Patton, George Smith

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Patton, George Smith, born 11-11-1885 in San Gabriel, California, like Omar “Brad” Bradley was educated at the American Military Academy. 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. He was tutored from home until the age of eleven, when he was enrolled in Stephen Clark’s School for Boys, a private school in Pasadena, for six years. Patton was described as an intelligent boy and was widely read on classical military history. He graduated from here in 1909. In 1916, he served as an aide-de-camp to General Pershing in his expedition against the Mexican Pancho Villa who had crossed the American/Mexican border and sacked the town of Columbus in New Mexico. Many Americans were not aware that President Woodrow Wilson had even sanctioned this campaign and Patton was to be linked with such ‘daring-do’ throughout his military career. He was beloved by the actor Marlene Dietrich

By the end of the First World War, Patton had established a tank training school and it was in armoured warfare that Patton was to make his name.  One of the training officers at this camp was a young Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. Patton commanded American forces in Morocco, Tunisia and Sicily between 1942 and 1943 and in early 1944, he was given command of the American Third Army. Patton played a key role in the use of armour after the successful landings at D-Day.  Armoured warfare speeded up the Allies advance across western Europe and Patton always seemed to be ahead of any other Allied armoured group. His tactics were uncompromising but undoubtedly successful. Bernard Montgomery was known to have commented that Eisenhower seemed to favour requests for equipment by Patton as opposed to British Generals in the thrust across Europe. But, if true, Eisenhower probably had the evidence to favour Patton, especially after the heroic failure at Arnhem. The 3rd Army   Group broke through the Germans defences at Normandy and it cleared a path across northern France and in March 1945, it crossed the River Rhine  and moved into mainland Germany and from there into Austria. After the war in Europe ended in May 1945, Patton was made military governor of Bavaria but was removed from this post when he was accused of being too soft on the Germans. Certainly, by the time the war in Europe had ended, Patton saw the might of the Russians as more of a threat than the defeated Nazis. Patton was killed, the result of a road crash, in late 1945, aged 60 and the circumstances are doubtful. On 09-12-1945, Patton was severely injured, was paralysed by a spinal chord lesion and died 21-12-1945.

He and his Chief of Staff, General Hobart R “Hap” Gay, were on a one day trip to hunt pheasants in the country outside Mannheim General Patton was leaving on the next day to fly home on vacation and was considering either resigning or retiring from the army. Their 1938 Cadillac 75 was driven by Private First Class,

    Horace Woodring (1926–2003), with Patton sitting in the back seat on the right side, with General Gay on his left, as per custom. At 11:45 near Neckarstadt, Mannheim, a 2½ ton GMC truck driven by Technical Sergeant Robert L. Thompson made a left turn in front of Patton’s Cadillac. Patton’s car hit the front of the truck, at a low speed. The driver and General Hobert Gay were not injured.

   

Patton could be too much?? A forceful and outspoken man, Patton made as many enemies as friends. Popular among his troops for his uncompromising leadership, he could also be harsh and only expected results from the men under his command. Some of his quotes give an insight in Patton:

The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.”

“We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me or get out of my way.”

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”

“Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won with men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads, that gains the victory.”

“I do not fear failure. I only fear the ‘slowing up’ of the engine inside of me which is pounding, saying, “Keep going, someone must be on top, why not you?”

“A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”

“If a man does his best, what else is there?”

Patton married Beatrice Ayer, whom he dated while at West Point, on May 26-05-1910. In 1912 he represented the United States at the Stockholm Olympics in the first Modern Pentathlon.

Death and burial ground of Patton, George Smith.

images (2) images (1)   Patton had not been able to brace in time and hit his head on the glass partition in the back seat of the car. He began bleeding from a gash to the head and complained to Gay and Woodring that he was paralyzed and was having trouble breathing. Military Police Lieutenant, Peter Balabas.
 in an Army jeep, came upon the accident moments after it occurred. He ran to the staff car and opened its rear door to render assistance. General Gay was supporting Patton’s body, and he instructed Babalas to call an ambulance. Balabas, the son of Greek immigrants, died of bone cancer, age 65, on 29-12-1987 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Patton whispered to Gay, “I think that I’m paralyzed.” Two medics arrived on the scene, and then an ambulance with two medical officers came. Realizing that Patton’s injuries were serious, the officers made the decision to transport Patton to the best equipped medical facility in the area—the 130th US Army Station Hospital in Heidelberg, 25 miles away. Patton was discovered to have a compression fracture and dislocation of the third and fourth vertebrae, resulting in a broken neck and cerervical spinal cord injury which rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. He spent most of the next 12 days in spinal traction to decrease spinal pressure. Although in some pain from this procedure, he reportedly never complained about it. All non-medical visitors, save for Patton’s wife, who had flown from the U.S., were forbidden. Patton, who had been told he had no chance to ever again ride a horse or resume normal life, at one point commented, “This is a hell of a way to die.” He died in his sleep of a pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure at about 18:00 on December 21-12-1945. Patton was buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg alongside other wartime casualties of the Third Army, per his request to “be buried with my men”.
 

Cemetery and grave location of Patton, George Smith.

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