The most contentious of command rivalries during World War II involved General George S. Patton, Jr., of the U.S. Army and British Army Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery. Their squabbles, in the field and in the press of the day, have been recounted many times in books and on the silver screen. These were two egocentric leaders whose command decisions shaped the outcome of the war, for better or worse. Those who admire them offer continuing praise. Critics often see them as driven by the need for personal glory, at times placing themselves above the mission.
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Patton’s Lust for Fame
A Californian by birth, Patton had ties to the Old South. His grandfather, a Confederate colonel, was killed in action at the Third Battle of Winchester in 1864. Patton graduated 46th in the Class of 1909 at the U.S. Military Academy, finished fifth in the modern pentathlon in the 1912 Olympic Games, and was an early advocate of the tank in the U.S. Army. Wounded in combat during World War I, he became fast friends with Dwight Eisenhower in the 1930s. During World War II, Patton whipped the U.S. II Corps into shape in North Africa and led Seventh Army during the Sicily Campaign, racing up the coast to the city of Palermo and then to Messina ahead of Montgomery.