George Patton was livid. The war had hardly been over sixty days and he'd been transformed from a general of the finest fighting men on God's green earth into a cockamamie combination of bureaucrat, politician, administrator and nursemaid. If this was what victory wrought, to hell with it! He wanted war. It was a children's game compared to the tasks he'd been charged with as military governor of Bavaria.
Standing in his office on this warm, sunny morning, cigar in his mouth, he ran over the matters that needed his attention. He had to fix the roads, rebuild the bridges, repair the waterworks – including the whole damned sewer system. A toilet hadn't flushed in Munich since 1944. He had to demilitarize and de-Nazify the civilian government, essentially meaning he had to fire every goddamned man and woman worth a damn. He had to look after the care and provisioning of a million American soldiers, a million German POWs, and a million rag-tag displaced persons whom nobody, especially himself, wanted anything to do with. And all of this – all of this – he was supposed to accomplish without the help of any German who had ever been a member of the Nazi party! It was madness. Seventy-five percent of the country's sixty million citizens had had some tie or another to the National Socialists. Ike might as well ask him to juggle with one arm tied behind his back. Worst of all, now he had to hold hands with the Godforsaken Russians as if they were a couple of besotted newlyweds. Madness!
A crisp knock on the door to his office relieved him of his miserable thoughts. "What is it?"
The door opened and two men walked in, Hobart "Hap" Gay, his chief of staff, and a squat bow-legged Russian supremo he didn't recognize. They all looked like apes anyway.
"Sir, I'd like to introduce Brigadier General Vassily Yevchenko," said Gay, a tall, plain-looking general who had served with Patton since 1942. "General Yevchenko insisted on seeing you this morning. It seems there's some problem with a few fishing boats we captured on the Danube River two days ago."
"Excuse me, General," Yevchenko cut in. "These boats on Danube. Oneast side of river and filled with German soldiers."
Patton advanced a step, his cheeks coloring at the sound of the barbarian's slur. All it took these days was the sight of a manure brown uniform to set his blood racing. He'd had it up to his eyeballs with wining and dining the Russians. Since VE Day, he'd eaten enough stuffed pig, borscht, and caviar, drunk enough vodka, and witnessed enough Cossack line dancing to last him the rest of this life and the next. It took every restraining bone in his body to keep him from drawing his pistol and shooting this degenerate descendant of Genghis Khan right here and now.
"So?" barked Patton. "What the hell do you want me to do about it?"
"On behalf of Soviet government, we demand return of boats and prisoners immediately. All are property of Soviet armed forces."
"What did you say?" Patton asked. "Did I hear something about a demand?"
Earlier he was livid. Now he was plain furious. He shot a disbelieving glance at Hap Gay, who shrugged his shoulders, then returned his attention to this pathetic example of Russian manhood. Stepping closer to the Russian, he saw that Yevchenko was sweating like a stuck pig.
"We demand return of river craft. They are property of Soviet armed forces."
Hearing the Russian's demand for the boats turned Patton's mind to another subject that rankled him. Since occupying German territory, the Russian Army had been stealing every piece of machinery that wasn't nailed down washing machines, typewriters, radios, you name it, they grabbed it – and sending it back home. As for the big stuff: factories, refineries, foundries, they had entire divisions trained to unscrew every last nut, bolt and screw, and ship the lot east to Moscow. Scavengers is what they were. Vultures. What was worse, loud-mouthed New York Jews like Henry Morgenthau not only condoned Stalin's behavior, they insisted the Americans and Brits do the same. His crazed "Morgenthau Plan" – which Patton had figured for nothing more than some sort of ancient Talmudic revenge scheme – proposed robbing Germany of every last piece of industrial machinery it possessed. An eye for an eye, and all that. The crafty Semitic bastard even went so far as suggesting the Allies place members of the German military into indentured servitude for a period of ten years. Christ, but they were the same, the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Didn't anyone see that the only ones the Americans could count on were the goddamned Germans themselves? Madness!
"Two tugboats, one barge, one skiff…" Yevchenko was describing the boats he "demanded" that the Americans return. "Rowboat with oars and dinghy."
Suddenly Patton had had enough. Offering the Russian general his neatest smile, he strode to his desk, opened the top drawer and drew out his pearl-handled revolver. With his smile firmly in place, he returned to Yevchenko – who by now had given up quivering for a posture of sheer frozen terror – cocked the pistol and placed it squarely against the man's beribboned chest.
"Gay, goddammit!" he shouted, "Get this son of a bitch out of here! Who in the hell let him in? Don't let any more Russian bastards into the headquarters." He turned to Paul Harkins, a senior member of his staff, who had joined Yevchenko's gripe session midstream. "Harkins! Alert the Fourth and Eleventh Armored and the Sixty-fifth Division for an attack to the east. Go! Now!!"
Gay and Harkins dashed from the room to implement his orders.
Yevchenko, his pudgy countenance a squeamish yellow, remained face to face with Patton. After an eternity, neither man giving an inch, the Russian yelled, "Devil!" then turned on his heels and ran after them.
When his office was once again empty, Patton let out a victorious belly laugh. In fact, he would have preferred to cry. This should be a day of rejoicing, he said to himself, without a worry about the future and the peace they'd fought for. But as no man would lie beside a diseased jackal, neither would he, George S. Patton, ever do business with the Russians.
He circled his desk, running a hand along its polished veneer, then collapsed into his chair. Churchill had had the right idea. Get into the Balkans, drive north into Central Europe and take Prague and Berlin. Patton himself should be in the German capital now. He'd pissed in the Rhine, why not on the Reichstag?
Restless with anger, frustration and – despite the mountain of problems before him – boredom, he planted his hands onto the desk and stood, making a tour of his office. He stopped in front of a grand window overlooking the town of Bad Toelz. Past that lay a vast green plain, ideal territory for a rapidly advancing army of armored cavalry. And past that the East.
Patton picked up the telephone and rescinded the orders he'd given in Yevchenko's presence. He was already in enough trouble with Ike for taking his daily equitation in the company of SS Colonel von Wangenheim. At least those bastards in the Waffen SS knew how to fight. Strike like lightning, take no prisoners, and attack, attack, attack! They were magnificent sons of bitches! And they weren't half wrong about what to do with the Jews, either. As for the Russians, they were scurvy bastards. The cooks in his Third Army could beat the living hell out of them.
Gay returned to the room with news that Patton had another visitor.
"Dammit, Hap, it better not be another Red."
"No sir. It's a delegation of city fathers. I believe, General, they wish to award you a commendation."
Patton checked his watch. "By God, send them in, Hap. About time somebody thanks us for the bullshit we're putting up with."
"Right away, sir," said Gay, before retreating through the double doors.
Patton straightened his jacket and ran a hand along his collar, wanting to be sure that all of his stars were easily visible. The Boche loved pageantry almost as much as he did. Crossing to the window, he took up his position, hands clasped behind his back, eyes to the horizon. It was a decent pose, one that Napoleon used to greet his generals and lesser dignitaries. He fixed his gaze on a steeple in the distance, but his thoughts traveled far beyond.
To Prague. To Berlin. To Moscow.