(Document Source: Attack, and Attack, and Attack again. How General Patton’s Force of personality created the brash culture and underpinned the aggressive tactics that led to victory in Europe. David Wornow, University of Virginia)(via www.academia.edu)
JUST TELL THEM WHAT TO DO
AND THEY WILL SURPRISE YOU WITH THEIR INGENUITY
George Smith Patton Jr
The Patton family was of Irish, Scots-Irish, English, Scottish, French, and Welsh ancestry. His great-grandmother came from an aristocratic Welsh family, descended from many Welsh lords of Glamorgan, which had an extensive military background. Patton believed he had former lives as a soldier and took pride in mystical ties with his ancestors. Though not directly descended from George Washington, Patton traced some of his English colonial roots to George Washington’s great-grandfather. He was also descended from England’s King Edward I through Edward’s son Edmund of Woodstock, the 1st Earl of Kent. The family belief held the Pattons were descended from sixteen barons who had signed the Magna Carta. Patton believed in reincarnation, stating that he had fought in previous battles and wars before his time, additionally, his ancestry was very important to him, forming a central part of his personal identity.
The first Patton in America was Robert Patton, born in Ayr, Scotland. He emigrated to Culpeper, Virginia, from Glasgow, in either 1769 or 1770. His paternal grandfather was George Smith Patton, who commanded the 22nd Virginia Infantry under Jubal Early in the Civil War and was killed in the Third Battle of Winchester, while his great-uncle Waller T. Patton was killed in Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. Patton also descended from Hugh Mercer, who had been killed in the Battle of Princeton during the American Revolution. Patton’s father, who graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), became a lawyer and later the district attorney of Los Angeles County. Patton’s maternal grandfather was Benjamin Davis Wilson, a merchant who had been the second Mayor of Los Angeles. His father was a wealthy rancher and lawyer who owned a one-thousand-acre (400 ha) ranch near Pasadena, California. Patton is also a descendant of French Huguenot Louis DuBois.
George Smith Patton Jr. was born on November 11, 1885, in the Los Angeles suburb of San Gabriel, California, to George Smith Patton Sr. and his wife, Ruth Wilson, the daughter of Benjamin Davis Wilson, the second Mayor of Los Angeles. The Patton family resided at Lake Vineyard, built by Benjamin Wilson, on 128 acres (52 ha) in present-day San Marino, California. Patton had a younger sister, Anne, nicknamed ‘Nita’. Nita became engaged to John J. Pershing, Patton’s mentor, in 1917, but the engagement ended because of their separation during Pershing’s time in France during World War I. As a child, Patton had difficulty learning to read and write, but eventually overcame this and was known in his adult life to be an avid reader. He was tutored from home until the age of eleven when he was enrolled in Stephen Cutter Clark’s Classical School for Boys, a private school in Pasadena, for six years.
Patton was described as an intelligent boy and was widely read in classical military history, particularly the exploits of Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, and Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as those of family friend John Singleton Mosby, who frequently stopped by the Patton family home when George was a child. He was also a devoted horseback rider. Patton never seriously considered a career other than the military. At the age of seventeen, he sought an appointment at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. He applied to several universities with Reserve Officer’s Training Corps programs and was accepted to Princeton College, but eventually decided on Virginia Military Institute (VMI), which his father and grandfather had attended. He attended the school from 1903 to 1904 and, though he struggled with reading and writing, performed exceptionally in uniform and appearance inspection, as well as military drills. While he was at the VMI, Senator Thomas R. Bard nominated him for West Point. He was an initiate of the Beta Commission of the Kappa Alpha Order. In his plebe (first) year at West Point, Patton adjusted easily to the routine. However, his academic performance was so poor that he was forced to repeat his first year after failing mathematics. He excelled at military drills, though his academic performance remained average. He was a cadet sergeant major during his junior year and the cadet adjutant during his senior year. He also joined the football team, but he injured his arm and stopped playing on several occasions. Instead, he tried out for the sword team and track and field and specialized in the modern pentathlon.
For his skill in running and fencing, Patton was selected as the Army’s entry for the first modern pentathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Patton was the only American among the 42 pentathletes, who were all military officers. Patton placed twenty-first on the pistol range, seventh in swimming, fourth in fencing, sixth in the equestrian competition, and third in the footrace, finishing fifth overall and first among the non-Swedish competitors. Following the 1912 Olympics, Patton traveled to Saumur, France, where he learned fencing techniques from Adjutant Charles Cléry, a French ‘master of arms’ and instructor of fencing at the French Cavalry School there. Bringing these lessons back to Fort Myer, Patton redesigned saber combat doctrine for the US Cavalry, favoring thrusting attacks over the standard slashing maneuver and designing a new sword for such attacks. He was temporarily assigned to the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, and in 1913, the first 20.000 of the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber – popularly known as the Patton Saber, were ordered.
Patton graduated number 46 out of 103 cadets at West Point on June 11, 1909, and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Cavalry branch of the United States Army. At age 24, Patton married Beatrice Banning Ayer, the daughter of Boston industrialist Frederick Ayer, on May 26, 1910, in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. They had three children, Beatrice Smith (March 1911), Ruth Ellen (February 1915), and George Patton IV (December 1923). Patton’s wife Beatrice died on September 30, 1953, from a ruptured aneurysm after falling while riding her horse in a hunt with her brother and others at the Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.
Patton then returned to Saumur to learn advanced techniques before bringing his skills to the Mounted Service School at Fort Riley, Kansas, where he would be both a student and a fencing instructor. He was the first Army officer to be designated ‘Master of the Sword’, a title denoting the school’s top instructor in swordsmanship. Arriving in September 1913, he taught fencing to other cavalry officers, many of whom were senior to him in rank. Patton graduated from this school in June 1915. He originally intended to return to the 15th Cavalry, which was bound for the Philippines. Fearing this assignment would dead-end his career, Patton traveled to Washington, D.C. during eleven days of leave and convinced influential friends to arrange a reassignment for him to the 8th Cavalry at Fort Bliss, Texas, anticipating that instability in Mexico might boil over into a full-scale civil war. In the meantime, Patton was selected to participate in the 1916 Summer Olympics, but that Olympiad was canceled due to World War One.
PANCHO VILLA EXPEDITION
In 1915, Lt Patton was assigned to border patrol duty with A Troop of the 8th Cavalry, in Sierra Blanca. During his time in the town, Patton took to wearing his M-1911 Colt .45 in his belt rather than a holster. His firearm discharged accidentally one night in a saloon, so he swapped it for an ivory-handled Colt Single Action Army revolver, a weapon that would later become an icon of Patton’s image. In March 1916, Mexican Forces loyal to General Pancho Villa crossed into New Mexico and raided the border town of Columbus. The violence in Columbus killed several Americans. In response, the USA launched the Pancho Villa Expedition into Mexico. Chagrined to discover that his unit would not participate, Patton appealed to expedition commander John J. Pershing and was named his personal aide for the expedition. This meant that Patton would have some role in organizing the effort, and his eagerness and dedication to the task impressed Pershing. Patton modeled much of his leadership style after Pershing, who favored strong, decisive actions and commanding from the front. As an aide, Patton oversaw the logistics of Pershing’s transportation and acted as his personal courier.
In mid-April, Patton asked Pershing for the opportunity to command troops and was assigned to Troop C of the 13th Cavalry to assist in the manhunt for Villa and his subordinates. His initial combat experience came on May 14, 1916, in what would become the first motorized attack in the history of US warfare. A force of ten soldiers and two civilian guides, under Patton’s command, with the 6th Infantry in three Dodge touring cars surprised three of Villa’s men during a foraging expedition, killing Julio Cárdenas and two of his guards. It was not clear if Patton personally killed any of the men, but he was known to have wounded all three. The incident garnered Patton both Pershing’s good favor and widespread media attention as a ‘bandit killer’. Shortly after, he was promoted to first lieutenant while a part of the 10th Cavalry on May 23, 1916. Patton remained in Mexico until the end of the year. President Woodrow Wilson forbade the expedition from conducting aggressive patrols deeper into Mexico, so it remained encamped in the Mexican border states for much of that time. In October, Patton briefly retired to California after being burned by an exploding gas lamp. He returned from the expedition permanently in February 1917.
WORLD WAR ONE – FRANCE
After the Pancho Villa Expedition, Patton was detailed to Front Royal, Virginia, to oversee horse procurement for the Army, but Pershing intervened on his behalf. After the US entered World War I, and Pershing was named commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) on the Western Front, Patton requested to join his staff. Patton was promoted to captain on May 15, 1917, and left for Europe, among the 180 men of Pershing’s advance party which departed on May 28, and arrived in Liverpool, England, on June 8. Taken as Pershing’s personal aide, Patton oversaw the training of American troops in Paris until September, then moved to Chaumont and was assigned as a post adjutant, commanding the headquarters company overseeing the base. Patton was dissatisfied with the post and began to take an interest in tanks, as Pershing sought to give him command of an infantry battalion. While in a hospital for jaundice, Patton met Col Fox Conner, who encouraged him to work with tanks instead of infantry.
On November 10, 1917, Patton was assigned to establish the AEF Light Tank School. He left Paris and reported to the French Army’s tank training school at Champlieu near Orrouy, where he drove a Renault FT light tank. On November 20, the British launched an offensive towards the important rail center of Cambrai, using an unprecedented number of tanks. At the conclusion of his tour on December 1, Patton went to the town of Albert, near Cambrai, to be briefed on the results of this attack by the chief of staff of the British Tank Corps, Col J. F. C. Fuller. On the way back to Paris, he visited the Renault factory to observe the tanks being manufactured. Patton was promoted to major on January 26, 1918. He received the first ten tanks on March 23, 1918, at the tank school at Bourg, a small village close to Langres, in the Haute-Marne. The only US soldier with tank-driving experience, Patton personally backed seven of the tanks off the train. In the post, Patton trained tank crews to operate in support of infantry and promoted its acceptance among reluctant infantry officers. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on April 3, 1918, and attended the Command and General Staff College in Langres.
In August 1918, he was placed in charge of the US 1st Provisional Tank Brigade (redesignated the 304th Tank Brigade on November 6, 1918). Patton’s Light Tank Brigade was part of Col Samuel Rockenbach’s Tank Corps, and part of the American First Army. Personally overseeing the logistics of the tanks in their first combat use by US forces, and reconnoitering the target area for their first attack himself, Patton ordered that no US tank be surrendered. Patton commanded American-crewed Renault FT tanks at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, leading the tanks from the front for much of their attack, which began on September 12. He walked in front of the tanks into the German-held village of Essey, and rode on top of a tank during the attack into Pannes, seeking to inspire his men.
Patton’s brigade was then moved to support US I Corps in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on September 26. He personally led a troop of tanks through thick fog as they advanced 5 miles (8 KM) into German lines. Around 0900, Patton was wounded while leading six men and a tank in an attack on German machine guns near the town of Cheppy. His orderly, PFC Joe Angelo, saved Patton, for which he was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Patton commanded the battle from a shell hole for another hour before being evacuated. Although the 35th Division (of which Patton’s tank troop was a component) eventually captured Varennes, it did so with heavy losses. Trying to move his reserve tanks forward, Patton relates that he might have killed one of his own men, stating: Some of my reserve tanks were stuck by some trenches. So I went back and made some Americans hiding in the trenches dig a passage. I think I killed one man here. He would not work so I hit him over the head with a shovel.
Patton stopped at a rear command post to submit his report before heading to a hospital. Col Sereno E. Brett, commander of the US 326th Tank Battalion, took command of the brigade in Patton’s absence. Patton wrote in a letter to his wife: The bullet went into the front of my left leg and came out just at the crack of my bottom about two inches to the left of my rectum. It was fired at about 50 M (160 ft) so made a hole about the size of a (silver) dollar where it came out. While recuperating from his wound, Patton was brevetted to colonel in the Tank Corps of the US National Army on October 17. He returned to duty on October 28, but saw no further action before hostilities ended on his 33rd birthday with the armistice of November 11, 1918. For his actions in Cheppy, Patton received the Distinguished Service Cross. For his leadership of the brigade and tank school, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He was also awarded the Purple Heart for his combat wounds after the decoration was created in 1932.