Patton Speech on D-Day, Minus One

26 04 2011

George Smith Patton was a General with the United States Army during World War II.  He is best known for his guidance during the world war, and was also well known for how open he was while speaking.  Enter D-Day, minus one.  The speech he gave to the Third Army who were about to raid France was, and still is one of his most famous speeches.  In this speech, Patton uses victimage rhetoric to attempt to stir up a significant amount of emotion.  More specifically, Patton uses war rhetoric—that is, he is uniting his soldiers against the axis powers.  He dehumanizes, emasculates, and embarrasses the enemy in an attempt to inspire his men.  Interestingly enough, Patton also uses martyr victimage to create a commonality within his Third Army.  He details various inspirational individuals whom he defines as “real men” and heroic.  Undoubtedly, this did inspire and persuade his men.  He also turns this around to once again emasculate the enemy, establishing that the enemy wasn’t smart or manly enough to see them coming.

All of this victimage rhetoric helps Patton establish cohesion with the audience.  First, in a “right of passage” identification, Patton says, “All through your Army careers, you men have [bi***ed] about what you call ‘chicken [s**t] drilling’. That, like everything else in this Army, has a definite purpose. That purpose is alertness.”  This statement creates a feeling that they’ve all gone through the same things together.  Next, the language that Patton uses is just right for the group he’s speaking to.  They are probably scared, they know that it’s possible that they may die, and he even states that everyone will go through fear.  They all know exactly what he means, and they can relate to what he’s saying.  Lastly, they all share a common goal.  The most obvious goal is that they all want to win this war.  Patton states that they don’t want to lose, because if they lose, their friends and families lose as well.  Another, less obvious common goal for them is ultimately braveness and masculinity.  He argues that the soldiers cannot be cowards.  He even goes so far as to threaten cowards and virtually calls for their execution.

Obviously, it’s impossible to know just how much of an effect Patton’s speech had on the Third Army, since it was never taped.  However, the effect that this speech has on readers can determine the effect it had on the Third Army.  The presence of many of the elements of Burke’s theories indicates that the speech may have been just what Patton’s men needed, given the context of what was facing them.




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