Skip to comments.BIOGRAPHY OF GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON, JR.
Posted on 04/30/2008 1:20:52 PM PDT by devane617
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 cavalry Regiment.
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 in 1932.
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 citizens.
Patton commanded 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.
I have read practically everything available on this great man. Thank you for posting.
You don't need to give contemporary US commanders the back hand in order to praise Patton.
But there is a big difference in military climate. Patton could spend most of his career on the tactical and strategic arts, from becoming a master fencer and excellent pistol and rifle man on up to the tactical and strategic operations of armored regiments. Todays military officer, however, smart, must spend most of his life burdened with administrative chores, and if he plays hooky from his bureaucratic jobs to enhance his military arts, will suffer promotion wise.
His romanticized "quick thrust" into Germany however, portrayed in the movie as some kind of Monty/Ike conspiracy, was in fact a plan for disaster. The "red ball express" was already exhausted and couldn't be pushed one mile further. We HAD to have closer bases for supplies, and had Patton's view carried, he would have ended up perhaps inside Germany, but cut off, surrounded, and without supplies.
No disrespect meant toward any military commander. Those guys are doing what most of only dream about.
Agree. The guys who staged the “Thunder Run” into Baghdad were every bit as innovative, and clearly Petraeus is among the finest, most insightful military minds we’ve had in decades.
Another thing about Patton: he was dyslexic in his youth, and spent many evenings to the early morning hours reading and understanding his lessons.
I recall an interview given with General von Rundstedt of the German Army after the WWII.
In response to a question “Who do you think is the best General in the WWII?”.
His answer: General George Patton, Jr. He is the very best Battlefield Commander!
Pop quiz: what did Patton have in common with Zsa Zsa Gabor?
Wow...I have no idea...But I bet it is good.
Thanks for posting! I knew most of this but still enjoy reading about a real man and soldier.
That's not to say that Patton wasn't an egocentric person. However, Bradley, in the movie, comes across as the gentle guiding hand that looked after Patton, who was supposedly nuts. Patton knew more about the battlefield than the rest of them put together.
One line in the movie was true. When Patton said, "I'm one of the people who believe we can still lose this war." Today, there's the assumption that we can win no matter how much stupidity is dumped onto the troops. We CAN lose, and I fear we may have to take catastrophic loses before the political correctness comes off.
Thank you for this post and what a great website.....
Both were intimate with "Prince" Frederick von Anhalt?
Patton spent most of the time between 1916 and 1940 creating the US Army's armored cavalry capability.
He spent long hours preparing presentations to brass and to Congressional committees on the need for appropriations for armor.
He spent years going through prototype after prototype of different kinds of armor, of dealing with various arms manufacturers and their contracts. He set up a school for training in armor and dealt with all the red tape which that inevitably involved.
Make no mistake: George Patton was a dogged and accomplished bureaucrat.
The fact that he once took a summer off to study fencing in France and spent a couple of years teaching saber fighting between fighting Villa and the beginning of WWI doesn't really compare to the almost-quarter century he spent in and around the Beltway advocating for and building US armor capacity practically from scratch.
And despite all those years on committees and boards and task forces, he almost ruined his brilliant WWII exploits due to logistical blunders.
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness,
to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend.
Grant us fair weather for Battle.
Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that,
armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory,
and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies
and establish Thy justice among men and nations.
-by Msgr. James H. O’Neill12/8/1944 (the Chief Chaplain of the Third Army throughout the five campaigns on the Staff of General Patton)
Probably one of the most famous prayers written outside of a biblical context.
Patton has a reputation as a ruthless bruiser who would hit you with everything he had.
In reality, he was a master of the tactical advance and bypassed many more enemy units than he ever fought head on.
His goal was to get in the enemy's rear as quickly as possible with as intact a force as possible - a operational plan that on several occasions almost brought US strategy to near ruin.
Had he been enveloped when he had gotten too far ahead of his supply lines, it would have been disastrous.
Of course von Rundstedt would name Patton: Patton personally defeated him.
He would naturally think that if he had been beaten, it was only because he had been beaten by the very best there was.
I don't know much about Patton but I do know he only observed the use of tanks by British forces at Cambrai, France, in December 1917. "He and his men achieved victory " wasn't part of the victory.
I believe Patton is in the background of that photo with Pershing and Pancho Villa.
I read in one biography of Patton that in France during WWI, he was standing close to Douglas MacArthur. An enemy artillery round landed within a few yards of them, and thankfully, it was a dud. Picture WWII without Patton and MacArthur.
Patton and Macarthur were walking around when an artillery barrage began. Everyone except those two dived for shelter. They walked around nonchalantly not wanting to be the first to seek shelter. A round landed very close, Patton winced and shuddered (as any normal human being would) and Macarthur the imperturable commented “Don’t worry George, You won’t even feel the one that gets you.” They hated each ever since.
“get in the enemy rear as quickly as possible”
“WE’RE GOING TO HOLD ON TO HIM BY THE NOSE, AND WE’RE GOING TO KICK HIM IN THE ASS!!”
Someone posted that Patton had then what would be an unbounded luxury today: to be able to concentrate on practicing the military arts and nothing else (leave the paper pushing to your staff, that’s what they’re there for).
An amazing officer and field commander. His son LTG George S. Patton III distinguished himself in Vietnam, as well.
Both Gen. Patton and Zsa Zsa got into trouble for slapping an officer.
Patton didn’t slap an officer—it was a cowardly enlisted man.
“Patton decided during childhood that his goal in life was to become a hero.”
Goal? I’d rather thought he’d considered it his destiny. There is a difference. I think he also considered it his history....sorta.
You are right. They were privates. There were several incidents.
A point of honor I’m ever grateful for; I served in the 4th Armored Division. Not that I accomplished great things, but it’s a source of pride, nontheless.
Cool....that’s interesting because I’m focusing on military history in the Asia-Pacific region for the next few weeks. Reading Jules Roy’s account of Dien Bien Phu now.
Please let me know what you think of Frank’s Guadalcanal once you finish reading it.
Patton was relieved of command of Seventh Army, but not named ground commander for the Normandy invasion. He was kept on tenterhooks and eventually was given the shadow army in S.E. England intended to make the Germans think the invasion would be at Pas de Calais (which it would have been had Patton gotten his way).
As Operation Cobra was being planned, the breakout attack out of the bocage, Patton was given Third Army.
To understand Patton read Bradley.
Go ahead and pick it up at the next used book sale you go to or on Amazon. I’m about 1/4 through it and its very readable. Frank knows his stuff.
Limbaugh today said he was the conservatives’ Patton.
My father served in Patton’s army...Had nothing good at all to say about him...He claimed Patton was extremely unpopular with the troops...
Claimed Patton had no regard for the lives of American troops...Patton’s concern with making a name for himself...
I've read alot on both, some books and even some Americans rate Rommel a little better of as a commander. Others rate Patton best.
What's your opinion?
“You don’t need to give contemporary US commanders the back hand in order to praise Patton.”
He’s not. Bradley once pointed out to Patton that modern generals would be more administrators and politicians than warriors. He was right.
You heard it too...
Perhaps because they hadn't been invented yet. 5 points off the writer's score.
The writer missed a chance to gain extra credit that would have come from mentioning Patton's successes in the Tennessee war games and the Battle of Shreveport.