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“Patton and the Third Army” is an episode of the documentary series “The Twentieth Century” originally airing March 20, 1960. Hosted by revered newsman Walter Cronkite, the program looks at “Old Blood and Guts” — US Army General George S. Patton — who is first seen at mark 00:30 in full dress uniform addressing an assembled crowd. That is followed by archival footage from World War II and scenes of Patton (mark 02:10) from November 1942 as he leads his Third Army into North Africa during his first campaign. By spring 1943 most of the Germany troops have been overrun thanks to his aggressive, “almost medieval” style of attack.
Patton’s tanks are shown rolling through the sand until the general is again shown at mark 03:30 arriving in Sicily to command of the Seventh Army during the Allied invasion in 1943. Patton meets with his “natural rival” British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery at mark 04:25, and at mark 04:48, US Army General S.L.A. Marshal, a combat historian, recounts an infamous incident in Sicily where Patton slapped two shell-shocked soldiers under his command and was temporarily removed from battlefield command. The incident was linked to Patton’s “physical repulsion to men he thought to be cowardly,” Marshall says.
By mark 07:10, Patton is returned to command the Third Army following the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, where he led a highly successful rapid armored drive across France, including liberating 40,000 square miles in just seven weeks. Battle scenes are interspersed with images of American soldiers being joyfully greeted by residents who offer hugs and handshakes (mark 09:00). During a respite from the fight, Patton conducts an inspection of his troops at mark 11:33 as he is joined by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and later dines with Ike and General Omar Bradley. The film moves on with images from the Battle of Metz in France (mark 13:34), although strong German resistance resulted in heavy casualties for both side. At mark 16:15 is is shown leading the relief of beleaguered American troops at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and advance his Third Army into Nazi Germany by the end of the war. German soldiers are shown surrendering as Allied troops eventually enter concentration camps to view the atrocities, shown at mark 19:36.
“You don’t have to be dead to be a hero,” Patton explains at mark 21:38 as the film returns to assembled crowd shown at the opening. “People always talk about the heroic dead but goddammit there are a lot of heroic alive ones.” He assumes command of the 15th Army at mark 22:53, and Cronkite explains that although Patton had expected a glorious death in battle, the general’s demise would actually come as the result of an automobile accident shortly after the end of WW2.
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