Patton inspected the cargo with the possessive eye of a man who intended to use every last bullet, bomb, and basketball shoe. When he asked a young quartermaster captain how the loading was proceeding, the officer replied, “I don’t know, but my trucks are getting on all right.” Patton took a moment to scribble in his diary: “That is the answer. If everyone does his part, these seemingly impossible tasks get done. When I think of the greatness of my job and realize that I am what I am, I am amazed, but on reflection, who is as good as I am? I know of no one.” It was a fair self-assessment by a man who had spent the past four decades preparing for this moment,
No twenty-first-century reader can understand the ultimate triumph of the Allied powers in World War II in 1945 without a grasp of the large drama that unfolded in North Africa in 1942 and 1943. The liberation of western Europe is a triptych, each panel informing the others: first, North Africa; then, Italy; and finally the invasion of Normandy and the subsequent campaigns across France, the Low Countries, and Germany. From a distance of sixty years, we can see that North Africa was a pivot point in American history, the place where the United States began to act like a great power—militarily, diplomatically, strategically, tactically.
Paris,” a Seventh Army soldier wrote his wife. “It was wonderful, but I slept on the floor because the bed was just too much like sleeping in butter.” A woman working for the OSS described fleets of vélos, odd contraptions like “canvas-covered bathtubs and drawn or propelled by motorcycles or bicycles,” carting around GIs “who little count the cost in their exuberance at being alive.” The writer Simone de Beauvoir concluded that “the easygoing manner of the young Americans incarnated liberty itself.” Troops packed movie theaters along the Champs-Élysées, and two music halls featured vaudeville shows. Post Number One of the American Legion served hamburgers and bourbon, and bars opened with names intended to entice the homesick, like The Sunny Side of the Street and New York. Army special services organized activities ranging from piano recitals to jitterbug lessons, while distributing thousands of hobby kits for sketching, clay modeling, and leather craft. The Bayeux Tapestry, long tucked away for safekeeping, reemerged in an exhibit at the Louvre, with the segment depicting the Norman defeat of the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 tactfully