"" Behind Their Lines: Patton's Poetry

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Patton's Poetry

Patton in France, 1918 : Army Signal Corps photo 

“I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” 

The above quotation is commonly misattributed to U.S. General George S. Patton – it was spoken by George C. Scott in the 1970 film Patton, but its origin is likely a First World War poem by TWS Crosland, whose last lines read,
And you must neither boast nor quake,
   Though big guns roar and whizz-bangs whizz—
Don’t die for your dear country’s sake,
     But let the other chap die for his.

Though better known for his military service in World War II, Patton fought with the American Expeditionary Force in the First World War.  As commander of the 1st Provisional Tank Brigade, he  led troops of tanks at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, where he was wounded at Cheppy. 

And here's a surprising historical fact: Patton was also an enthusiastic writer of poetry (collected by Carmen A. Prioli in The Poems of General George S. Patton, Jr: Lines of Fire).  His poem dedicated to the tanks he admired and commanded is one of his quirkier efforts. 

The Precious Babies (1918)

American tank troops, Meuse-Argonne 1918
Up and down the roadways,
through the German ranks,
Nosing out machine guns,
come the baby tanks.

Scrambling through the crater,
splashing through the pool,
Like the Usher’s happy boys,
bounding out of school.

Fritz is great on wirefields,
trust the Boche for that,
But his choicest efforts
fall extremely flat.

Amigurumi Crochet Army Tank Pajama Bag 
Wasted in the weaving
of laborious days,
When the merry infant class
scampers through the maze.

Cheerful little children
of an American brain,
Winning ravished country
back to France again.

On thru town and village,
shepherded by Yanks
Romping, blithe and rollicking,
roll the baby tanks.
            —George Patton

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