Movies The US Military Assisted On & Movies They Refused To Be Apart Of
Movies The US Military Assisted On & Movies They Refused To Be Apart Of

Movies The US Military Assisted On & Movies They Refused To Be Apart Of

Khalid Elhassan - July 31, 2023

Movies The US Military Assisted On & Movies They Refused To Be Apart Of
George S. Patton in Sicily. Library of Congress

A Controversial General

One incident from 1943, in which he slapped sick soldiers, almost cost Patton his career. It paled in comparison to another incident in 1945, hurriedly swept under the rug, in which Patton got hundreds of GIs killed, wounded, or captured, because of nepotism. Patton’s best-known controversy occurred during the 1943 Sicilian Campaign. On a hospital visit, he came across a PTSD-suffering soldier who was also burning up with malarial fever. Seeing no visible wounds on the soldier, Patton became enraged, accused the unfortunate man of cowardice, slapped him around, and threatened to shoot him. He repeated the disgraceful performance a few days later in another hospital, and physically assaulted another PTSD-suffering GI.

When the scandal broke, it nearly got Patton cashiered from the US Army. Fortunately, General Dwight D. Eisenhower protected Patton and gave him a chance to command another army in France. Patton did not learn the lesson about abuse of power. In 1945, he had a worse, but lesser-known scandal, in which he got hundreds of GIs killed, wounded, or captured. It happened in March, 1945, when Patton ordered Task Force Baum, comprised of 314 men, 16 tanks, and dozens of other vehicles, to penetrate 50 miles behind German lines. Their mission: to liberate Hammelburg POW camp, which housed Patton’s son-in-law, John K. Waters.

Movies The US Military Assisted On & Movies They Refused To Be Apart Of
Patton movie poster. Heritage Auctions

Patton’s Other Scandal Was Even Worse Than His Soldier-Slapping

Task Force Baum’s raid ended catastrophically. All tanks and vehicles were lost, and of 314 participants, 32 were killed, and most of the rest were wounded or captured. Only 35 men made it back. The worst part of it was that the mission was totally unnecessary. Patton’s beloved son-in-law, for whom the great general had gotten the beloved sons, brothers, and fathers of many Americans killed or injured, had never been in any danger. Hammelburg was liberated two weeks after the Task Force Baum fiasco.

Movies The US Military Assisted On & Movies They Refused To Be Apart Of
The liberation of Hammelburg POW Camp by the 14th Armored Division, two weeks after the Task Force Baum fiasco. National Archives

When Eisenhower found out, he was furious at Patton’s misuse of military personnel and assets for personal reasons, and reprimanded him. In light of his valuable services, however, Eisenhower declined to punish Patton beyond the reprimand. Shortly thereafter, a reporter got wind of the scandal. When the story first broke in a major publication on April 12th, 1945, it would have wrecked Patton under normal circumstances. However, FDR died that same day, and his demise eclipsed all other news. The scandal got little traction, and when Patton died a few months later, the affair was reduced to a mere historic footnote.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

American Heritage Magazine, September/ October 1987, Volume 38, Issue 6 – The Example of Private Slovik

Atkinson, Rick – The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (2007)

Atomic Heritage Foundation – Curtis LeMay

Canisius College – The Niland Brothers

Coffey, Thomas M. – Iron Eagle: The Turbulent Life of General Curtis LeMay (1986)

Council on Foreign Relations – TWE Remembers: Secret Soviet Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, a Coda)

Davidson, Phillip – Vietnam at War: The History, 1946-1975 (1988)

Encyclopedia.Com – Drugs and Vietnam

Foreign Policy – Exclusive: The Pentagon Has a Plan to Stop the Zombie Apocalypse. Seriously

History Collection – Historic Military Blunders that Will Make You Feel Better About Your Own Mistakes

History Net – How Gen. George Patton’s Legend Went From Real to Reel

Kamienski, Lucasz – Shooting Up: A Short History of Drugs and War (2016)

Lenoir, Tim, and Caldwell, Luke – The Military-Entertainment Complex (2018)

Los Angeles Times, August 21st, 2011 – The US Military’s Hollywood Connection

Military – These are the Real Brothers Behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

National WWII Museum – Battle of Midway

NPR, January 2nd, 2012 – What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits

Parshall, Jonathan, and Tully, Anthony – Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway (2005)

Ranker – The Oddly Specific Reasons the Military Refused Assistance to 12 Movies

Robb, David L. – Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies (2004)

Salon – McNamara’s “Moron Corps”

SOF Rep – On This Day in History: The Only Death Sentence For Desertion in WWII is Carried Out

Task Force Baum – The Hammelburg Raid

US Department of Defense – How and Why the DOD Works With Hollywood

Washington Post, June 20th, 2014 – What’s Wrong With the Pentagon’s Plan to Thwart the Zombie Apocalypse