Friday, November 9, 2012
I noted that yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the Operation Torch landings in North Africa, and that I'd be talking more about some of the local North African aspects of the campaign.. The US commander in Morocco was none other than George S. Patton. Though his primary dealings were with the Vichy French generals who had been running the country, he also dealt with Sultan (later King) Muhammad V and his family. The photo at left shows him with the Sultan and one of his sons, who is, I think, a young Moulay Hassan, later King Hassan II.
In the 1970 film Patton, there is an early scene in which George C. Scott as Patton is reviewing a parade of the Royal Guard (played, I believe, by the real Moroccan Royal Guard), and is asked by a figure presumed to be the Sultan, "Tell me, general. What do you think of Morocco?" Patton replies, " I love it, excellency. It's a combination of the Bible ... and Hollywood."
I have no idea if Patton said that to the Sultan, but he definitely thought it, and once referred to Casablanca as "a city which combines Hollywood and the Bible." (Blumenson, The Patton Papers, II, 120.)
Patton's attitudes toward the local Arab population were not particularly enlightened, and I may write about that later, but he seems to have enjoyed his interaction with royalty. He noted that when the Sultan gave him the Grand Cross of Morocco, it was an award "he had never seen a Frenchman wear"; when he had a display of weapons for the Sultan and invited him to ride in his armored car, he noted that "he insisted that I sit beside him ... the first time a Sultan has ever let any foreigner sit beside him." (Patton Papers II, 151). The Sultan had never let the French sit next to him? How would Patton know this? But clearly he felt flattered. He noted of the same occasion that the Prince (the future Hassan II) "told me that when he is Sultan, I am to be his Grand Vizier and we will go everywhere in a tank." (Patton Papers II, 151,)
Now that would have been worth seeing.
As I say, Patton's other views of Morocco were less amusing and will be the subject of a later post.