George Patton

George Patton

(1885-1945)

Born in San Gabriel, California, George S. Patton, Jr., was the grandson of Confederate military leaders. He attended Virginia Military Institute before going to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He gradu¬ ated in 1909 and was commissioned as a cav¬ alry lieutenant. Pattons first chance to obtain recognition came when he served as aide to General John Pershing (see no. 85) in the chase after Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Patton personally cornered and killed one of Villas subordinates.

Patton went with Pershing to Europe in 1917 and served as the commanding officer of the general’s headquarters. He also was one of the first officers named to enter the new tanks corps created late in World War I. Patton was wounded in the Meuse-Argonne offensive (1918).

As World War II approached, he was pro¬ moted to two-star general (1941). Patton was given command of the First Armored Corps. He played a prominent role in the Allied landings in North Africa in 1942. After the Battle of Kasserine Pass, he was made com¬ mander of the Second Armored Corps. Ordered to find a solution to the mobile war¬ fare practiced by German general Erwin Rommel (see no. 94), Patton became a practi¬ tioner of the same art.

He led the Allied invasion that cleared the Germans from Sicily in 38 days, and he was near the height of his career when he brought criticism to himself after he slapped an American soldier in a hospital. The man was recovering from shell shock; Patton claimed he was malingering, but later issued an apolo¬ gy for his action.

Patton became commander of the Third Army in England (March 1944). He landed with his men at Normandy and led the famous “breakout” that equaled any of the German blitzkrieg campaigns in its audacity.Patton led his tanks and troops all the way to Nancy and Metz, bypassing Paris, before run¬ ning out of gas and supplies.

During the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944), Patton raced northward with the Third Army, relieved the key city of Bastogne, and doomed the German offensive. Patton’s troops crossed the Rhine River in March 1945, and he entered Czechoslovakia by the time the war ended.

Named military governor of Bavaria,Patton proved completely unsuited to such an administrative post. He openly preferred the Germans to the Soviets and hinted he would like to campaign against Russia in the future. Due to these intemperate statements, he was removed from command of the Third Army that October. Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany after an auto accident later that year.