Stimson report on Patton confirms 2 slapping cases (12-13-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (December 13, 1943)

Stimson report on Patton confirms 2 slapping cases

General spoke harshly to third; Eisenhower reiterates status as leader is unimpaired

Washington (UP) –
A report from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent to the Senate today confirmed that Lt. Gen. George S. Patton slapped two soldiers and spoke “threateningly and with undue harshness” to another. But it reiterated Gen. Eisenhower’s conviction that Gen. Patton’s efficiency as a battle leader had not been impaired by the incidents.

The latest information from Gen. Eisenhower was sent by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson to the Senate Military Affairs Committee, which is considering Gen. Patton’s nomination to be a major general on the Army’s permanent list.

It coincided with a White House dispatch which revealed that Gen. Patton, still commander of the U.S. 7th Army, was among the officers who greeted President Roosevelt when the President visited Sicily last week. Gen. Patton was invited to ride in the presidential jeep.

Mr. Stimson said Gen. Eisenhower felt “the serious aspect” of the case was the danger that the Army might lose the services of a battle-tested commander and that it might afford aid and comfort to the enemy. The inference was that Gen. Eisenhower feared the publicity from the case at home might force the removal of Gen. Patton from his command.

Today’s supplementary report cleared up the confusion as to whether Gen. Patton had physically mistreated one or two soldiers. The report late last month told of Gen. Patton slapping one shell-shocked soldier and of severely upbraiding another in a hospital on Aug. 10. Their names have never been officially revealed, but the soldier slapped was from Carolina.

Today’s report revealed that on Aug. 3 in the 15th Evacuation Hospital in Sicily, Gen. Patton slapped Pvt. Charles L. Kuhl of Mishawaka, Indiana, whose family at the time of the first report made public a letter from Pvt. Kuhl asserting that Gen. Patton “slapped my face and kicked me in the pants.”

Gen. Eisenhower also reported that Gen. Patton had “spoken threateningly and with undue harshness” to a soldier for failing to wear leggings because his ankles were swollen, but who, nevertheless, was doing full combat duty.

In sending Gen. Eisenhower’s data to the Senate, Mr. Stimson said that a thorough investigation by an inspector in Gen. Patton’s theater of war on the general subject of Gen. Patton’s treatment of enlisted men revealed only the four incidents altogether – two slappings and two upbraidings.

Mr. Stimson said:

These two incidents and those already reported to you were taken in consideration and covered by Gen. Eisenhower in his corrective action.

This corrective action included a dressing down of Gen. Patton by Gen. Eisenhower and a requirement that Gen. Patton apologize to the men concerned and to his entire command.

Defends announcement

Mr. Stimson defended the “misleading announcement” issued by Gen. Eisenhower’s headquarters on Nov. 22 in which the first report of a slapping incident was for all practical purposes denied.

Mr. Stimson said:

I am informed that the reason for the nature of this reply was a military one… It was considered necessary to immediately and categorically deny the false implications that a change had or would take place in the command of the 7th Army, or that its morale was impaired. This may have been an error in judgment from a public relations viewpoint, but it was eminently sound from a military standpoint.

Drew Pearson, newspaper columnist, first revealed the slapping incident and said that the reason nothing had been heard about Gen. Patton since the conquest of Sicily was because the incident might result in him losing his command.

Mr. Stimson said there was no reason to deny the incident itself since most war correspondents in the Sicilian theater knew all the facts.

Mr. Stimson said:

The intention was simply to correct, for important military reasons, the untrue and damaging inferences from that incident which Drew Pearson had made in his original broadcast…

The military reasons referred to above are still important to Allied operations in the Mediterranean Theater and consequently must remain secret for the present, but I assure that they will eventually be disclosed.

He added that when the secret can be revealed, it would be evident why a general discussion of the details of the incident was considered contrary to Allied military interests.