General George Patton is one of the most famous, and most accomplished, military leaders in American history. His name has become a symbol of war, and the phrase “blood and guts,” is used to describe him. His greatest skill was in tank warfare, which he used in the invasion of Italy, and in a sweep across France in 1944.
Patton was born on Nov. 11, 1885 in San Gabriel, California. From his earliest years, he wanted to be a war hero. He entered Virginia Military Institute to begin his military career in 1904. He attended the U.S. Military Academy and graduated in 1909.
In 1910 he married his childhood friend, Beatrice Ayer. In 1912 he competed in the Stockholm Olympics in the pentathlon. He placed fifth.
In 1913 he was sent to Kansas to the Mounted Service School. he taught swordmanship there. He was skilled with the sword, but was also accident prone. Patton had an explosive temper and often went into a cursing filled rage. Some said this was the result of a head injury when he was a young man.
Patton fought Pancho VIlla along the Mexican border in 1915. He served under the famed General John Pershing, who promoted Patton to captain.
In World War i, in 1917, he was the first officer to lead a new thing called an Expeditionary Force Tank Corps. Patton studied and became an expert in tank warfare. He organized a school in France, and trained tank drivers in the use of French made tanks. He fought in the battle at St. Mihiel, and was sounded at Meuse-Argonne. He was given the distinguished service medal as a result.
But it was World War II where Patton became a famous leader. He led the 7th U.S. Army to victory in Sicily, using tanks. In 1944 he was given command of the 3rd U.S. Army. The 3rd Army swept across France as the tide of the war began to turn in favor of the Allies.
In 1945 he and his tanks went into Germany on a 10-day march and captured 10,000 square miles of terrirotry.
Patton was said to have a lust for battle. He was aggressive and ruthless in his attacking style. He wanted to always be attacking. In some ways he was ruthless, but in other ways he is said to have had an emotional or sentimental side that was not always public.
Patton never returned home from World War II, even though he was instrumental in the Allies victory over Germany. His neck was broken in a car accident in Mannheim, Germany. He died 12 days later in a hospital in Heidelberg, on Dec. 21, 1945. His memoirs were published in 1947 in a book called, “War as I knew it.”
His life was made into a movie, called “Patton.” The successful movie told the story of the general and tried to reveal some of his real character. The film Patton won seven Academy Awards, and was popular in many circles.