George Patton was a renowned general in the United States (U.S) Army who was in command of the U.S. Seventh Army during the First World War.
During the Second World War, he led the U.S. Third Army in France and Germany following the victorious triumph at D-Day. He belonged to a family with an extensive military background, so it is no wonder that that is the life to which his heart led him.
Patton competed in the first-ever Olympic modern pentathlon while he was still a young cavalry officer. The occasion was the Summer Games of 1912, located in Stockholm. He finished in fifth place out of a total of 42 competitors. He was also selected to compete in the following Olympic Team (1916) but could not participate since the games were canceled due to the First World War.
In response to a deadly raid in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson ordered American troops to cross the Mexican border in order to capture Mexican revolutionaries, Patton served as aide-de-camp to the mission’s commander, General John J. Pershing.
He was also a part of the first motorized attack in the history of American warfare (which took place in May 1916). Patton’s made headlines when his attack resulted in the Villa’s second-in-command and two of his guards being killed.
He used a new ivory-handled Colt .45 in the deadly Mexican shootout. After the battle, he decided to buy and keep a second one for added firepower. The pistols also contained his hand-carved initials. They later became his trademark.
Academically, he was not a very strong student. He was forced to repeat his first year at the West Point Military Academy. While academically not so well-off, Patton was a skilled swordsman during his time at West Point. He was quick to become one of the foremost swordsmen throughout the United States of America.
Such was his love for the sword that he even redesigned the Army’s sabre combat doctrine for the cavalry. The new design favored thrusting attacks over slashing maneuvers during fights.
Patton also designed the Model 1913 Cavalry Sabre, which was a new weapon with a straight blade. It was designed for thrusting that became known as the ‘Patton sword’.
During World War I, Patton was responsible for overseeing the horse procurement of the Army. He was named Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces after America entered the war. He was later promoted to the rank of Captain before moving to Europe in 1917, where he oversaw the training of American troops in Paris.
He was a brave man, who did not hesitate to step onto the battlefield. A year after his Paris tour, Patton was moved to the I Corps during the time of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He personally led his troops through thick fog, as the tanks advanced nearly five miles into German enemy lines.
Patton personally led an attack on several German machine-gun positions during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on September 26, 1918. He was severely wounded when a round tore into his left thigh. Even while heavily bleeding, he continued to command the battle for the next hour from a shell hole. He was finally taken to a hospital many hours later.
He was awarded the Purple Heart (a military decoration of the U.S. Armed Forces) after it was instituted in 1932, for his honor and bravery during combat.
The Bonus Army (or Bonus Marchers, as they were called) consisted of the veterans of the First World War, their families, and affiliated groups. They were 43,000 in number and were demanding cash-payment redemption for their service certificates.
The U.S. Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur sent orders to Patton on June 28, 1932, to disperse the protesting crowds that had been occupying Washington D.C. for two months. Following the orders, Patton led a charge of 600 cavalry troops on horseback. They charged down Pennsylvania Avenue, trampled civilians under their horses’ hooves, and beat the protesters with the blunt of their swords.
During the Second World War, he was essential in building the power of the United States Armored Forces. He became a prominent figure during the war and even led the division during the Tennessee Manoeuvre in the summer of June 1941. He earned the nickname ‘Blood and Guts’ due to his bravery on and off the battlefield.
General Eisenhower did not believe Patton had it in him to lead the Allied invasion of Normandy. He felt Patton was too undisciplined and impulsive to be given such a charge. The Germans thought otherwise, however. They considered him to be the Allies’ best commander and expected him to lead the cross-channel invasion.
In accordance with their disinformation campaign, the Americans placed Patton in charge of a phantom army, complete with plywood aircraft and inflatable rubber tanks to make it seem as if he would strike at the channel’s narrowest point at Pas de Calais in France.
The plan was successful and the Germans were beaten back during the invasion of Normandy. Weeks after the invasion, the Germans continued to amass troops at Pas de Calais expecting Patton to attack.
Patton famously believed in reincarnation. He stated that he had seen death up-close many times during the countless battles he had fought. He further claimed to have witnessed combat many times in previous lives. He declared he was part of the Roman legionnaire and had also been a part of the court of the Blind of Bohemia (who ruled in the 1300s).
Patton sincerely believed that if he were ever killed during the battle, he would return to join the war and fight again.
Benjamin Davis, Patton’s maternal grandfather was a California landowner who was elected Mayor of Los Angeles in 1851. Mount Wilson, located in the San Gabriel Mountains is named after him.