Did General George S. Patton describe himself as "an utter, craven coward"?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 13 17:29:16 UTC 2013

I received a request to trace a quotation attributed to General George
S. Patton in which he referred to himself as an "utter craven coward."
Patton died in 1945. I have located an interesting instance of the
quote in the Chicago Tribune in 1962. But this match seems to be
isolated before 1990, and the writer is apparently repeating testimony
from a person named T. V. Smith.

JL, you found key citations for the famous "dumb bastard" quote
attributed to Patton, so you may have examined other Patton quotes.
Also, you may have read material from Patton as part of your military
literature project. Have you seen this Patton attributed quote before?
Do you have any opinions about its plausibility?

Patton did treat the theme of soldiers experiencing fear in his
"Speech to the Third Army".

Perhaps other list members can find illuminating citations for this
quote. Maybe T. V. Smith wrote about it in a memoir.

[ref] 1962 April 23, Chicago Tribune, Living Faith by Harold Blake
Walker, Quote Page 4, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)[/ref]
[Begin excerpt]

IN WORLD WAR II DAYS when Dr. T. V. Smith, then a colonel in the army,
was serving as a military governor, he met Gen. George S. Patton in
Sicily. Dr. Smith congratulated the general on his success as a tank
commander and spoke with approval of Patton's courage and bravery.
"Colonel," the general replied, "I am not a brave man.... The truth
is, I am an utter, craven coward."

Dr. Smith expressed astonishment, and Gen. Patton went on, "I never
have been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my
whole life that I wasn't so scared that I had sweat in the palms of my

The general's comments seemed like boasting in reverse, until later,
when the war was over, Dr. Smith noted a sentence in Gen. Patton's
autobiography that shed light on the behavior of the man in spite of
the fears that beset him. Patton wrote, "I learned very early in my
life never to take counsel of my fears." So, it is one thing to be
afraid, but it is something else to reject the counsel of our fears.
[End excerpt]


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