A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 09, 2015
“An army is like spaghetti—you can pull it, but not push it”

George S. Patton Jr. (1885-1945), a United States Army general who commanded the Seventh United States Army in the Mediterranean and European Theaters of World War II, believed in leading his troops from the front. He was quoted as saying in June 1941:

“If you have a string of wet spaghetti which you want to move forward, you can’t do it by pushing from the tail end. You have to pull it from the front.”

In 1943, Patton called this his “spaghetti theory of leading men into battle.” “An army is like a strand of spaghetti—‘You can pull it but not push it’” was cited in a 1944 newspaper article.

“You can’t push on a string” is also an old economics adage. “You can’t shoot pool with a rope” (a male impotence joke) is a similar saying.


Wikiquote: George S. Patton
General George Smith Patton, Jr. (11 November 1885 – 21 December 1945) was a U.S. General during World War II; he was known in his time as “America’s Fightingest General”.
(...)
Quotes about Patton
If you’re a leader, you don’t push wet spaghetti, you pull it. The U.S. Army still has to learn that. The British understand it. Patton understood it. I always admired Patton. Oh, sure, the stupid bastard was crazy. He was insane. He thought he was living in the Dark Ages. Soldiers were peasants to him. I didn’t like that attitude, but I certainly respected his theories and the techniques he used to get his men out of their foxholes.
. Bill Mauldin, in The Brass Ring (1971)

28 June 1941, Lebanon (PA) Daily News, “Officers Must Lead Armored Units in Army,” pg. 5, col. 4:
Manchester, Tenn., Today—Officer of mechanized units, from the largest organizations down to the platoons must be led from the front, not commanded from the rear, Maj. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., commanding the Second Armored Division, said today.

“If you have a string of wet spaghetti which you want to move forward, you can’t do it by pushing from the tail end,” the general told his officers. “You have to pull it from the front.”

Similarly, he said, units of the armored division will merely bend in the middle if officer try to command them from rear positions. He served stern notice on officers in his command who do not lead their organizations in attack.

9 November 1942, The Evening Star (Washington, DC), “Gen. Patton Hawaiian Voyage In Own Schooner Recalled,” pg. A-6, col. 7:
Gen. Patton last spring explained his “spaghetti theory” of leading men into battle. A good many commanders take charge of their forces by following them so they can see their formations spread out before them. This, said Gen. Patton, is like trying to push a string of spaghetti. i won’ work. It’s much better if you pull. That’s why he prefers to get into the first line of battle.

4 April 1943, Boston (MA) Herald, “Wife Recalls Gen. Patton Fighting Poet” by Jane Eads (AP), pg. 29, col. 2:
This he calls his spaghetti theory of leading men into battle. many commanders take charge of their forces by following, so they can see the formations spread out before them.

“This is like trying to push a string of spaghetti...it won’t work,” says Patton. “It’s much better of you pull. That’s why I like to go into the first line of battle.”

27 August 1944, The Sunday Courier and Press (Evansville, IN), pg. 6-A, col. 4:
PATTON—FROM DOGHOUSE TO FAME
Tough Yank General Believes Army Is Like Spaghetti—You Can Pull It Not Push It
(...)
In Africa his three-starred tank is always in the first line, and it is no different in France, because, he says, an army is like a strand of spaghetti—“You can pull it but not push it.”

Google Books
The Unknown Patton
By Charles M. Province
New York, NY: Hippocrene Books
1983
Pg. 168:
An army is like a piece of cooked spaghetti. You can’t push it, you have to pull it after you.

Google Books
World War II
By Sarah Brash
Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books
1997
Pg. 100:
“If you want an army to fight and risk death,” he said, “you’ve got to get up there and lead it. An army is like spaghetti. You can’t push a piece of spaghetti, you’ve got to pull it.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Thursday, April 09, 2015 • Permalink