George S. Patton Jr.,
November 11, 1885 - December 21, 1945
Nickname Old Blood
Place of birth San Gabriel, California
Place of death Heidelberg, Germany
George Smith Patton
Jr. (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945) was a leading U.S.
Army general in World War II. In his 36-year Army career, he was Cadet
Adjutant at West Point, finished in Fifth Place in the Modern Pentathlon
at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden; Graduate Student at
the Cavalry School at Saumur, France in 1912 and 1913; the designated
military member of The American Committee for the Sixth Olympiad, which
was scheduled to be held in Berlin, Germany in 1916, advocate of
armored warfare and commanded major units of North Africa, Sicily, and
the European Theater of Operations. Many have viewed Patton as a pure,
ruthless and ferocious warrior, known by the nickname "Old Blood
and Guts", a name given to him after a reporter misquoted his statement
that it takes blood and brains to win a war. But history has left the
image of a brilliant military leader whose record was also marred by
insubordination and some periods of apparent instability.
George S. Patton
Jr. was born in San Gabriel, California to George Smith Patton Sr. (September
30, 1856 – June, 1927) and Ruth Wilson, whose parents were Benjamin
Wilson, a prominent Pasadena land owner and politician, and Margaret
Hereford, a widow, who had been his former housekeeper.
The Pattons were
an affluent family. As a boy, Patton was introduced to Homer's Iliad
and Odyssey, the Bible, and the works of William Shakespeare. Patton's
father was a friend of John Singleton Mosby, a cavalry hero of the Confederate
States of America, serving first under J.E.B. Stuart and then as a guerrilla
fighter. The younger Patton grew up hearing Mosby's stories of military
glory. From an early age, the young Patton sought to become a general
and hero in his own right.
home was located in Hamilton, Massachusetts. The town has since dedicated
its central park to Patton, boasting a full-size World War II tank in
the center of town, and the town's schools play under the name "Generals".
In addition, the French Government bestowed two statues to the town
commemorating Patton's service to their nation. They were improved in
2003 and sit at the entrance to Patton Park.
Patton came from
a long line of soldiers who fought and some who died in many conflicts,
including General Hugh Mercer of the American Revolution. A great-uncle,
Waller T. Patton, perished of wounds received in Pickett's Charge during
the Battle of Gettysburg. Another relative, Hugh Weedon Mercer, was
a Confederate General.
grandparents were Colonel George Smith Patton (June 26, 1833 –
September 25, 1864) and Susan Thornton Glassell. Patton's grandfather,
born in Fredericksburg, graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI),
Class of 1852, second in a class of 24. Patton was also a member of
the Kappa Alpha Order at VMI. After graduation, George Smith Patton
studied law and practiced in Charleston. When the American Civil War
broke out, he served in the 22nd Virginia Infantry of the Confederate
States of America.
Dying at the Battle
of Opequon (the Third Battle of Winchester), Patton's grandfather left
behind a namesake son, born in Charleston, West Virginia. The second
George Smith Patton (born George William Patton in 1856, changed his
name to honor his late father in 1868) was one of four children. Graduating
from the Virginia Military Institute in 1877, before taking up a career
as an attorney, Patton's father served as the first city level District
Attorney of Pasadena, California and the first mayor of San Marino,
It is rumored that
Patton's mother kept paintings of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson
in their living room; Patton admired them as she read to him from her
rocking chair. He is quoted as saying, "Until I was old enough
to know better, I thought those were portraits of God the Father, and
God the Son."
Patton, along with
many other members of his family, often claimed to have seen vivid,
lifelike visions of his ancestors. He was a staunch believer in reincarnation,
and much anecdotal evidence indicates that he held himself to be the
reincarnation of the Carthaginian general Hannibal, a Roman legionnaire,
a Napoleonic field marshal, and various other historical military figures.
Patton at Virginia Military InstitutePatton attended Virginia Military
Institute for one year, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order.
He then transferred to West Point. He was compelled to repeat his first
"plebe" year with Courtney Hodges (both were "found deficient"
in mathematics), after failing to qualify with a sufficient score in
his mathematics exam. He repeated his plebe year with honors, and was
appointed Corporal Adjutant (the second highest position for a cadet)
eventually graduating in 1909 and receiving his commission as a cavalry
Patton was an intelligent
child, intensively studying classical literature and military history
from a young age. His cleverness also had an effect on his leadership
and military skills. When he was 14 he and a friend built a working
glider. He learned to read at a very late age as a child having never
seen a printed page until starting school at the age of twelve, and
suffering from dyslexia. He also never learned basic skills such as
proper spelling. Because of the late academic start that he received,
it took him five years to graduate from West Point, although he did
rise to become Adjutant of the Corps of Cadets.
While at West Point,
Patton renewed his acquaintance with childhood friend Beatrice Ayer,
the daughter of a wealthy textile baron. The two were married shortly
after his graduation.
from West Point, Patton participated in the 1912 Summer Olympics in
Stockholm, representing the United States in the first-ever modern pentathlon.
He finished fifth. He was leading prior to the shooting competition,
in which he decided to use a .38 revolver instead of the .22 caliber
pistols the other athletes used. Patton, an excellent marksman with
a pistol, saw his ranking in this skill drop dramatically when he inexplicably
missed the target with two of his shots. Some observers claimed that
the "miss" actually passed through the holes put in the target
by his previous bullets (the larger .38 rounds tearing wider holes in
his target than the smaller rounds of his competitors). Based on his
exceptional performance in the earlier qualifying rounds, this theory
is not without merit. His performance in the event was also notable
in that he was the only competitor to defeat the French épée
champion in the fencing segment of the event while his efforts in the
cross-country run were lauded when he exerted himself to the maximum
and promptly collapsed upon finishing.
The Patton saber
After the Olympics, Lt. Patton was made the Army's youngest-ever Master
of the Sword. While Master of the Sword, Patton improved and modernized
the Army's Cavalry Saber fencing techniques and designed the M1913 Cavalry
Saber. It had a large, basket-shaped hilt mounting a straight, double-edged,
thrusting blade designed for use by heavy cavalry. Now known as the
“Patton” saber, it was heavily influenced by the 1908 and
1912 Pattern British Army Cavalry Swords.
Early military career
During the Mexican Expedition of 1916, Patton, while assigned to the
8th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Bliss, Texas, accompanied then-Brigadier
General John J. Pershing as his aide during the Mexican Expedition in
his pursuit of Pancho Villa, after Villa's forces had crossed into New
Mexico and raided the town of Columbus, where they looted and also killed
several Americans. During his service, Patton, accompanied by ten soldiers
of the 6th Infantry Regiment, killed two Mexican leaders, including
"General" Julio Cardenas, commander of Villa's personal bodyguard.
For this action, as well as Patton's affinity for the Colt Peacemaker,
Pershing titled Patton his "Bandito." Patton's success in
this regard gained him a level of fame in the United States, and he
was featured in newspapers across the nation.
World War I
At the onset of the USA's entry into World War I, General Pershing promoted
Patton to the rank of captain. While in France under the Third Republic,
Patton requested that he be given a combat command and Pershing assigned
him to the newly formed United States Tank Corps. Depending on the source,
he either led the U.S. Tank Corps or was an observer at the Battle of
Cambrai, where the first tanks were used as a significant force. As
the U.S. Tank Corps did not take part in this battle the role of observer
is the most likely. From his successes (and his organization of a training
school for American tankers in Langres, France), Patton was promoted
to major and then lieutenant colonel and was placed in charge of the
U.S. Tank Corps, which was part of the American Expeditionary Force
and then the First U.S. Army. He took part in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel,
September 1918, and was wounded by machine gun fire as he sought assistance
for tanks that were mired in the mud. The bullet passed through his
upper thigh and for years afterwards, when Patton was inebriated at
social events, he would drop his pants to show his wound and called
himself a "half-assed general." While Patton was recuperating
from his wounds, hostilities ended.
For his service
in the Meuse-Argonne Operations, Patton received the Distinguished Service
Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross, and was given a battlefield
promotion to a full colonel. For his combat wounds, he was presented
the Purple Heart.
The interwar years
While on duty in Washington, D.C. in 1919, Colonel Patton met and became
close friends with Dwight D. Eisenhower, who would play an enormous
role in Patton's future career. In the early 1920s, Patton petitioned
the U.S. Congress to appropriate funding for an armored force, but had
little luck. Patton also wrote professional articles on tank and armored
car tactics, suggesting new methods for their use. He also continued
working on improvements to tanks, coming up with innovations in radio
communication and tank mounts. However, with little money in the peacetime
military for innovation, Patton eventually transferred back to the cavalry—still
a horse-borne force—for career advancement.
In July 1932, Patton
served under Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur, as a major
leading 600 troops, including the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment in an
action to disperse the protesting veterans known as the "Bonus
Army" in Washington, DC. MacArthur ordered the troops to advance
on the protesters with tear gas and bayonets. At one point, when the
protesters resisted with bricks and curses, Patton led the last mounted
charge of the U.S. Cavalry against homeless Americans. One of the veterans
roused by the cavalry was Joseph T. Agelino, who won the Distinguished
Service Cross in 1918 for saving Patton's life.
Patton served in
Hawaii before returning to Washington to once again ask Congress for
funding for armored units. In the late 1930s, Patton was assigned command
of Fort Myer, Virginia. Shortly after Germany's blitzkrieg attacks in
Europe, Patton was finally able to convince Congress of the need for
armored divisions. Shortly afterwards, Patton was promoted to Brigadier
General and put in command of the armored brigade. The brigade eventually
grew into the US 2nd Armored Division and Patton was promoted to major
World War II
During the buildup of the U.S. Army prior to its entry into World War
II, Patton commanded one of the two wargaming armies in the Louisiana
Maneuvers of 1941. Fort Benning, Georgia, is well known for General
Patton's presence. He also established the Desert Training Center in
On June 3, 1942,
Patton believed the Japanese were on a course to invade the new Ally
Mexico. He believed the Japanese would use the beaches of Mexico to
move north into California. For three days, Patton had his troops on
high alert to move within minutes to meet the invading Japanese at the
tip of the Gulf of California.  The Japanese invasion fleet eventually
landed on Kiska Island on June 6.
Patton in 1943
North African campaign
See also North African campaign
In 1942, Major General
Patton commanded the Western Task Force of the U.S. Army, which landed
on the coast of Morocco in Operation Torch. Patton and his staff arrived
in Morocco aboard the heavy cruiser USS Augusta, which came under fire
from the French battleship Jean Bart while entering the harbor of Casablanca.
Following the defeat
of the U.S. II Corps as part of British 1st Army, by the German Afrika
Korps at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in 1943, Patton was made Lieutenant
General and placed in command of II Corps on March 6, 1943. Tough in
his training, he was generally unpopular with his troops. Both British
and US officers had noted the 'softness' and lack of discipline in the
II Corps under Lloyd Fredendall. Patton required all personnel to wear
steel helmets, even physicians in the operating wards, and required
his troops to wear the unpopular lace-up leggings and neckties. A system
of fines was introduced to ensure all personnel shaved daily and observed
other uniform requirements. While these measures did not make Patton
popular, they did tend to restore a sense of discipline and unit pride
that may have been missing earlier. In a play on his nickname, troops
joked that it was "our blood and his guts". The discipline
paid off quickly; by mid-March, the counteroffensive was pushing the
Germans east, along with the rest of British 1st Army, while the British
Eighth Army commanded by General Bernard Law Montgomery in Tunisia was
simultaneously pushing them west, effectively squeezing the Germans
out of North Africa.
Near Brolo, Sicily. 1943As a result of his accomplishments in North
Africa, Patton was given command of the Seventh Army in preparation
for the 1943 invasion of Sicily. The Seventh Army's mission was to protect
the left (western) flank of the British Eighth Army as both advanced
northwards towards Messina.
The Seventh Army
repulsed several German counterattacks in the beachhead area before
beginning its push north. Meanwhile, the Eighth Army stalled south of
Mount Etna in the face of strong German defenses. The Army Group commander,
Harold Alexander, exercised only the loosest control over his two commanders.
Montgomery therefore took the initiative to meet with Patton in an attempt
to work out a coordinated campaign.
Patton formed a
provisional Corps under his Chief of staff, and quickly pushed through
western Sicily, liberating the capital, Palermo, and then swiftly turned
east towards Messina. US forces liberated Messina in accordance with
the plan jointly created by Montgomery and Patton. Unfortunately for
the Allies, the Germans were able to withdraw much of their strength,
including heavy equipment, across the straits of Messina onto the Italian
speeches resulted in controversy when it was claimed one inspired the
Biscari Massacre in which American troops killed seventy-six prisoners
of war. Patton's career nearly ended in August of 1943. While visiting
hospitals and commending wounded soldiers, he slapped and verbally abused
Privates Paul G. Bennet and Charles H. Kuhl, whom he thought were exhibiting
cowardly behavior. The soldiers were suffering from "shell-shock,"
now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and had no visible
wounds (though one was subsequently found to have malaria). Because
of this act, Patton was kept out of public view for some time. At the
advice of Eisenhower, Patton, although not specifically ordered to do
so, apologized to the individual soldiers and hospital units that witnessed
the incidents. One of the soldiers thanked him and shook his hand. Ironically,
many modern day psychiatrists who have examined these incidents have
professed that at the time Patton himself might have been suffering
from battle fatigue. When news of Patton's acts was made public months
later, there were calls from some that he either resign or be fired.
the period Patton was temporarily relieved of duty, his prolonged stay
in Sicily was interpreted by the Germans to be indicative of an upcoming
invasion of southern France. Later, a stay in Cairo was interpreted
as heralding an invasion through the Balkans. The Germans' respect for
General Patton helped to tie up many German troops and would be an important
factor in the months to come. Such was the Wehrmacht's respect for Patton's
skill, as a combat commander, that they gave him the singular honor
of referring to the Allied Army under his command by his name and not
In the period leading to the Normandy invasion, Patton gave public talks
as commander of the fictional First U.S. Army Group (FUSAG), which was
supposedly intending to invade France by way of Calais. This was part
of a sophisticated Allied campaign of military deception, Operation
Following the Normandy
invasion, Patton was placed in command of the U.S. Third Army, which
was on the extreme left (west) of the Allied land forces. Beginning
at noon on August 1, 1944, he led this army during the late stages of
Operation Cobra, the breakout from earlier slow fighting in the Normandy
hedgerows. The Third Army simultaneously attacked west (into Brittany),
south, east towards the Seine, and north, assisting in trapping several
hundred thousand German soldiers in the Chambois pocket, between Falaise
and Argentan, Orne. Patton used Germany's own blitzkrieg tactics against
them, covering 600 miles in just two weeks, from Avranches to Argentan.
Patton's forces were part of the Allied forces that freed northern France,
bypassing Paris. The city itself was liberated by the French 2nd Armored
Division under French General Leclerc, insurgents who were fighting
in the city, and the US 4th Infantry Division. These early Third Army
offensives showed the characteristic high mobility and aggressiveness
of Patton's units. Rather than engage in set-piece slugging matches,
Patton preferred to bypass centers of resistance and use the mobility
of US units to the fullest, defeating German defensive positions through
maneuver rather than head-on fighting whenever possible.
General Patton's offensive, however, came to a screeching halt on August
31, 1944, as the Third Army literally ran out of gas near the Moselle
River, just outside of Metz, France. The time needed to resupply was
just enough to allow the Germans to further fortify the fortress of
Metz. In October and November, the Third Army was mired in a near-stalemate
with the Germans, with heavy casualties on both sides. By November 23,
however, Metz had finally fallen to the Americans, the first time the
city had been taken since the Franco-Prussian War.
Bradley, Eisenhower, and PattonIn late 1944, the German army made a
last-ditch offensive across Belgium, Luxembourg, and northeastern France
in the Ardennes Offensive (better known as the Battle of the Bulge),
nominally led by German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. On December
16, 1944, the German army massed 29 divisions (totaling some 250,000
men) at a weak point in the Allied lines and made massive headway towards
the Meuse River during one of the worst winters in Europe in years.
was present as a war correspondent during the staff meeting held the
next morning to deal with Rundstedt's breakthrough. Patton turned Third
Army north abruptly (a notable tactical and logistical achievement),
disengaging from the front line to relieve the surrounded and besieged
101st Airborne Division pocketed in Bastogne. By February, the Germans
were in full retreat and Patton moved into the Saar Basin of Germany.
The bulk of Third Army completed its crossing of the Rhine at Oppenheim
on March 22, 1945.
Patton was planning
to take Prague, Czechoslovakia, when the forward movement of American
forces was halted. His troops liberated Pilsen (May 6, 1945) and most
of western Bohemia.
Brief June 1945 visit to California
Patton during a parade in Los Angeles, California.Largely overlooked
in history is the warm reception he received on June 9, 1945, when he
and Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle were honored with a parade through Los
Angeles and a reception at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before
over 100,000 people that evening. The next day, Patton and Doolittle
toured the metropolitan Los Angeles area. Patton spoke in front of the
Burbank City Hall and at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. He wore his helmet
with a straight line of stars, chest full of medals, and two ivory
handle trademark pistols. He punctuated his speech with some of the
same profanity he had used with the troops. He spoke about conditions
in Europe and the Russian allies to the adoring crowds. This may be
the only time in America when the civilian people, en masse, heard and
saw the famous warrior on the podium.
This was also the
time when he turned over key Nazi historical documents that he had unilaterally
gathered (such as the original 1935 Nuremberg Laws) to the Huntington
Library. This is a world-class repository of historical original papers,
books, and maps, near Pasadena. The existence of this trove of historical
papers was kept secret for about 55 years, and only publicized generally
in April 2006, in a Los Angeles Times in-depth story. The papers
are now on permanent loan to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
Accident and death
On 9 December, in Germany a day before he was due to return to the United
States, Patton was severely injured in a road accident. He and his chief
of staff, Major General Hobart R. 'Hap' Gay, were on a daytrip to hunt
pheasants in the country outside Mannheim. It was a cold, wet, hazy
December morning. Their 1939 Cadillac Model 75 was driven by PFC Horace
Woodring (1926 - 2003). Patton sat in the back seat, on the right with
General Gay on his left, as per custom. At 11:45 near Neckarstadt, (Käfertal),
a 2½ ton truck driven by T/5 Robert L. Thompson appeared out
of the haze and made a left-hand turn towards a side road. The Cadillac
smashed into the truck. General Patton was thrown forward and his head
struck a metal part of the partition between the front and back seats.
Gay and Woodring were uninjured. Paralyzed from the neck down, George
Patton died of an embolism on 21 December 1945 at the military hospital
in Heidelberg, Germany with his wife present.
Patton's grave in LuxembourgPatton was buried at the Luxembourg American
Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg along with other members of
the Third Army. His body was moved from the original grave site in
the cemetery to its current prominent location at the head of his former
troops. A cenotaph was placed at the Wilson-Patton family plot at the
San Gabriel Cemetery in San Gabriel, California, adjacent to the Church
of Our Saviour (Episcopal), where Patton was baptised. In the narthex
of the sanctuary of the church is a stained glass window honor which
features, among other highlights of Patton's career, a picture of him
riding in a tank. A statue of General Patton is in the court yard adjacent
to the church.
Patton's car was
repaired and used by other officers. The car is now on display, with
other Patton artifacts, at the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at
Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Controversies and criticism
Patton more than once caused political irritations and was criticised
for some compromitting faux pas, such as the "Sicily slapping incident"
in 1943 (see above). Patton in several reports insisted on the highest
standard of order and grooming within his army's area and imposed fines
for anyone who violated his strict guidelines. These strictures were
applied even to troops coming from the front lines to resupply the line
with needed supplies, current maps, intel, food, ammo, resulting in
soldiers being delayed in that vital mission because they had to shave,
bathe and bring their uniform up to his standards before they were allowed
into his general area, which in turn would cause problems or deaths
on the front.
Patton's problems with humor, his image, and the press
Patton was not known for his sense of humor, and his reckless words
often made him his own worst enemy. Unlike Eisenhower, who was popular
with troops partly for his self-deprecating humor, Patton disliked jokes
aimed at himself. Soldiers stationed in the Pacific theater of war were
not pleased with what was going on in the European continent and disliked
him for this reason due to his perceived disregard for the lives of
his troops. Patton actually had the utmost respect for the men serving
in his command but had no regard for men that were "shell shocked".
The cartoonist Bill Mauldin ridiculed Patton several times in his comics,
prompting Patton to summon Sergeant Mauldin to his headquarters for
a dressing-down. On the other hand, he was himself capable of the occasional
blunt witticism: "The two most dangerous weapons the Germans have
are our own armored halftrack and jeep. The halftrack because the boys
in it go all heroic, thinking they are in a tank. The jeep because we
have so many God-awful drivers." During the Battle of the Bulge,
he famously remarked that the Allies should "let the sons-of-bitches
[Germans] go all the way to Paris, then we'll cut 'em off and round
'em up!" He also suggested that the German forces could attack
towards the British and create "another Dunkirk". His remarks
frequently ridiculed General Montgomery and at times the Soviet Red
Army, contributing to inter-Allied discord. In the context of coalition
warfare, these remarks were occasionally harmful. Eisenhower wisely
used Patton's high profile with the press to contribute to Operation
Fortitude; he knew the press would report on his appearances in Britain
and that the Germans would pick up these reports.
cultivated a flashy, distinctive image in the belief that this would
motivate his troops. He was usually seen wearing a highly polished helmet,
riding pants, and high cavalry boots. He carried flashy ivory-handled,
nickel-plated revolvers as his most famous sidearms (a Colt Single Action
Army .45 (aka "Peacemaker") and later the addition of a S&W
Model 27 .357). His vehicles carried oversized rank insignia and loud
sirens. His speech was riddled with profanities. The toughness of his
image and character appeared well-suited to the conditions of battle.
His theatrics were admired by many, so much so that, upon his death,
upwards of 20,000 soldiers volunteered to be pall bearers at his funeral[citation
needed]. This came as a surprise to the American populace, as the media
had often portrayed Patton's armies as disliking him.
Task Force Baum controversy
On March 24th, shortly after completing his crossing of the Rhine, Patton
ordered US XII Corps commander Major General Manton Eddy to undertake
an immediate operation to liberate the OFLAG XIII-B prison camp at Hammelburg,
some 80 kilometers behind enemy lines. Eddy strongly argued against
the necessity and prudence of the raid, reportedly going so far as to
refuse to pass the order to the US 4th Armored Division without General
Eisenhower's approval. Patton, having no desire to involve Eisenhower
(who was already well acquainted with Patton's headstrong tendencies
and would likely have cancelled the operation), flew to the XII Corps
command post at Undenheim, waited until Eddy left for dinner, and personally
delivered the operation order to Brigadier General Hoge of the US 4th
Armored Division. Noting that intelligence indicated a strong Wehrmacht
and possible SS Panzer presence in the area (as well as its relative
distance from the front line), Hoge and "Combat Command B"
commander Lieutenant Colonel Creighton Abrams told Patton that no less
than a full Combat Command would be required. Patton rejected this,
insisting that only a limited task force be sent. He also mandated that
his aide-de-camp and personal friend, Major Alexander Stiller accompany
the force "to gain experience". 
The task force,
named Task Force Baum (after its leader, Captain Abraham Baum), fought
valiantly through significant resistance to liberate the camp, but was
too exhausted and reduced in size from 52 hours of continuous fighting
to break out of the noose of Wehrmacht reinforcements that rapidly swarmed
into the area to surround them. The bulk of the remaining force was
hacked to pieces and routed in the woods around Hammelburg. Only a few
managed to evade the Germans and return to American lines.
After the news of
the operation became public, it was revealed that Patton's motivation
for ordering the operation against apparent common sense and the strident
objections of his officers was most probably personal: he had been informed
on February 9th by General Eisenhower that his son-in-law, Lieutenant
Colonel John K. Waters, captured in North Africa in 1943, was being
held at Hammelburg. Until this information came out, Patton had always
insisted he had no knowledge of the location of Waters. Upon further
review, Patton's explanation for insisting that Stiller go along also
didn't hold water; as a decorated World War I officer, Stiller had already
seen significantly more combat than most of the men in Task Force Baum,
and (most importantly) as a personal friend of Patton's family, he had
met Waters and would be able to identify him. Furthermore, Patton had
always insisted that the operation to liberate the camp at Hammelburg
was motivated by a deep concern for the welfare and safety of captured
US servicemen, yet in an ironic twist, after Stiller was captured, Patton
refused to try to liberate the camp where he and other survivors were
being held, even though it was much closer to the 3rd Army line of advance
than Hammelburg had been, and contained nearly twice as many troops.
Patton's superior, General Omar Bradley, later famously characterized
the raid as "a wild goose-chase that ended in a tragedy."
After the German surrender
After the surrender of May 8, 1945 extinguished the common threat of
Nazi Germany, Patton was quick to assert the Soviet Union would cease
to be an ally of the United States. In fact, he urged his superiors
to evict the Soviets from central and eastern Europe. Patton thought
that the Red Army was weak, under-supplied, and vulnerable, and the
United States should act on these weaknesses before the Soviets could
consolidate their position. In this regard, he told then-Undersecretary
of War Robert P. Patterson that the "point system" being used
to demobilize Third Army troops was destroying it and creating a vacuum
that the Soviets would exploit. "Mr. Secretary, for God’s
sake, when you go home, stop this point system; stop breaking up these
armies," pleaded the general. "Let’s keep our boots
polished, bayonets sharpened, and present a picture of force and strength
to these people the Soviets. This is the only language they understand."
Asked by Patterson — who would become Secretary of War a few months
later — what he would do, Patton replied: "I would have you
tell the Red Army where their border is, and give them a limited time
to get back across. Warn them that if they fail to do so, we will push
them back across it."
On a personal level,
Patton was disappointed by the Army's refusal to give him a combat command
in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Unhappy with his role as the military
governor of Bavaria and depressed by his belief that he would never
fight in another war, Patton's behavior and statements became increasingly
erratic. He also made many anti-Russian and anti-Semitic statements
in letters home. Various explanations beyond his disappointments have
been proposed for Patton's behavior at this point. Carlo D'Este, in
Patton: A Genius for War, writes that "it seems virtually inevitable
... that Patton experienced some type of brain damage from too many
head injuries" from a lifetime of numerous auto- and horse-related
accidents, especially one suffered while playing polo in 1936. It should
be noted, however, that many of the controversial opinions he expressed
were common (if not exactly popular) at the time and his outspoken opposition
to post-surrender denazification is still widely debated today. Many
still laud his generous treatment of his former German enemies and his
early recognition of the Soviet threat, while detractors say his protests
reflect the views of a bigoted elitist. Whatever the cause, Patton found
himself once again in trouble with his superiors and the American people.
While speaking to a group of reporters, he compared the Nazis to losers
in American political elections. Patton was soon relieved of command
of Third Army and transferred to the Fifteenth Army, a paper command
preparing a history of the war.
Attitude on race
The use of African American troops during the push to the Siegfried
Line offers some insight into Patton's attitude towards them. The first
African American tank unit, the 761st "Black Panther" Tank
Battalion, was assigned to Patton in the fall of 1944, at his reluctant
request. As the 761st was about to enter combat, Patton reviewed the
battalion and addressed the men:
Men, you're the
first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never
have asked for you if you weren't good. I have nothing but the best
in my Army. I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there
and kill those Kraut sons of bitches. Everyone has their eyes on you
and is expecting great things from you. Most of all your race is looking
forward to you. Don't let them down and damn you, don't let me down!
– George S.
Patton, The 761st "Black Panther" Tank Battalion in World
However, like many
military officers of the era, Patton expressed his doubts about using
black men in combat. On returning to headquarters afterwards, he remarked,
"They gave a good first impression, but I have no faith in the
inherent fighting ability of the race." He only accepted the
761st because he desperately needed all the ground power he could get.
Even after the war, Patton was not inclined to reform his perception
of black soldiers. In War As I Knew It, he relates the interaction described
above, and comments, "Individually they were good soldiers, but
I expressed my belief at the time, and have never found the necessity
of changing it, that a colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight
that "on the one hand he could and did admire the toughness and
courage" of some black soldiers but his writings can also be frequently
read as "disdaining them and their officers because they were not
part of his social order." Historian Hugh Cole points out that
Patton was the first American military leader to integrate the rifle
companies "when manpower got tight."
Patton's views on
African Americans seem mild and even generous compared to remarks he
made about Jews, Arabs, and other ethnic groups he encountered throughout
his military career (much less his legendary hatred of the Russians).
Like many Americans of his era, he generally considered those who were
not of Northern European ancestry to be dirty and uncivilized. However,
his statements regarding history show that this did not amount to lack
of respect for the military accomplishments of other races. He expressed
his feelings about Jews with his writings:
We entered a synagogue
which was packed with the greatest stinking bunch of humanity I have
ever seen. Either these Displaced Persons never had any sense of decency
or else they lost it all during their period of internment by the Germans...
My personal opinion is that no people could have sunk to the level of
degradation these have reached in the short space of four years.
– George S.
Patton, "After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Post War
Though many of his
attitudes were common (if not universal) in his time, as with all of
his controversial opinions, he was often exceptionally blunt in his
expression of them. He once wrote:
The difficulty in
understanding the Russian is that we do not take cognizance of the fact
that he is not a European, but an Asiatic, and therefore thinks deviously.
We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinese or a Japanese, and
from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand
them except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them.
In addition to his other amiable characteristics, the Russian has no
regard for human life and they are all out sons-of-bitches, barbarians,
and chronic drunks.
– George S.
Relations with Eisenhower
Patton (seated, second from left) and Eisenhower (seated, middle) with
other American military officials, 1945.The relationship between George
S. Patton and Dwight Eisenhower has long been of interest to historians
in that the onset of World War II completely reversed the roles of the
two men in the space of just under two years. When Patton and Eisenhower
met in the mid 1920s, Patton was six years Eisenhower’s senior
in the Army and Eisenhower saw Patton as a leading mind in tank warfare.
Between 1935 and
1940, Patton and Eisenhower developed a very close friendship to the
level where the Patton and Eisenhower families were spending summer
vacations together. In 1938, Patton was promoted to full colonel and
Eisenhower, then still a lieutenant colonel, openly admitted that he
saw Patton as a friend, superior officer, and mentor.
Upon the outbreak
of World War II, Patton’s genius of tank warfare was recognized
by the Army, and he was quickly made a brigadier general and, less than
a year later, a major general. In 1940, Lt. Col. Eisenhower petitioned
Major General Patton, offering to serve under the tank corps commander.
Patton accepted readily, stating that he would like nothing better than
for Eisenhower to be placed under his command.
recognizing that the coming conflict would require all available military
talent, had other plans for Eisenhower. In 1941, after five years as
a relatively unknown lieutenant colonel, Eisenhower was promoted to
colonel and then again to brigadier general in just 6 months time. Patton
was still senior to Eisenhower in the Regular Army, but this was soon
not the case in the growing conscript army (known as the Army of the
United States). In 1942, Eisenhower was promoted to major general and,
just a few months later, to lieutenant general — outranking Patton
for the first time. When the Allies announced the invasion of North
Africa, Major General Patton suddenly found himself under the command
of his former subordinate, now one star his superior.
In 1943, Patton
became a lieutenant general one month after Eisenhower was promoted
to full (four-star) general. Patton was unusually reserved in never
publicly commenting on Eisenhower's hasty rise. Patton also reassured
Eisenhower that the two men’s professional relationship was unaffected.
Privately however, Patton was often quick to remind Eisenhower that
his permanent rank in the Regular Army, then still a one-star brigadier
general, was lower than Patton’s Regular Army commission as a
two-star major general.
When Patton came
under criticism for the "Sicily slapping incident" (see above),
Eisenhower met privately with Patton and reprimanded him, but then reassured
Patton that he would not be sent home to the United States for his conduct.
Many historians have speculated that, had it been anybody other than
Eisenhower, Patton would have been demoted and court-martialed.
Eisenhower is also
credited with giving Patton a command in France, after other powers
in the Army had relegated Patton to various unimportant duties in England.
It was in France that Patton found himself in the company of another
former subordinate, Omar Bradley, who had also become his superior.
As with Eisenhower, Patton behaved with professionalism and served under
Bradley with distinction. There is evidence that Operation Cobra, 'officially'
conceived by Bradley, was in fact the work of Patton.
After the close
of World War II, Patton (now a full General) became the occupation commander
of Bavaria, and made arrangements for saving the world-famous Lipizzaner
stallions of Vienna. However, he was relieved of duty after making comments
that the Nazis were nothing more than a normal political party, and
ordering former SS units to begin drilling in attempt to gain some respectability.
His view of the war was that with Hitler gone, the German army could
be rebuilt into an ally in a potential war against the Russians, whom
Patton notoriously despised and considered a greater menace than the
Germans. During this period, he wrote that the Allied victory would
be in vain if it led to a tyrant worse than Hitler and an army of "Mongolian
savages" controlling half of Europe. Eisenhower had at last had
enough, relieving Patton of all duties and ordering his return to the
United States. When Patton openly accused Eisenhower of caring more
about a political career than his military duties, their friendship
effectively came to an end. In addition, Patton was highly critical
of the victorious Allies use of German forced labor. He commented in
his diary "I’m also opposed to sending PW’s to work
as slaves in foreign lands (in particular, to France) where many will
be starved to death." He also noted "It is amusing to recall
that we fought the revolution in defence of the rights of man and the
civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles".
(See also Eisenhower and German POWs).
From time to time,
conspiracy theorists have suggested that Eisenhower had Patton assassinated;
that the auto accident in which Patton broke his neck was not an accident
at all. While there is no evidence to suggest that this is true, Patton's
diary does suggest that the General was planning either to retire or
resign his commission, and enter politics. Given his popularity with
the American people and the respect in which he was held by his men,
it is entirely possible he could have won the same nomination his erstwhile
friend accepted. It must be noted that Patton's medals for combat valor
make Eisenhower's medals for merit seem pale by comparison, and that
by 1948 many Americans had come to see the Soviet menace as Patton had
When the biography
of George Patton was aired on the A&E network, a single quote perhaps
best described the relationship and destinies of George Patton and Dwight
“ [The] course
of World War II would lead these two men to very different ends: one
to the office of President of the United States and the other to a soldier's
grave on a foreign shore. ”
Near the end of
the war (February 1945), Eisenhower ranked the major generals in Europe.
Omar Bradley and Carl Spaatz were rated as the best. Bedell Smith was
ranked number 2, Patton was ranked 3, followed by Mark Clark, and Lucian
Truscott (others were also ranked). Bradley himself had been asked by
Eisenhower to rank all the generals in December of 1945 and he ranked
them as follows: Bedell Smith #1, Spaatz #2, Courtney Hodges #3, Elwood
Quesada #4, Truscott #5, and Patton #6 (others were also ranked) 
These rankings probably
included factors other than Patton's success as a battle leader. As
to that, Alan Axelrod in his book Patton (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)
quotes German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt as stating "Patton
was your best" and, surprisingly, Joseph Stalin as stating that
the Red Army could neither have planned nor executed Patton's advance
across France. D'Este reports that even Hitler begrudgingly respected
Patton, once calling him "that crazy cowboy general."
June 11, 1909 June 12, 1915 United States Army
First Lieutenant May 23, 1916 July 1, 1916 United States Army
Captain May 15, 1917 May 15, 1917 United States Army
Major January 26, 1918 June 17, 1918 National Army
Lieutenant Colonel March 30, 1918 October 14, 1918 National Army
Colonel October 17, 1918 N/A National Army
Captain (Peacetime reversion) June 30, 1920 June 30, 1920 Regular Army
Major July 1, 1920 July 2, 1920 Regular Army
Lieutenant Colonel March 1, 1934 July 1, 1936 Regular Army
Colonel July 1, 1938 March 11, 1941 Regular Army
Brigadier General October 1, 1940 September 29, 1941 Army of the United
Major General April 4, 1941 March 27, 1942 Army of the United States
Lieutenant General March 12, 1943 July 7, 1942 Army of the United States
Brigadier General August 16, 1944 N/A Regular Army
Major General August 16, 1944 N/A Regular Army
General April 14, 1945 February 11, 1943 Army of the United States
General of the Army N/A December 20, 1944 Army of the United States
Patton, the movie
Main article: Patton (film)
Patton was the focus of the epic (very widely shown in 70mm) 1970 Academy
Award–winning movie Patton, with the title role played by George
C. Scott. As a result of the movie and its now-famous opening monologue
in front of a gigantic American flag, (based on a real speech he made
to Third Army troops shortly before the Normandy invasion), in popular
culture Patton has come to symbolize a warrior's ferocity and aggressiveness.
Although the movie is based upon Ladislas Farago's Patton: Ordeal and
Triumph and Omar Bradley's A Soldier's Story, historians have stated
the movie's accuracy could be tinged with some bias, noting the heavy
influence of Omar Bradley as senior military advisor and writer. Bradley,
played in the movie by Karl Malden, had a tumultuous relationship with
Patton and the movie's treatment of him could be seen as hagiographic.
Still, many Patton contemporaries, including many who knew him personally
or served with him, applauded Scott's portrayal as being extremely accurate
in capturing the essence of the man. Other historians have praised the
film for its generally accurate and balanced portrayal of Patton as
a complex, capable, and flawed leader. Another source used by these
and other authors is the "Button Box" manuscript written by
Patton's wife, Beatrice Ayer Patton.
The image of Patton
in the movie is somewhat misleading since the opening monologue is delivered
from a stage in front of what sounds like a very large audience. The
real George Patton was not known as a good public speaker. He was very
self-conscious and knew that his high-pitched voice risked making him
sound like an old grandmother, unlike the gravelly voice of George C.
Scott, who confidently delivered a finely tuned and concise speech.
The movie writers of Patton's famous speech, however, changed the wording
here and there, often for the sake of toning it down and removing the
The movie was a
favorite of President Richard M. Nixon, who watched it shortly before
ordering the aerial bombing of Cambodia.
Hess: How about General Patton?
Bendetson: General Patton was a unique man and if you have yourself
seen the movie "General Patton"...
Hess: I have.
Bendetson: ...I can tell you it is a very accurate portrayal both of
General Patton and of General Bradley, although the man who played General
Bradley looks less like General Bradley actually looks than [George
C.] Scott looks like Patton actually looked."
Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
A museum dedicated to Patton, and his efforts training a million soldiers
for African desert combat, is located at the site of his Desert Training
Center in Chiriaco Summit, California. A statue of Patton can be seen
from nearby Interstate 10.
Two active United States Army installations are named in memory of General
Patton. Patton Barracks in Heidelberg, Germany, houses the headquarters
for the United States Army Garrison Heidelberg. Patton Army Air Field,
located on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, provides rotary-wing aviation support
for Army units in souther Kuwait.
into the psychology of Patton
In the book "In the Mind's Eye", visual thinking researcher
Professor Thomas G. West has suggested that Patton's learning difficulties
"may be fundamentally and essentially associated with a gift".
Such learning difficulties "will variously be labelled as dyslexia,
dyspraxia, pragmatic semantic speech and language difficulties, Asperger's
syndrome, autistic tendencies, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
and so on". He states:
"Many of these
individuals (people who are successful and who have learning difficulties)
may have achieved success or even greatness not in spite of but because
of their apparent disabilities. They may have been so much in touch
with their visual-spatial, nonverbal, right-hemisphere modes of thought
that they have had difficulty doing orderly, sequential, verbal-mathematical,
left-hemisphere tasks in a culture where left-hemisphere capabilities
are so highly valued." "For a certain group of people the
handicap itself may be fundamentally and essentially associated with
a gift. For some the handicap and the gift may be two aspects of the
same thing." p.19
BIOGRAPHY OF GENERAL
GEORGE S. PATTON, JR.
One of the most complicated military men of all time, General George
Smith Patton, Jr. was born November 11, 1885 in San Gabriel, California.
He was known for carrying pistols with ivory handles and his intemperate
manner, and is regarded as one of the most successful United States
field commanders of any war. He continually strove to train his troops
to the highest standard of excellence.
Patton decided during
childhood that his goal in life was to become a hero. His ancestors
had fought in the Revolutionary War, the Mexican War and the Civil War,
and he grew up listening to stories of their brave and successful endeavors.
He attended the Virginia Military Institute for one year and went on
to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point on
June 11, 1909. He was then commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the 15th
Patton married Beatrice
Ayer, whom he dated while at West Point, on May 26, 1910. In 1912 he
represented the United States at the Stockholm Olympics in the first
Modern Pentathlon. Originally open only to military officers, it was
considered a rigorous test of the skills a soldier should possess. Twenty-six
year old Patton did remarkably well in the multi-event sport, consisting
of pistol shooting from 25 meters, sword fencing, a 300 meter free style
swim, 800 meters horse back riding and a 4-kilometer cross country run.
He placed fifth overall, despite a disappointing development in the
shooting portion. While most chose .22 revolvers, Patton felt the event's
military roots garnered a more appropriate weapon, the .38. During the
competition Patton was docked for missing the target, though he contended
the lost bullet had simply passed through a large opening created by
previous rounds from the .38, which left considerably larger holes.
After the Olympics,
Patton kept busy taking lessons at the French cavalry School and studying
French sword drills. In the summer of 1913, Patton received orders to
report to the commandant of the Mounted Service School in Fort Riley,
Kansas, where he became the school's first Master of the Sword. He designed
and taught a course in swordsmanship while he was a student at the school.
Patton's first real
exposure to battle occurred when he served as a member of legendary
General John J. Pershing's staff during the expedition to Mexico. In
1915, Patton was sent to Fort Bliss along the Mexican border where he
led routine cavalry patrols. A year later, he accompanied Pershing as
an aide on his expedition against Francisco "Pancho" Villa
into Mexico. Patton gained recognition from the press for his attacks
on several of Villa's men.
Impressed by Patton's
determination, Pershing promoted him to Captain and asked him to command
his Headquarters Troop upon their return from Mexico. With the onset
of World War I in 1914, tanks were not being widely used. In 1917, however,
Patton became the first member of the newly established United States
Tank Corps, where he served until the Corps were abolished in 1920.
He took full command of the Corps, directing ideas, procedures and even
the design of their uniforms. Along with the British tankers, he and
his men achieved victory at Cambrai, France, during the world's first
major tank battle in 1917.
Using his first-hand
knowledge of tanks, Patton organized the American tank school in Bourg,
France and trained the first 500 American tankers. He had 345 tanks
by the time he took the brigade into the Meuse-Argonne Operation in
September 1918. When they entered into battle, Patton had worked out
a plan where he could be in the front lines maintaining communications
with his rear command post by means of pigeons and a group of runners.
Patton continually exposed himself to gunfire and was shot once in the
leg while he was directing the tanks. His actions during that battle
earned him the Distinguished Service Cross for Heroism, one of the many
medals he would collect during his lifetime.
An outspoken advocate
for tanks, Patton saw them as the future of modern combat. Congress,
however, was not willing to appropriate funds to build a large armored
force. Even so, Patton studied, wrote extensively and carried out experiments
to improve radio communications between tanks. He also helped invent
the co-axial tank mount for cannons and machine guns.
After WWI, Patton
held a variety of staff jobs in Hawaii and Washington, D.C. He graduated
from the Command and General Staff School in 1924, and completed his
military schooling as a distinguished graduate of the Army War College
When the German
Blitzkrieg began on Europe, Patton finally convinced Congress that the
United States needed a more powerful armored striking force. With the
formation of the Armored Force in 1940, he was transferred to the Second
Armored Division at Fort Benning, Georgia and named Commanding General
on April 11, 1941. Two months later, Patton appeared on the cover of
Life magazine. Also during this time, Patton began giving his famous
"Blood and Guts" speeches in an amphitheater he had built
to accommodate the entire division.
The United States
officially entered World War II in December 1941, after the attack on
Pearl Harbor. By November 8, 1942, Patton was commanding the Western
Task Force, the only all-American force landing for Operation Torch,
the Allied invasion of North Africa. After succeeding there, Patton
commanded the Seventh Army during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943,
and in conjunction with the British Eighth Army restored Sicily to its
the Seventh Army until 1944, when he was given command of the Third
Army in France. Patton and his troops dashed across Europe after the
battle of Normandy and exploited German weaknesses with great success,
covering the 600 miles across France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany,
Austria and Czechoslovakia. When the Third Army liberated the Buchenwald
concentration camp, Patton slowed his pace. He instituted a policy,
later adopted by other commanders, of making local German civilians
tour the camps. By the time WWII was over, the Third Army had liberated
or conquered 81,522 square miles of territory.
In October 1945,
Patton assumed command of the Fifteenth Army in American-occupied Germany.
On December 9, he suffered injuries as the result of an automobile accident.
He died 12 days later, on December 21, 1945 and is buried among the
soldiers who died in the Battle of the Bulge in Hamm, Luxembourg.
Remembered for his
fierce determination and ability to lead soldiers, Patton is now considered
one of the greatest military figures in history. The 1970 film, "Patton,"
starring George C. Scott in the title role, provoked renewed interest
in Patton. The movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Actor
and Best Picture, and immortalized General George Smith Patton, Jr.
as one of the world's most intriguing military men.