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George S. Patton
Pattonphoto.jpg
George S. Patton as a lieutenant general
Nickname(s) Bandito, Old Blood and Guts, The Old Man
Born (1885-11-11)November 11, 1885
San Gabriel, California
Died December 21, 1945(1945-12-21) (aged 60)
Heidelberg, Occupied Germany
Place of burial
American Cemetery and Memorial
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
(49°36′42″N 06°11′08″E / 49.61167°N 6.18556°E / 49.61167; 6.18556)
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army War Office seal
Years of service 1909–1945
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Spouse(s)
Beatrice Banning Ayer (m. 1910)
Children Beatrice Smith
Ruth Ellen
George Patton IV
Relations Major General George Patton IV (son)
General John K. Waters (Son in law)
Signature George S Patton Signature.svg

George Smith Patton, Jr. (also George Smith Patton III) (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945) was a U.S. Army officer. He was in the army from 1909 until he died in 1945. He was in charge of many soldiers and he worked to defeat Germany during World War II in Europe.

Patton was born on November 11, 1885 in San Gabriel, California. Patton was married to Beatrice Banning Ayer from 1910 until his death in 1945. They had three children.

Patton died on December 21, 1945 after a car crash in Heidelberg, Germany, aged 60. He was later buried at American Cemetery and Memorial in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.

Early life

Patton at VMI 1907
Patton at the Virginia Military Institute, 1907

George Smith Patton Jr. was born on November 11, 1885, in San Gabriel, California, to George Smith Patton Sr. and his wife Ruth Wilson, the daughter of Benjamin Davis Wilson. Patton had a younger sister, Anne, who was nicknamed "Nita."

As a child, Patton had difficulty learning to read and write, but eventually overcame this and was known in his adult life to be an avid reader. These early reading difficulties may have been because he had dyslexia.

Patton was described as an intelligent boy. He was also a good horseback rider.

Patton married Beatrice Banning Ayer, the daughter of Boston industrialist Frederick Ayer, on May 26, 1910, in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. They had three children, Beatrice Smith (born March 1911), Ruth Ellen (born February 1915), and George Patton IV (born December 1923). Beatrice Patton died in 1953 when she was thrown from her horse.

1912 fencing patton and mas latrie
Patton (at right) fencing in the modern pentathlon of the 1912 Summer Olympics

He attended the Virginia Military Institute from 1903 to 1904 and, though he struggled with reading and writing, performed exceptionally in uniform and appearance inspection as well as military drill. While he was at VMI, a senator from California nominated him for West Point.

At West Point he excelled at military drills though his academic performance remained average. He was cadet sergeant major during his junior year, and the cadet adjutant his senior year. He tried out for the sword team and track and field and specialized in the modern pentathlon. He competed in this sport in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, and he finished in fifth place—right behind four Swedes.

Patton graduated number 46 out of 103 cadets at West Point on June 11, 1908, and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Cavalry branch of the United States Army.

Military Career

George S. Patton - France - 1918
Patton at Bourg in France in 1918 with a Renault FT light tank

Patton first saw combat during 1916's Pancho Villa Expedition, America's first military action using motor vehicles.

He saw action in World War I as part of the new United States Tank Corps of the American Expeditionary Forces: he commanded the U.S. tank school in France, then led tanks into combat and was wounded near the end of the war.

In between World War I and World War II, Patton helped develop the armored warfare doctrine for the army, serving in numerous staff positions throughout the country. At the American entry into World War II, he commanded the 2nd Armored Division.

Major General Patton and Rear Admiral Hewitt on USS Augusta (CA-31), circa in November 1942 (80-G-30116)
Patton (left) with Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt aboard USS Augusta, off the coast of North Africa, November 1942

Patton led U.S. troops into the Mediterranean with an invasion of Casablanca during Operation Torch in 1942, and soon he was regarded as an effective commander.

He commanded the U.S. Seventh Army during the Allied invasion of Sicily, where he was the first Allied commander to reach Messina.

He then was assigned a key role in Operation Fortitude, the Allies' disinformation campaign for Operation Overlord.

At the start of the Western Allied invasion of France, Patton was given command of the Third Army, which conducted a highly successful rapid armored drive across France. Under his decisive leadership, the Third Army took the lead in relieving American troops at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, after which his forces drove deep into Nazi Germany by the end of the war.

During the Allied occupation of Germany, Patton was named military governor of Bavaria, but was stood down for making aggressive statements towards the Soviet Union and trivializing denazification.

He commanded the United States Fifteenth Army for slightly more than two months.

Battles

General Omar Bradley, General Dwight Eisenhower, and General George Patton, all graduates of West Point, survey war damage in Bastogne, Belgium. 1944-1945
Bradley, Eisenhower and Patton in Europe, 1945
  • Battle of San Miguelito

World War I

  • Saint Mihiel Campaign
  • Meuse-Argonne Campaign

World War II

Awards

Patton during a welcome home parade in Los Angeles, June 9, 1945
Patton during a parade in Los Angeles

Accident and death

General Patton's grave 300806
Patton's grave in Luxembourg City

On December 8, 1945, Patton's chief of staff, Major General Hobart Gay, invited him on a pheasant hunting trip near Speyer.

Observing derelict cars along the side of the road, Patton said, "How awful war is. Think of the waste." Moments later his car collided with an American army truck at low speed.

Gay and others were only slightly injured, but Patton hit his head on the glass partition in the back seat. He began bleeding from a gash to the head, and complained that he was paralyzed and having trouble breathing. Taken to a hospital in Heidelberg, Patton was discovered to have a broken neck and cervical spinal cord injury that rendered him paralyzed from the neck down.

Patton spent most of the next 12 days in spinal traction to decrease the pressure on his spine. Twelve days later he died in his sleep of pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure at about 6:00 pm on December 21, 1945.

Patton was buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in the Hamm district of Luxembourg City, alongside some wartime casualties of the Third Army, in accordance with his request to, "be buried with [his] men."

Legacy

General Patton 3c 1953 issue U.S. stamp
General Patton U.S. commemorative stamp, issued in 1953
Patton's Command Car
A replica of Patton's World War II command vehicle on display at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Houston, Texas

Patton's colorful image, hard-driving personality and success as a commander were at times overshadowed by his controversial public statements. His philosophy of leading from the front, and his ability to inspire troops with attention-getting speeches was met favorably by his troops, but much less so by the Allied high command. His emphasis on rapid and aggressive offensive action proved effective, and he was regarded highly by his opponents in the German High Command.

Several actors have portrayed Patton on screen, the most famous being George C. Scott in the 1970 film Patton. Scott's iconic depiction of Patton earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor, and it was instrumental in bringing Patton into popular culture as a folk hero. He would reprise the role in 1986 in the made-for-television film The Last Days of Patton. Other actors who have portrayed Patton include Stephen McNally in the 1957 episode "The Patton Prayer" of the ABC religion anthology series, Crossroads, John Larch in the 1963 film Miracle of the White Stallions, Kirk Douglas in the 1966 film Is Paris Burning?, George Kennedy in the 1978 film Brass Target, Darren McGavin in the 1979 miniseries Ike, Robert Prentiss in the 1988 film Pancho Barnes, Mitchell Ryan in the 1989 film Double Exposure: The Story of Margaret Bourke-White, Lawrence Dobkin in a 1989 episode of the miniseries War and Remembrance, Edward Asner in the 1997 film The Long Way Home, Gerald McRaney in the 2004 miniseries Ike: Countdown to D-Day, Dan Higgins in a 2006 episode of the miniseries Man, Moment, Machine, and Kelsey Grammer in the 2008 film An American Carol.

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