Patton’s Forward Observers by John Kurt Reith

More than any other military figure, General George S. Patton Jr. conjures up the image of the ultimate World War II American warrior, and even today, the Patton mystique continues to grow. Despite his renowned egotism, Patton understood that it was the blood of his soldiers that earned the glory attributed to him.

Patton’s Forward Observers is told by a unique collection of highly trained artillery observers who fought every step of the war with Patton’s famed Third Army. We remember Patton today only through the service of men like these.

Formed on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 7th Field Artillery Observation Battalion (7th FAOB) was assigned the hazardous task of determining the source of enemy artillery fire. The exceptional level of training prepared the battalion well for combat in July 1944, when they landed in Normandy. Serving as the XX Corps (the Ghost Corps) primary counterbattery unit, the battalion quickly advanced through France. Stopped cold by a ferocious German defense of Metz and the Saarland in the bitter winter of 1944-1945, the 7th FAOB participated in some of the bloodiest, yet least well published, fighting of the war. Finally breaking through the German West Wall, XX Corps and the 7th FAOB ultimately crossed the Rhine and ended the war at Hitler’s birthplace in Braunau, Austria.

Patton’s Forward Observers is a soldier’s story. Derived from wartime letters and oral histories told by the veterans themselves, we see the classic American Army experience of WWII—the friendships, courage, terror, carnage, humor and ultimate victory—all part of the Patton legend—a legend built by soldiers.

About the Author

Lieutenant Colonel (US Army, retired) John K. Rieth spent a twenty-two year career as an infantry and military intelligence officer. Rieth, a son of Kurt Rieth, a WWII veteran of the 7th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island. With an eventual assignment to Germany following his father’s death, Rieth met and formed a deep bond with a group of veterans from his father’s unit, and began to amass data on the experiences of the 7th FAOB. Ultimately, the 7th FAOB Association asked him to prepare a history, and in support of the book, veterans and family members produced hundreds of personal accounts. Fusing these oral histories with official records, his father’s own letters and other published works, the story of Patton’s premier field artillery observers emerged. Lt. Col. (ret.) Rieth has a B.S. from the University of Rhode Island and a M.S. in Public Administration from Golden Gate University. He retired from active army service in 2003 and is currently employed by the US government.