Patton’s Grandson Making PTSD Documentary

General Patton famously slapped a shell shocked solder and called him a coward. Patton’s grandson is setting the record straight with a movie.

Army Times (AP) (“Patton’s grandson involved in PTSD film project“):

In 1943, an enraged Gen. George S. Patton slapped a battle-fatigued U.S. soldier at a military hospital and accused him of cowardice, an episode that nearly ended Patton’s career. Nearly 70 years later, two filmmakers — one of them Patton’s grandson — are trying to help soldiers cope with what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder by getting them to tell their war stories through a movie.

“Their generation just didn’t understand what this meant,” said Ben Patton, who takes his grandfather’s violent reaction as a sign that he too may have been suffering PTSD. “And that’s my call to action.”

With a growing demand for ways to treat the psychological damage of war, one Army pilot project is encouraging soldiers to take control of their own stories in a filmmaking class titled I Was There Media Workshop.

The Fort Carson program began last year under the auspices of Patton, a New York documentary filmmaker, and Scott Kinnamon, a Denver educational filmmaker. Some 20 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars so far have attempted to organize their combat experiences in video as a way to fight PTSD.

“You can put everything into a video or a movie, a small movie about what you want to tell people — your story,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Gallegos of Fountain, Colo., who deployed to Iraq three times and has now produced a short film called “From Hero to Zero.”

“If they want to watch it, great. If they don’t, then don’t. But I don’t have to go through the process of the ‘angsting’ up to tell somebody something, just for them to be interested for a minute,” Gallegos said.

Some 2.3 million men and women have served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade. The Rand Corp. said as many as 300,000 veterans of those wars may have suffered PTSD or major depression. The Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department have been ramping up therapy options for several years now and the effort continues as some troops continue to go undiagnosed or untreated.

Here’s how the original sequence played out in Academy Award winning movie Patton:

Patton: What’s the matter with you?
Soldier Who Gets Slapped: I… I guess I… I can’t take it sir.
Patton: What did you say?
Soldier Who Gets Slapped: It’s my nerves, sir. I… I… I just can’t stand the shelling anymore.
Patton: Your *nerves*? Well, hell, you’re just a God-damned coward.
[Soldier starts sniveling]
Patton: [Slaps him, once forehanded, then backhanded on the rebound]
Patton: Shut up! I won’t have a yellow bastard sitting here *crying* in front of these brave men who have been wounded in battle!
[Soldier snivels some more, and Patton swings a vicious forehand slap, knocking his helmet away]
Patton: *Shut up!*
[to the doctors]
Patton: Don’t admit this yellow bastard. There’s nothing wrong with him. I won’t have sons-of-bitches who are afraid to fight *stinking up this place of honor!*
[to soldier]
Patton: You’re going back to the front, my friend. You may get shot, and you may get killed, but you’re going up to the fighting. Either that, or I’m going to stand you up in front of a firing squad. I ought to shoot you myself, you god-damned… bastard! Get him out of here!
[pulls his service automatic. At that, the doctors leap forward and hustle the soldier out of the tent. Patton keeps shouting at the soldier’s back]
Patton: Take him up to the front! You hear me? You God-damned coward!
[Takes deep breath]
Patton: I won’t have cowards in my army.

While attitudes have come a long way, it’s worth noting that, even in 1943, Patton’s actions were considered scandalous and almost ended his career.

via Erin Simpson

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mantis says:

    I know that’s the slapping scene from the movie and all, but there are lots of photos of the real Patton out there to use. For instance, this one.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: Sure–but no shots of the incident in question.

  3. mattb says:

    My Father-In-Law was a infantry man in Patton’s Arm. I can tell you that a lot of the folks on the ground/non-coms really didn’t care for the guy or at least his “damn the torpedoes and keep up with the Tanks” attitude).

    Joe told the story of all of the non-coms being pulled back from the front for an impromptu hillside pep-talk by Patton. At some point in the speech, Patton started talking about how nothing would stop them, and even if they ran out of bullets the needed to keep moving forward. He concluded the thought with “You all have bayonets, use ’em!”

    Apparently, a good portion of the audience responded to Patton’s charge with a hearty, shouted “Eff you!”

    Joe always said that the worst command ever to get or give was “Affix Bayonets!” because it meant that you were going into close quarter combat and that was no way to kill a man or get killed.

    Then he’d get quiet and when the conversation about the war started again, it was on a different subject. There are some lines of conversation that should not be continued.