Patton Encourages His Friend and Operation Torch Medical Officer to Rebound after a Hospital Stay
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“There is no use crying over spilt milk. Both you and I have had the experience of being temporarily gyped.… there is plenty of time in this war for all men of your rare quality to gain the recognition they deserve”
Patton writes to Albert Kenner, his medical officer during Operation Torch in North Africa in 1943. In this highly personal letter, Patton epitomizes his famous quote: “Success is how you bounce on the bottom.” Kenner was laid up in a stateside hospital.
Likewise, Patton was between major commands despite his early successes against the Germans. Ironically, Patton assures his old friend that Eisenhower disapproved of a perceived demotion.
Just over a month later, Patton returned to lead the invasion of Sicily. Despite his success there, Patton was himself demoted and reprimanded by Eisenhower for two infamous “slapping incidents” in August 1943. In 1944, without a real command, Patton lead Operation Fortitude, the disinformation campaign that helped make the D-Day invasions a success. He then was given command of the Third Army, saving the Allies at the Battle of the Bulge, and marching to Berlin. Kenner returned to medical service the following year in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. Kenner would later attend Patton on his deathbed, and would retire as one of the war’s most decorated medical officers. GEORGE S. PATTON, JR.
Typed Letter Signed, to Albert Kenner. June 4, 1943. 1 p., 10˝ x 8 in. On onion-skin paper.
APO #758/ c’/o Postmaster, /N.Y.C. /4 June, 1943
My dear Kenner:
There is no use crying over spilt milk. Both you and I have had the experience of being temporarily gyped. But I am very sorry to hear that you are in the clutches of your own profession. I feel sure though that as husky a man as you are has really nothing the matter with him, and you will shortly be out.
You know without my saying it that any time you feel like coming backing to anything I may command, you will be the head surgeon of it. In this I am perfectly sincere and while I cannot offer a great deal at the moment, things may change any time.
Again, I wish to tell you how dreadfully sorry I am, and to assure that the Big Boss, who visited me the other night, is deeply cut up. I am sure that everything will straighten out in the end, and that there is plenty of time in this war for all men of your rare quality to gain the recognition they deserve….”
Albert W. Kenner (1889-1959) graduated from the George Washington University School of Medicine in 1915. He joined the Army in 1916 and served in France with the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st. Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Force. He was wounded in combat and received the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1936, Kenner became Post Surgeon at Fort Myer, Virginia, under Command of then-Colonel George S. Patton. In the early phase of World War II, Kenner was at Fort Knox, Kentucky, then was transferred to Morocco where he was the medical officer for Operation Torch, the 1942 invasion of Casablanca. Advanced to Brigadier General on December 1, 1942. Kenner was promoted to Major General on October 7, 1943, and served as chief medical officer for Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion. As Chief Surgeon for Army Service Forces in the European Theatre, on December 9, 1945, Major General Kenner was in Frankfurt when he heard that General Patton was injured in an automobile accident near Mannheim, Germany; Kener was there within hours to take charge. Patton, who had broken his neck and was paralyzed from the neck down, died in his sleep on December 21, 1945. Dr. Kenner wrote to a fellow surgeon, “The service lost its best field commander and I lost a damn good friend.”
George S. Patton (1885-1945) was one of the most controversial and charismatic generals of the twentieth century. Known as “Old Blood and Guts,” Patton commanded forces during Operation Torch in North Africa and then was assigned to the demoralized II Corps. He rapidly rebuilt the unit and won a significant victory at El Guettar, April 3, 1943. The unit would join the July 1943 Invasion of Sicily. During the interim in which he wrote to Kenner, commiserating with their similar situations, Patton was languishing in the decidedly minor command of the I Armored Corps. However, he was right to tell Kenner that “things may change any time” as he was destined to assume command of the Seventh Army and invade Sicily in just over a month, on July 10, 1943.
Despite two notorious incidents of slapping soldiers suffering from battle fatigue and being sidelined, Patton would go on to lead Operation Fortitude, the disinformation campaign that made the D-Day invasions a success, as well as taking command of the Third Army, saving the Allies at the Battle of the Bulge, and marching to Berlin.
Gen Albert Walton Kenner