“In my opinion, the M1 Rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.”

Letter from Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. to Chief of Ordnance Lt. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr., (January 26, 1945)


Most of you have probably read or heard of the quote above. But most of you have probably never read Patton’s comments of the Garand in context with his views on infantry tactics. Instead of promoting the concept of an accurate, full-caliber battle rifle and the discipline of “One Shot, One Kill”, it appears that Patton would have adored the modern assault rifle in terms of the tactics he advocated. The only downside was that at the time, the US didn’t produce a Sturmgewehr of its own design. (One can argue as to where the M1 Carbine falls between the SMG and Sturmgewehr, but Patton would not have publicly praised the Stg44. It simply wasn’t his habit to promote the superiority of enemy weapons over their US counterparts.)

Also, note how many of Patton’s comments on tactics would appear to be vindicated by the later ORO and BRL studies which led to the creation of Project SALVO and later the AR15/M16 rifle.


CONFIDENTIAL

Headquarters
Third United States Army
APO 403 U.S. Army

3 April, 1944
Subject: Letter of Instruction Number 2
To: Corps, Division, and Separate Unit Commanders

III. Tactical Usages

1. General
a. Combat Principles
(3) In battle, casualties vary directly with the time you are exposed to effective fire. Your own fire reduces the effectiveness and volume of the enemy’s fire, while rapidity of attack shortens the time of exposure. A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.

(4) Battles are won by frightening the enemy. Fear is induced by inflicting death and wounds upon him. Death and wounds are produced by fire. Fire from the rear is more deadly and three times more effective than fire from the front, but to get fire behind the enemy, you must hold him by frontal fire and move rapidly around his flank. Frontal attacks against prepared positions should be avoided if possible.

2. Infantry
a. Infantry must move in order to close with the enemy. It must shoot in order to move. When physical targets are not available, the fire of all infantry weapons must search the area occupied by enemy. Use marching fire. It reduces the accuracy of his fire and increases our confidence. Shoot short. Ricochets make nastier sounds and wounds. To halt under fire is folly. To halt under fire and not fire back is suicide. Move forward out of fire….

b. The heavy weapons set the pace. In the battalion the heavy weapons company paces the battalion. In the regiment the cannon company paces the regiment, but it is the function of the rifles and the light machine guns to see that the heavy weapons have a chance to move. In other words, the rifles and machine guns move the heavy weapons in to do the killing.

f. The M-1 rifle is the most deadly rifle in the world. If you cannot see the enemy, you can at least shoot at the place where he is apt to be.

G.S. Patton, Jr.
Lt. General U.S. Army, Commanding


The following is from “War as I Knew It” (Published posthumously: 1947)


Part Three: Retrospect

Chapter 1: Reflections and Suggestions

I

Concerning the Soldier

The only time it is proper for a soldier to drop is when he is caught at short range – under three hundred yards – by concentrated small-arms. But even then he must not hit the dirt and stay supine. He must hoot fast at the enemy, or in the direction of the enemy, because it is true now as when Farragut stated it in the Civil War that “The best armor (and the best defense) is a rapid and well-directed fire.”

In the days when the chief small-arms fire on the battlefield was delivered by rifles, it may have been necessary to advance by rushing in order to build up the firing line. Today, when the chief small-arms fire on the battlefield and the majority of neutralizing fire is delivered by machine guns, mortars, and artillery, there is no advantage in advancing by rushes, because, until you get within three hundred yard, small arms fire has very little effect, where as when you lie down between rushes you expose yourself to the effects of shrapnel. When you get to three hundred yards, your own small-arms fire, which is superior to anything now existing or which will probably ever exist, will neutralize that of enemy small-arms fire, so that you do not have to advance by rushes.

Marching Fire: The proper way to advance, particularly for troops armed with that magnificent weapon, the M-1 rifle, is to utilize marching fire and keep moving. This fire can be delivered from the shoulder, but it is just as effective if delivered with the butt of the rifle halfway between the belt and the armpit. One round should be fired every two to three paces. The whistle of the bullets, the scream of the ricochet, and the dust, twigs, and branches which are knocked from the ground and the trees have such an effect on the enemy that his small-arms fire becomes negligible.

Furthermore, the fact that you are shootings adds to your self-confidence, because you feel that you are doing something, and are not sitting like a duck in a bathtub being shot at.

I think, if we should say that “Fire is the Queen of Battle,” we should avoid arm arguments and come nearer telling the truth. Battle are won by fire and by movement. The purpose of the movement is to get the fire in a more advantageous place to play on the enemy. This is from the rear or flank.

Every soldier should realize that casualties in battle are the result of two factors: first, effective enemy fire, and second, the time in which the soldier is exposed to that fire. The enemy’s effectiveness in fire is reduced by your fire or by night attacks. The time that you are exposed is reduced by the rapidity of your advance.”

II

Small Unit Tactics

Fire on Infested Areas: Owing to the pernicious traditions of our known distance rifle marksmanship, we are prone to hold our fire until we see targets. In battle, these are seldom visible. When any group of soldiers is under small-arms fire, it is evident that the enemy can see them; therefore, men should be able to see the enemy, but seldom are. When this situation arises, they must fire at the portions of the hostile terrain which probably conceal enemy small-arms weapons. I know for a fact that such procedure invariably produces an effect and generally stops hostile fire. Always remember that it is much better to waste ammunition than lives. It takes at least eighteen years to produce a soldier, and only a few months to produce ammunition.

IV

Command

Fire Power: There can never be too many projectiles in a battle.

V

General

Use of Sight: The peep-sight is not adapted to warfare, since it is inefficient in the dark, or in a bad light. I have met only three or four officers, out of hundreds questioned, who have ever seen a soldier set a sight in battle. Therefore, our rifles should be equipped with two open sighs – one for the range of one hundred yards, one for the range of three hundred yards. This will insure that the soldier shoots low and will correct for the fact that in the excitement of battle he always takes too much front sight.

Gun Slings: The same officers whom I questioned on the sight informed me that they had never seen a gun sling used, except on two occasions by snipers, as an aid to firing. Therefore, the heavy and expensive leather gun sling should be dispensed with and a cloth sling, used solely for the purpose of carrying the piece, should be substituted.

5 Comments

  1. Shawn says:

    yeah, to me his praise of the M1 loses most of its cred when he says things ilke the 105 howitzer was superior to the German 88 or that the sherman was better. I know he knew better but would never have admitted it. Its a hyperbolic statement, and that’s fine. Patton was like Trump in that way. Im sure trump would have been telling the media he would have Driant taken in 4 hours had he been in Patton’s place in WW2 , and we know how that went. The M1 is still a fine rifle and superior to the M14

    Like

    1. John M. says:

      “I know he knew better but would never have admitted it.”

      I mean, he can’t not have known that man-for-man the Germans gave a lot better than they got. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but a lot of Trumpian puffery also. In the context of the war itself, like you say, what benefit was there to tell his men, “Hey, you guys are getting cut up by the Germans and your weapons are pretty much B-grade compared to theirs, but keep after them, boys!”?

      Like

    2. Matt says:

      I don’t know of a referance or context for the 105 being better than the 88.

      I will say that they are very different systems. The 88 is a high velocity AA gun adapted to direct fire and AT; the 105 is a more traditional field artillery for indirect or direct fire and has a more useful HE round.

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      1. Shawn says:

        he expressed in the full text that all weapons and armaments the US fielded was better. Did you read it all?

        Like

  2. BAP45 says:

    Now that was some interesting opinions. He actually sounds quite modern and I think your right about him loving an assault rifle.

    Like

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