Patton began delivering speeches to his troops in the United Kingdom in February 1944. The extent of his giving the particular speech that became famous is unclear, with different sources saying it had taken this form by March, or around early May, or in late May. Patton delivered the speech without notes, and so though it was substantially the same at each occurrence, the order of some of its parts varied. One notable difference occurred in the speech he delivered on 31 May 1944, while addressing the U.S. 6th Armored Division, when he began with a remark that would later be among his most famous:
0:05 No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
The troops under Patton’s command received the speech well. The general’s strong reputation caused considerable excitement among his men, and they listened intently, in absolute silence, as he spoke. A majority indicated they enjoyed Patton’s speaking style. As one officer recounted of the end of the speech, “The men instinctively sensed the fact and the telling mark that they themselves would play in world history because of it, for they were being told as much right now. Deep sincerity and seriousness lay behind the General’s colorful words, and the men well knew it, but they loved the way he put it as only he could do it.” Patton gave a humorous tone to the speech, as he intentionally sought to make his men laugh with his colorful delivery. Observers later noted the troops seemed to find the speeches very funny. In particular, Patton’s use of obscene humor was well received by the enlisted men, as it was “the language of the barracks”.
0:35 Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.
The speech became an icon of popular culture after the 1970 film Patton, which was about the general’s wartime exploits. The opening of the movie saw actor George C. Scott, as Patton, delivering a toned-down version of the speech before an enormous American flag. It began with a version of Patton’s “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country …” quote. Scott’s iteration omitted much of the middle of the speech relating to Patton’s anecdotes about Sicily and Libya, as well as his remarks about the importance of every soldier to the war effort. In contrast to Patton’s humorous approach, Scott delivered the speech in an entirely serious, low and gruff tone. Still, Scott’s depiction of Patton in this scene is an iconic depiction of the General which earned Scott an Academy Award for Best Actor and was instrumental in bringing Patton into popular culture as a folk hero.