Yesterday was the birthday of one of the greatest American Soldiers, tacticians, and strategists.
He was courageous, profane, blunt, honest, forthright, and a hell of a leader.
His legacy lives on.
General George Smith Patton, Jr. aka Old Blood and Guts, was born November 11, 1885 in San Gabriel, California.
Commissioned in the Army in 1909, Patton participated in the unsuccessful attempt to capture Pancho Villa. In World War I, he was a senior commander of the new United States Tank Corps and saw action in France. After the war, he was a strong advocate of armored warfare.
It was in World War II that he truly made his mark. Patton commanded both corps and armies as a general in North Africa, Sicily, and the European Theater of Operations.
……he was later given command of the U.S. Third Army and ably led it in breaking out of the hedgerows of Normandy and across France. When a surprise major German offensive resulted in American units being surrounded in Bastogne, Patton rapidly disengaged his Army from fighting in another sector in order to relieve the key town.
……George Smith Patton was born in San Gabriel Township, California (in what is now the city of San Marino), to George Smith Patton, Sr. (1856 – 1927) and Ruth Wilson (1861 – 1928). Although he was technically the third George Smith Patton, he was given the name Junior due to being the son of George Smith Patton II. The Pattons were an affluent family of Scottish descent.
As a boy, Patton read widely in classics and military history. Patton’s father was an acquaintance of John Singleton Mosby, a noted cavalry leader of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War who served first under J.E.B. Stuart and then as a guerrilla fighter. The younger Patton grew up hearing Mosby’s stories of military glory. From an early age, the young Patton sought to become a general and hero in his own right.
Patton came from a long line of Soldiers, including General Hugh Mercer of the American Revolution. His great grandfather John M. Patton was a governor of Virginia. A great-uncle, Waller T. Patton, perished of wounds received in Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. Another relative, Hugh Weedon Mercer, was a Confederate general.
His 7th great-grandfather was Louis Dubois, a French Huguenot immigrant, who with 11 others founded the town of New Paltz, New York. Another of Patton’s ancestors was Francis Gregory, a first cousin of George Washington. Gregory married Francis Thornton III, a first cousin twice removed from James Madison and three times removed from Zachary Taylor.
Patton’s paternal grandparents were Colonel George Smith Patton and Susan Thornton Glassell. Patton’s grandfather, born in Fredericksburg, graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Class of 1852, second in a class of 24. After graduation, George Smith Patton studied law and practiced in Charleston. When the American Civil War broke out, he served in the 22nd Virginia Infantry of the Confederate States of America.
Dying at the Battle of Opequon (the Third Battle of Winchester), Patton’s grandfather left behind a namesake son, born in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia). The second George Smith Patton (born George William Patton in 1856, changing his name to honor his late father in 1868) was one of four children. Graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 1877, Patton’s father served as L.A. County District Attorney and the first City Attorney for the city of Pasadena, California and the first mayor of San Marino, California. He was a Wilsonian Democrat.
His maternal grandparents were Benjamin Davis Wilson, (December 1, 1811 to March 11, 1878), the namesake of Southern California’s Mount Wilson, and his second wife, Margaret Hereford. Wilson was a self-made man who was orphaned in Nashville, Tennessee, and made his fortune as a fur trapper and adventurer during the Indian Wars and the war against Mexico, before marrying the daughter of a Mexican land baron and settling in what would become California’s San Gabriel Valley.
He was married to Beatrice Banning Ayer (January 12, 1886 – September 30, 1953), the daughter of a wealthy textile baron, on May 26, 1910. Together they had three children, Beatrice Smith (March 19, 1911–October 24, 1952), Ruth Ellen (February 28, 1915–November 25, 1993) and George Patton IV (December 24, 1923–June 30, 2004), who rose to the rank of major general.
During one of my tours of duty in Europe, I went to Luxemborg to visit the American Cemetery where he and his troops are interred. It was an honor I won’t soon forget.
Some famous Patton Quotes:
The difficulty in understanding the Russian is that we do not take cognizance of the fact that he is not a European, but an Asiatic, and therefore thinks deviously. We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinese or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand them except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them. In addition to his other amiable characteristics, the Russian has no regard for human life and they are all out sons-of-bitches, barbarians, and chronic drunks.
If only he could see how true this turned out:
“It seems to me a certainty that the fatalistic teachings of Mohammed and the utter degradation of women are the outstanding causes for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he was around the year 700, while we have kept on developing.”
The famous pissing in the Rhine picture. The urine stream was removed by a censor.
General Patton died of an embolism on December 21, 1945 at the military hospital in Heidelberg, 12 days after a car accident left him paralyzed.
Patton summed up his philosphy of a re-incarnated, timeless warrior with this poem:
“Through a Glass, Darkly”
“ Through the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star
So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.
So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more”
I can’t help but think he’s still serving on a battlefield, somewhere.
Rest easy, Sir.