines get all the goddamn credit.
Sure, we all want to be home. We want
this thing over with. The quickest way to get it over is to get the
bastards. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we go home. The
shortest way home is through Berlin. When a man is lying in a shell
hole, if he just stays there all day, a Boche will get him eventually,
and 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. We'll win this war but
we'll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans we've got more
guts than they have.
There is one great thing you men will all
be able to say when you go home. You may thank God for it. Thank God,
that at least, thirty years from now, when you are sitting around the
fireside with your grandson on your knees, and he asks you what you did
in the great war, you won't have to cough and say, "I shoveled shit in
From the Patton museum: