Educated at West Point, George Smith Patton (1885-1945) began his military career leading cavalry troops against Mexican forces and became the first officer assigned to the new U.S. Army Tank Corps during World War I. Promoted through the ranks over the next several decades, he reached the high point of his career during World War II, when he led the U.S. 7th Army in its invasion of Sicily and swept across northern France at the head of the 3rd Army in the summer of 1944. Late that same year, Patton’s forces played a key role in defeating the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge, after which he led them across the Rhine River and into Germany, capturing 10,000 miles of territory and liberating the country from the Nazi regime. Patton died in Germany in December 1945 of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. On December 21, 1945, America’s iconic four-star General, who had triumphed from the deserts of North Africa to Hitler’s doorstep, was pronounced dead at the 130th Field Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany. He was 60-years-old.
General Patton had set off on a pheasant hunting trip near Mannheim when his Cadillac staff car collided with a two-and-a-half ton U.S. Army truck. Patton was immediately paralyzed from the neck down. His driver, PFC Horace Woodring and his Chief of Staff, General Hap Gay (see Gay), walked away with barely a scratch. Was it just a freak automobile accident as the Army concluded or was it, as some conspiracy theorists believe, a calculated assassination attempt by the Russians or the OSS?
Bertha Hohle, the 24-year-old nurse from Minnesota who cared for the General in the hospital: “He said to me once, ‘Why can’t I feel my hands?’ That’s really hard to tell somebody that, look at that, you can’t use your arms.” Bertha did not feel that Patton was murdered. She believed he died from pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure, which were cited as the official causes of death. An autopsy was never performed. General Patton’s dog is Willie, bull terrier, He is one of the few dogs to wear regulation Army dog tag. Willie traveled with Patton everywhere he goes.