America's Greatest Maverick Leader
II. Know History
Patton studied history—particularly military history—from Darius the Great to Frederick the Great and beyond. If something worked 1000 years ago, Patton could make it work in modern warfare.
For example, in the 1920s Patton and his wife, Beatrice, took a motor trip through France and followed the route of William the Conqueror in the 11th century. He kept track of his journey on a Michelin tourist map. Fast forward to 1944 and Third Army's legendary dash through France. The Germans didn't have a clue what Patton was doing or where he would turn up next.
Instead of relying on recently constructed highways, Patton dusted off his old Michelin map and lead his armies along the route that he took in the 1920s. He figured that if these back roads were still around after 800 years they would stand up under his heavy armor and wouldn't wash out in the spring rains. He wrote:
I have studied the German all of my life. I have read the memoirs of his generals and political leaders. I have even read his philosophers and listened to his music. I have studied in detail the accounts of every damned one of his battles. I know exactly how he will react under any given set of circumstances. He hasn't the slightest idea of what I'm going to do Therefore, when the time comes, I 'm going to whip the Hell out of him.
III. Be Seen
"The more senior the officer," Patton wrote, "the more time he has to go to the front." Patton reveled in being out with the troops. In his splendid biography, "PATTON: A Genius for War," Carlo D'Este described the general's leadership strategy during the the Battle of the Bulge:
More than ever, Patton made it a point to be seen during the Bulge, always riding in an open armored jeep. The cold was so intense that most soldiers dressed in as many layers of clothing as they could manage, but Patton's only concession to the glacial temperatures was a heavy winter parka or an overcoat. He spent little time in his headquarters and most of each day on the road to see and be seen by his troops, and to endure the same wretched conditions. Daily he prowled the roads of the Ardennes, sitting ramrod stiff, often with his arms folded, his face unsmiling. More than once his face froze. Word of his presence managed to filter through the amazing GI grapevine with astonishing rapidity, as did his words of praise for his troops, which were invariably reported down through the chain of command: "The Old Man says ... " or "Georgie says ... " However, Patton could not indulge in his long-standing habit of driving to the front and flying home, out of sight of the troops, and one cold, dark, miserable afternoon he encountered a column of the 4th Armored moving toward Bastogne. Tanks and vehicles were sliding off the road in the thick ice. Someone recognized Patton and let out a shout that began to roll down the column as soldiers in trucks and tanks began cheering. After the war a GI told Beatrice: "Oh, yes, I knew him, though I only saw him once. We was stuck in the snow and he came by in a jeep. His face was awful red and he must have been about froze riding in that open jeep. He yelled to us to get out and push, and first I knew, there was General Patton pushing right alongside of me. Sure, I knew him; he never asked a man to do what he wouldn't do himself."