George S. Patton, Jr.

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George Smith Patton, Jr.
Personal Life
Date & Place of Birth November 11, 1885
San Gabriel, California
Parents George Smith Patton, Sr
Ruth Wilson
Religion Christian (Formerly Episcopalian, Roman Catholic convert)
Spouse Beatrice Banning Ayer
Children Beatrice Smith
Ruth Ellen Patton Totten
George S. Patton IV
Date & Place of Death December 21, 1945
Heidelberg, Germany
Place of Burial American Cemetery and Memorial
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Military Career
Education Virginia Military Institute
United States Military Academy
Branch of Service United States Army
Years of Service 1909–1945
Highest rank attained General
Commands held US 1st Armored Corps
U.S. II Corps
US 1st Armored Corps
U.S. Seventh Army
U.S. Third Army
U.S. Fifteenth Army
Battles participated in Mexican Revolution
World War I
World War II
Post-military service none


General George Smith Patton Jr. was a celebrated and controversial American general in World War II, famed for his successes in armored warfare against the Germans in 1944-45. His public image of tough-minded courage in battle remains fixed in the popular image of the war.

Patton served in the American Expeditionary Forces in France in World War I as a senior tank officer. In World War II, he commanded U.S. Army invasions of North Africa (1942-43) and Sicily (1943). He perfected the art of lightning-fast tank maneuvers and unrestrained aggression, and he was the only Allied leader feared by the Germans. Prior to being deployed in North Africa, Patton led his men in war games in Atlanta that were supposed to last for many days. Patton’s innovative tactics and the unbridled enthusiasm of his men enabled him to win the games in just a day or two. Patton inspired a unique loyalty and spirit in his men that enabled his troops to win quicker and with fewer casualties than anyone else.

Liberals hated Patton and feared that, after defeating the Germans, he would then push the communist Russian forces out of Eastern Europe. Given Patton's brilliance as a general, the liberals' fear was right, for once. Exploiting an exaggerated incident whereby Patton slapped a wounded soldier, liberal military leadership gave Patton command in 1944 of a 'fake' army designed to fool the Germans as to where the invasion of France would take place. He was then given command of a major unit, the Third Army, pushed the Germans out of France, defended and counterattacked at the Battle of the Bulge, then rolled through Germany in 1945. He died in an automobile accident. Patton has a very high visibility as a gruff, no nonsense, attacker who promoted armored force as they key to mobility and victory. His lightning-fast tank maneuvers shocked even the inventors of blitzkrieg.

Contents

Career

Patton was born on a ranch in San Gabriel, California.His wealthy southern family had a history of fine military service and his grandfather was an American Civil War hero. He attended Virginia Military Institute and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, receiving his commission in the cavalry in 1909.

World War I

Patton served with General John J. Pershing in Mexico and accompanied him to France in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) upon American entry into World War I in 1917. There he showed interest in the mobility and firepower of a new invention, tank, capable of crossing trenches, pushing through barbed wire, and shielding soldiers inside from machine gun bullets and (some) artillery fragments. He established a tank training school (the couterpart of a traininbg center run by Dwight D. Eisenhower in the States). Patton organized the First Tank Brigade, which he commanded in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. Wounded during the latter action, he saw no further active service in World War I.

Between the wars, Patton recognized the advantages of the tank but his superiors did not; the tank units were disbanded and he was reassigned to the cavalry.

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II, as commander of the Second Armored Division and the First Armored Corps, he oversaw the training of the Armored Force. In November 1942 he led the Western Task Force in Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa; later he commanded the Second Corps in Tunisia. In July 1943 he led the newly formed U.S. Seventh Army in the attack on Sicily. His name became a byword for aggressive fighting and unexpected maneuvers. Although Patton had seen many cases of shell-shock, he was disgusted when one healthy-looking soldier was hospitalized, struck him, called him a coward, and talked of shooting him. News reporters, who admired Patton, covered up the story but the hospital doctors complained to his superior, Eisenhower. Eisenhower almost sent Patton home in disgrace and when the news broke the Army was embarrassed to be associated with brutality. Patton was made commander of a fake army operating in England that fooled the Germans into deciding the Allied invasion would come at Calais, far east of the actual landing point in Normandy. After the landings succeeded, Eisenhower gave Patton command of the Third Army, reporting to Patton's former subordinate Omar Bradley.

On August 1 his Third Army poured through the breach in the German lines made by the First Army near St. Lô. The ensuing rapid sweep through Brittany and across northern France often defied logistic difficulties, especially the constant shortage of diesel fuel for tanks and trucks. The Third Army continued to play a major role in the winter fighting, helping stem the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes called the "Battle of the Bulge.". In the final offensive Patton struck boldly and suddenly across the Rhine after a blitz encirclement of the Saar Basin and advanced across central Germany. He secretly sent a rescue mission to liberate a POW camp that contained a relative of his; the raid was a total failure. Overall, his Third Army defeated 1,800,000 Germans, with lower casualty rates than any other army in World War II.

Near the end of the war, he developed a plan to liberate Czechoslovakia from Communist rule. Given his experience fighting the Germans, the offensive would have easily crushed the 10,000,000 men of the Red army and prevented the Cold War. Liberals in the United States feared he would win, so they convinced Eisenhower to stop him from attacking.

He attained four-star rank shortly before the end of the war. He died Dec. 21, 1945, after an automobile accident, and was buried in the U.S. military cemetery at Hamm, Luxembourg.

Tactics

Patton also perfected the art of lightning-fast tank maneuvers and unrestrained aggression. He was first given control over the 3rd Cavalry which was transfered into a tank division. Once Patton led his men in war games in Atlanta that were supposed to last for many days. Patton's aggression and the enthusiasm of his men enabled him to win the games in just a day or two. Patton inspired a unique loyalty and spirit in his men that enabled his troops to win quicker and with few casualties than everyone else. A German profile once said he could swear like a stable boy, but be as complimentary as a king. Patton had no part of the D-Day landings because he was in temporary disgrace after slapping a shell-shocked US soldier while visiting a military hospital during the Sicily campaign. Just six months after the war in Europe ended, Patton died in a car crash in Berlin, Germany in 1945 on his way to lunch with a friend.

Patton's fame derives primarily from his record as an outstanding practitioner of mobile armored warfare. Quick-tempered and bluff in speech, he was frequently involved in political controversy, not least because of his propensity to racist and anti-Semitic remarks. He was nicknamed "Old Blood and Guts" by his men, who disliked his minute attention to dress codes even in battle zones. Patton's war diary was published posthumously in 1947 under the title "War As I Knew It."

The 1970 movie

George C. Scott as Patton in the 1970 film; unlike the gravel-voiced Scott, Patton spoke with a falsetto: [1]

Patton became famous to new generations due to an Oscar-winning 1970 movie starring George C. Scott in the title role. It is a biographical film, based based on the books Patton: Ordeal and Triumph, by Ladislas Farago, and A Soldier's Story, by General of the Army Omar Bradley (Bradley served as technical adviser in the film, and was himself played by Karl Malden). The opening scene is one of the most familiar in film history, with Patton standing before a large American flag and delivering a speech to unseen troops based upon one he gave on June 5th, 1944[1], yet sanitizing away several of the obscenities. Patton used harsh and foul language and castigated cowards, or "psychoneurotics," and those who used self-inflicted wounds to get out of combat. The basic message was "shoot and keep shooting"[2], keeping with the General's standing order of "Always take the offensive; never dig in."

The movie was originally filmed and presented on 70mm wide-screen film, and had a dimension of spectacle which cannot be fully appreciated in home video. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and originally distributed by 20th Century Fox, Patton won seven academy awards including "Best Picture." Critic Roger Ebert said it was "released at the height of the unpopular war in Vietnam, was described by many reviewers at the time as "really" an anti-war film. It was nothing of the kind. It was a hard-line glorification of the military ethic, personified by a man whose flaws and eccentricities marginalized him in peacetime, but found the ideal theater in battle. In this he was not unlike Churchill; both men used flamboyance, eccentricity and a gift for self-publicity as a way of inspiring their followers and perplexing the enemy. That Patton was in some ways mad is not in doubt--at least to the makers of this film--but his accomplishments overshadowed, even humiliated, his cautious and sane British rival, Montgomery."[3]

Legacy

  • Patton, an Episcopalian, believed in reincarnation and that he himself had been the hero in many important battles in the ancient world of Rome and Greece.
  • Patton's son, George S. Patton IV, also an Army officer, served near the conclusion of World War II. He also served in Korea and Vietnam, and attained the rank of major general. Toward the end of his career, he was given command of the 2nd Armored Division, the same unit his father had commanded at the beginning of World War II, making father and son the first Army officers to command the same Army division. Patton retired from active service in 1980. A cousin of George S Patton Jr. was Democratic Congressman from Georgia Larry McDonald who was on Korean Airlines Flight 007 shot down by the Soviets near Moneron Island just west of Sakhalin Island on Sept. 1, 1983.

Quotes

  • "May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't"

See Also

Bibliography

  • Axelrod, Alan. Patton: A Biography. (2006). 205 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Berragan, G. W. "Who Should Bear Primary Responsibility for the Culmination of Patton's Us Third Army on the Moselle in 1944? Are There Lessons for Contemporary Campaign Planning?" Defence Studies 2003 3(3): 161-172. Issn: 1470-2436 Fulltext in Ingenta and Ebsco.
  • Blumenson, Martin. The battle of the generals: the untold story of the Falaise Pocket, the campaign that should have won World War II (1993)
  • Blumenson, Martin. Patton: The Man Behind the Legend, 1885-1945 (1985) excerpt and text search
  • Blumenson, Martin. The Battle of the Generals: The Untold Story of the Falaise Pocket - the Campaign That Should Have Won World War II. 1993. 288 pp.
  • D'Este, Carlo. Patton: A Genius for War (1995) 978pp
  • Dietrich, Steve E. "The Professional Reading of General George S. Patton, Jr." Journal of Military History 1989 53(4): 387-418. Issn: 0899-3718 Fulltext in Jstor
  • Essame, H. Patton: A Study in Command. 1974. 280 pp.
  • Hirshson. Stanley P. General Patton: A Soldier's Life. (2002)
  • Pullen, John J. "'You Will Be Afraid.'" American Heritage 2005 56(3): 26-29. Issn: 0002-8738 Fulltext in Ebsco.
  • Rickard, John Nelson. Patton at Bay: The Lorraine Campaign, September to December 1944. Praeger, 1999. 295 pp.
  • Showalter, Dennis. Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century (2005).
  • Smith, David Andrew. George S. Patton: A Biography. Greenwood, 2003. 130 pp.
  • Spires, David N. Patton's Air Force: Forging a Legendary Air-Ground Team. 2002. 377 pp.
  • Weigley, Russell F. Eisenhower's Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany 1944-1945 (1981)
  • Wilson, Dale Eldred. `Treat 'Em Rough'! The United States Army Tank Corps in the First World War. Temple U. Press (1990). 352 pp.

Primary Sources

  • George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It (1947) excerpt and text search
  • Blumenson, Martin, ed. The Patton Papers. Vol. 1, 1885-1940. 1972. 996 pp.; The Patton Papers: Vol. 2, 1940-1945. 1974. 889 pp.

notes

  1. http://www.pattonhq.com/speech.html
  2. Pullen (2005)
  3. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20020317/REVIEWS08/203170301/1023
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