12
The Wider Envelopment

Ahead for a hundred miles in the August sunlight towards Paris stretched the very heart of France and Europe, a many-coloured chequer board of gently rolling plains, cornfields and small woods— country over which Patton's tanks could romp almost without let or hindrance. In the chalk plateaux of Évreux, Dreux, Chartres and Châteaudun lay unlimited sites for the airfields which would be needed for the support of the armies when they reached the Seine. A magnificent road net traversed the whole area running generally north-east and east with ample laterals to north and south. The Loire guarded the right flank. Bradley now ordered Patton to leave Le Clerc's Second Armoured Division and the 90th Infantry Division to hold the position at Argentan and advance due east to a line running roughly north and south through Orléans, Chartres and Dreux. This move would bring them on a 60-mile front within striking distance of Paris and it was here that he proposed to halt for a while for logistic reasons. This was one of the great moments of Patton's life. With characteristic exuberance he declared at a conference on 14 August: 'As of today Third Army has advanced farther and faster than any Army in history.' It would now go farther still, xv Corps directed on Dreux, xx Corps on Chartres and XII Corps on Orléans. All on reaching this line were to be prepared to thrust forward north, north-east or due east according to the demands of the situation as they found it. When briefing Haislip he added 'If I say so myself, it is a hell of a good plan and wholly mine.'

A disarming feature of Bradley's character was his frankness in admitting his mistakes. Having let loose Patton to the east beyond recall, a decision incidentally which he had taken on his own without reference either to Eisenhower or Montgomery, he had second thoughts: should he instead have directed him north-east on Cham

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