Lot 111

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PATTON, GEORGE. (1885-1945). American army officer and pioneer of tank warfare during World War I; as one of America’s leading generals during WWII, he contributed enormously to the Allied victory; nicknamed “Old Blood and Guts.” TMsS. (“G.S. Patton Jr.”). 2pp. 4to. N.p., N.d. (August-October 1918). Historic typed manuscript entitled “Notes on the procedure of Center or Battalion Commanders when ordered to the front for active opperations” [sic]. Accompanied by a two-page typescript entitled “Movements” signed by SERENO E. BRETT (1891-1952, “Sereno E. Brett”), Patton’s Aide-de-camp and an expert in tank warfare, from whose papers this piece originated. Patton’s dyslexia is evident in his idiosyncratic writing and punctuation, which has not been corrected.

“Assume that you are here at BOURG and you receive orders to report to the C.G, 1st Divisions to take part in offensive opperations. [sic]

1st. Issue the orders for departure and see that your supply officer has arranged for the necessary traines [sic.], supplies, rations, and ammunition. In the order for departure you must fix the order in which your several units will entrain.

2d. Taking your R.O. as an assistant supply officer leave by auto for the Hq. 1st Division. Report to the commanding General and ask him the sector of his attack and his directing line. Now by talking with his staff get sufficient data to locate approximately your detraining point. If you do not yet know where you are to fight as is probably the case. Locate the detraining point as well forward in the center of the zone as may be. Wire this information to BOURG.

3d. Now by studying the map locate that portion of the line which from the map appears most suitable. Locate a second part less suitable and a third least suitable. Go over these sectors in the order named on the ground with your R.O. thus checking up your original conclusions and often changing them.

4th. With the data thus collected go to the C.G. and say to him in substance. Here are the places best suited for tanks which of them conforms to your plan for the other arms. If he picks one which is absolutely impossible for tanks tell him so. It is you who are responsible for the loss of the tanks. If he insists you must obey but try to have your R.O. present at the interview to support your statements in view of failure. Usually generals who will ask for tanks will feel the special need of them and will be reasonable. Having left the general you will know where you are to attack. Your R.O. must get all the maps of this sector he can from G.2 also air photos and intelligence summaries.

5th. You are now in a position to definitely select your assembly point. (The place where the tanks gather the night after they detrain.) The selection of this point is governed by the congestion of the roades [sic]. The nearness of the day for the attack. And cover. You can almost invariably select your assembly point from the map now have your R.O. examine carefully the road leading from the detraining point. In this connection remember that ten miles by road is better at night than six miles accross [sic] country. For two reasons. The tracks of tanks accross [sic] country are impossible to hide. You may get lost. Tanks do not run down the middle of the road but follow it along the side. If you have changed the point for detraining be sure and wire the tanks. The S.O. who came with you must now get supplies to the Assembly Point.

6. Now carefully examine on the ground the sector allotted you by the C.G. for the attack. First select your departure positions tentatively that is all the favorable locations for the tanks to take off from on the morning of the attack. If you do not know the H hour you must consider positions which give concealment by day light as well as positions which can be occupied at night with no concealment.

7. Now select your position in readiness. that is an intermediate position between your position of assembly and that of departure. The considerations governing the selection of this place are that it must be so near the departure position that you can reach them with ease during the hours of darkness preceding the day of battle. That it must afford concealment and room in case you have to occupy it several days. That it is not a place which the Germans have formed the habit of shelling. That it is not a point distinctly marked on any French maps because since the Germans have these maps they can easily get the range of such a place and shell it with accuracy if any thing there arouses their suspicion. (Examples. The intersection of two large roades. [sic] A church steeple. A grade crossing on a R.R.)

8th. Now tentatively allot to each unit of your command sectors of attack. The O.R.’s of these units should precede them and examine roads leading from the position in readiness to their several positions of departure. The R.O. of your staff must select the road from the assembly position to the position in readiness. If the units of your cammand [sic] are battalions of larger the R.O1/4.’s [sic] of these units must also locate suitable places between the Position in readiness and the departure position for the placing of the repair sections of their commands the day of the battle.

9. The supply officer must arrange for supplies to be placed at the position in readiness. He must also have a harrow or brush at the detraining point to be draged [sic] behind the last tank to cover up the marks made by the tanks on leaving the R.R. This is most important and failure to comply will result in visits from German aeroplanes.

10.th. If time permits all officers and tank commanders should examine the roades [sic.] from the position in readiness to the departure position. All R.O.’s. must study the hostile terraine [sic.] to by [sic] croossed [sic] by their units and correct their maps in every way. Information from prisoners, refugees and by air photos. If there is still time they must continue their reconnassance [sic] of all the sector and know the ground so that in case of a hostile attack they can counter attack with certainty of what they are doing. You cannot know too much of the ground. Reconnassance is vital to tanks. The next notes will deal with the proocedure [sic] of officers just before the attack…”

Brett’s typescript follows:

1.On receipt of orders to move into the theatre of operations:
(a) Secure rail transportation from R.T.O., or camp transportation officer.
(b) Check all tanks and equipment.
(c) Secure spare parts.
(d) Check personal equipment of officers and men.
(e) Secure motor transportation including water carts & kitchens.
(f) Open war diary.
(g) At entraining point: Have ramps ready, park tanks under guard, have gas, oil and grease for three fills, have rations and heavy company property.
(h) Dispatch motor train.
(i) If possible go to theatre of operations by motor in advance of unit and:
(1) Establish detraining point after conference with G-1 or G-4
(2) Establish No.1 position as near the front as possible consistant [sic.] with protection and concealment.
[in pencil] Recon officers Bn Cdrs.
2. When the unit arrives:
(a) Unload and conceal in No. 1 position at night.
(b) Store ramps where they can be found for future use.
(c) Work on tanks every spare moment.
(d) Visit G-4 and secure:
(1) Priority road rights.
(2) Secure safe conduct pass through all lines.
(3) Secure road priviliges [sic].
(f) Visit G-1 and:
(1) Get railhead assignment.
(2) Arrange for gass [sic] and oil supply.
(3) Arrange for ammunition supply.
(4) Arrange for clothing.
(5) Arrange for rations.
(6) Secure at least one ambulance for each battalion.
(7) Arrange for billeting area.
(g) Visit G-2 and:
(1) Secure all information he has of the enemy and terrain.
(2) Secure large and small scale maps, also any special maps he may have.
(3) Secure air maps and mosaics.
(h) Visit the Chief of Staff and:
(1) Secure one battery of quick firing guns per 1000 yds.
(2) One air plane per 1000 yds.
(3) Give him a list of short, positive statements concerning co-operation with tanks and request him to publish it to the troops.
(4) Secure engineers.
(i) Visit Chief Signal Officer and:
(1) Give him your lines of approach to No.2 position and beyond.
(2) Secure permission to use his lines or axis of liason [sic].
(3) Secure pidgeons [sic] and any other special signal equipment.
(j) Have all reconnaissance officers out day and night on reconnaissane [sic] of:
(1) Lines of approach.
(2) Enemy territory
(3) Our territory.
(4) Prepare special maps.
(5) Study air photos.
(k) Establish supply train to…
(l) Establish forward dump No.2 of:
(1) Gas, oil and grease.
(2) Ammunition.
(3) Food.
(4) Water (if necessary)
(m) Establish liason [sic] with various headquarters and in larger headquarters place a representative.
(n) Have junior officers visit organizations with whom they are to co-operate.
(o) Arrange to have spare parts tanks follow attack.
(q) Prepare passages across our trenches.
(r) Write your orders.

3. Moving forward to battle positions:
(a) Store all spare equipment and leave under guard.
(b) Do not move in columns of greater length than company.
(c) Avoid ground telephone wires.
(d) Place officers along column, one in rear.
(e) Keep to roads as much as possible.

4. On arrival at No. 2 position:
(a) Establish outpost.
(b) Refill with gas, oil, grease and water immediately.
(c) Receive condition report from organizations under you.
(d) Send condition report to next higher commander.
(e) Spend the remaining time with your officers going over and over the problem for the next day.

[signed] Sereno E. Brett

[in pencil in a second hand] Anti-tank defence.”

In 1915 Patton reported for duty at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, beginning his distinguished military career as an aide-de-camp to General John J. Pershing the following year. Following his promotion to captain, Patton was put in charge of the newly formed tank corps in November 1917, responsible for forming the army’s first tank school in the rural French town of Bourg. Patton zealously learned everything he could about the new weapon, but as volunteers for the tank corps flooded in, Patton found it difficult to procure the tanks, which had been tied up in red tape since the unit’s formation, forcing him to request French ones instead. “When the first of twenty-five Renault light tanks finally arrived by train on March 23, [1918] Patton was awakened by his orderly… who excitedly informed him that he was needed at the railroad siding, where he soon drove each tank off the flatcars. He was the only one who knew how to drive a tank. This handful of tanks were the only training vehicles used by the American tank force until shortly before their first combat six months later,” (Patton: A Genius for War, D’Este). During the training, “the days were long and strenuous. Because of the limited equipment on which to train, the students worked in relays from six A.M. to six P.M., Monday through Saturday. Sundays were reserved for inspections,” (ibid.).

Patton’s tank units completed their training by September 1918 and he commanded the 304th Tank Brigade two months later, just in time to form the 326th and 327th battalions and participate in the St. Mihiel Offensive, the first American tank offensive in WWI, under the leadership of General Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, and Major Sereno E. Brett. Although the offensive was brief, Patton’s men displayed their successful training and gained considerable combat experience.

After World War I, Brett continued his military career, graduating from Army War College in 1934 and teaching at the Infantry School and the Command and General Staff School. By World War II he had attained the rank of Brigadier General and commanded the 5th Armored Division from 1942-1943.

According to the military curator of Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, our letter was written between August 1918 and October 1918, early in Patton’s tenure at the head of the Tank Corps.

Patton’s manuscript bears two pin holes in the upper left corner and a paper clip mark along the upper edge. Folded with a few marginal notes and in very good condition. Framed with Brett’s onion skin typescript that is chipped and worn at the edges with several tears; framed and in fair condition. Accompanied by a separate, framed portrait of Patton. Important material related to Patton’s service in World War One is rare. [indexhistory]

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