Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

George Patton

George Patton

George Smith Patton (November 11, 1885 - December 21, 1945), born in San Gabriel, California, was an American general leading U.S forces in various World War II campaigns.


Patton's grandfather was a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War. Patton was educated at the Virginia Military Institute and at the West Point Military Academy.

Patton was a staunch believer in reincarnation, and much anecdotal evidece indicates that he held himself to be the reincarnation of the Carthaginian General Hannibal; a Roman legionnaire; a Napoleonic field marshal; and various other historic military figures.

Early Military Career

During the Mexican Border Campaign of 1916, Patton, while assigned to the 13th Cavalry Regiment in Texas, accompanied then-Brigadier General John Pershing as his aide during the Punitive Expedition into Mexico.

World War I

During World War I, Patton, then a lieutenant colonel, was placed in charge of the U.S. Tank Corps, which was part of the American Expeditionary Force and then the First U.S. Army. He took part in the St. Michel offensive of September, 1918, and was seriously wounded.

The Interwar Years

Between the wars, Patton wrote professional articles on tank and armored car tactics, suggesting new methods to use these weapons.

World War II

During the buildup of the American Army prior to its entry into World War II, Patton established the Desert Training Center in Indio, California. He also commanded one of the two wargaming armies in the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941. Fort Benning, Georgia is well known for General Patton's presence.

North African Campaign

In 1942, Major General Patton commanded the Western Task Force of the U.S. Army, which landed on the coast of Morocco in Operation Torch. Following the defeat of the U.S. Army by the German Afrika Korps at the Battle of Kasserine Pass in 1943, Patton was made lieutenant general and placed in command of II Corps. Although tough in his training, he was generally considered fair and very well-liked by his troops.

Italian Campaign

Patton led the Seventh Army in the 1943 Sicilian campaign.

Patton's career nearly ended in August of 1943. While visiting hospitals and commending wounded soldiers, he slapped and verbally abused Pvts. Paul G. Bennet and Charles H. Kuhl, whom he thought were exhibiting cowardly behavior. The soldiers were suffering from various forms of battle fatigue or shell-shock, and had no visible wounds (though one was subsequently found to have dysentery). Because of this action, Patton was kept out of public view for some time and secretly ordered to apologize to the soldiers. Patton also was relieved of command of the Seventh Army prior to its operations in Italy.


In the period leading to the Normandy invasion, Patton gave public talks as commander of the (fictional) First U.S. Army Group (FUSAG), which was supposedly intending to invade France by way of Calais. This was part of a sophisticated Allied campaign of military deception, Operation Fortitude.

Following the Normandy invasion, Patton was placed in command of the Third U.S. Army, which was on the extreme right (west) of the Allied land forces. He led this army during Operation Cobra, the breakout from earlier slow fighting in the Norman system of planting hedgerows, besieged Cherbourg, and then moved south and east, assisting in trapping several hundred thousand German soldiers in Falaise.

Operations in Europe

The Third Army was stopped because of a lack of fuel in September, and resumed offensive operations in the late fall of 1944. When the German army counterattacked during the Battle of the Bulge, Patton was able to disengage his army fighting eastward and turned it ninety degrees north—a considerable tactical and logistical achievement.

Once the Bulge was reduced, Patton moved into the Saar Basin of Germany. Patton was planning to take Prague, Czechoslovakia, when the forward movement of American forces was halted.

In October 1945 General Patton assumed control of the Fifteenth Army, a paper army, in American-occupied Germany. He died from injuries suffered in an auto accident and was buried in American War Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg.

The Movie

George Patton was the focus of the 1970 Academy Award winning movie Patton, Patton being played to fame by George C. Scott. As a result of the movie and its now-famous opening monologue, in popular culture Patton has come to symbolize a warrior's fierceness and aggressiveness.

Patton the legend and Patton the man

The fame which came from the movie is quite ironic since the monologue in it is delivered from a stage in front of what sounds like a very large audience. General George Patton was not known as a good public speaker. He was very self-conscious and knew that his high pitched voice risked making him sound like an old grandmother. He was fascinated with military history and loved to expound on it, regaling those who were amateurs in the subject but boring all others. This is in sharp contrast to the gravelly voice of George C. Scott, and his confident delivery of a finely tuned and concise speech.

Even more ironic was his coming to symbolize a fierce and aggressive warrior. George Patton was certainly a very persistent individual who reached his goal of becoming a great general after having overcome disabilities which are often overlooked by some of his more flattering biographers. But he was above all the very opposite of a warrior - he was a career officer, and a team player who supported and was supported by his brother officers, within the context of a large military bureaucracy.

From an early age George Patton dreamt of becoming a great general, and did everything necessary to become one. His focus made him ignore civilian life to the point were, in World War II, he did not realize that he was commanding an army of civilians who would be returning to civilian life after the war, and who did not see Army life exactly as he did. His brother officers, who were by then his brother generals, were more astute about such problems and managed to keep him out of trouble, most of the time. The soldier-slapping incident of August 1943, which is described above, was one instance where they were unable to manage things in time. They were more successful in keeping him from throwing corporal Bill Mauldin in jail since they realized that his sometimes sarcastic cartoons were good for morale. They also kept their brother general from outlawing the Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the U.S. soldiers, when its editorial policy and reporting did not suit him.

External Link