As we approach V-E Day, we are reminded of the sacrifices of the “greatest generation” in saving the free world from Nazism and fascism. It was a time when freedom was hanging by a thread as fascism made its march through Europe and Japanese Imperialism did the same in Asia. Some 400,000 American service members and 18 million of our allies would ultimately pay the supreme sacrifice to save freedom for future generations.
My father once said that if ever there was a man who God sent to save the free world in the last one-hundred years, it was Winston Churchill. He’s right. Churchill was a man of unmatched leadership skills and command of the English language. He was the right man at the right time to save Europe. At home, here in America, we too had our own giants. Men, who like Churchill, were not without controversy and who had their detractors. However, like Churchill they were men who rose to the occasion when America and the free world needed them most.
America had its political leaders and its military leaders. In fact, on the military front, some of America’s leaders were among the greatest of all time – men like Eisenhower, Marshall, MacArthur and Nimitz. However, there were two such American leaders who exemplified the best of our political and military leaders at that time. They exemplified extraordinary leadership and raw courage at a time when we needed it. They were President Franklin D. Roosevelt and General George S. Patton.
On Monday, April 30th, President Roosevelt’s great-great-grandson Kevin Chiucchini and General Patton’s grandson Ben Patton are joining together at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., to discuss the passion, wisdom and courage of their forefathers.
President Roosevelt saw the war coming at an early stage and grasped the danger of fascism and imperialism long before many in America appreciated it. He did his best to ready the American people and a nation long before the country as a whole recognized the threat. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was FDR who summoned the military brass to the White House and urged them to come up with a plan to hit back at Japan quickly and show that they could be attacked on their own home front. Months later, Jimmy Doolittle and his “Doolittle Raiders” would carry out their raid on Tokyo and force the Japanese to divert resources back to Japan to defend itself.
On the mobilization front, FDR was aided by the South Carolina statesman Jimmy Byrnes. Roosevelt named Byrnes “Assistant President” and the former U.S. Senator and U.S. Supreme Court Justice would serve as Director of the Office of War Mobilization. Byrnes also oversaw much of the planning of the Manhattan Project. He would go on to serve as one of America’s best Secretaries of State under President Harry S. Truman. Roosevelt knew how to get the best out of men like Byrnes and worked well with America’s military leaders and was heavily involved in the war planning.
General George S. Patton was a colorful character who knew how to inspire his men on the battlefield. “Old Blood and Guts” was really the father of the armored warfare doctrine of the United States Army. His fast-moving military tactics and maneuvers distinguished himself and the men who served under him in North Africa and with his famous Third Army. As “Patton and his Third Army Living Historians” note, Patton and his Third Army “liberated concentration camps, fought its way across 24 major rivers and innumerable streams and liberated and conquered 82,000 square miles of territory including 1,500 cities and towns and some 12,000 uninhabited places.” In short, Patton and his Third Army advanced further in less time than any other Army in history. And yes, Patton and his tactics are still being taught today. In fact, I recently I spoke with General Ramesh Halgali, the former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Indian Army. As General Halgali put it, “In India we study the American military doctrine and Patton is the general we study most.”
As I said in my book, “The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It,” “Education is a national security issue.” Sadly, a new Holocaust study shows that roughly two-thirds of American millennials cannot identify what Auschwitz is and 22 percent haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are not sure of whether they have heard of it.
On Monday, April 30th, President Roosevelt’s great-great-grandson Kevin Chiucchini and General Patton’s grandson Ben Patton are joining together at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., to discuss the passion, wisdom and courage of their forefathers. Quite frankly, it’s the kind of event we need more of in higher education today. American citizens of today owe so much to the “greatest generation” and their sacrifices. We are fortunate and blessed to have had men like Roosevelt and Patton who showed what real American leadership is at a time when we needed it most.