Patton participated in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, representing the United States in the first-ever modern pentathlon. He finished fifth.
The Patton Saber
After the Olympics, Lieutenant Patton was made the Army's youngest-ever "Master of the Sword." While Master of the Sword, Patton improved and modernized the Army's Cavalry Saber fencing techniques and designed the M1913 Cavalry Saber. It had a large, basket-shaped hilt mounting a straight, double-edged, thrusting blade designed for use by heavy cavalry. Now known as the “Patton” Saber, it was heavily influenced by the 1908 and 1912 Pattern British Army Cavalry Swords.
Early military career
During the Mexican Expedition of 1916, Patton was assigned to the 8th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Bliss, Texas. He accompanied then-Brigadier General John J. Pershing as his aide during the Punitive Expedition in his pursuit of Pancho Villa after Villa's forces had crossed into New Mexico and raided the town of Columbus, looting and killing several Americans. During his service, Patton, accompanied by ten soldiers of the 6th Infantry Regiment, killed two Mexican leaders, including "General" Julio Cardenas, commander of Villa's personal bodyguard. For this action, as well as Patton's affinity for the Colt Peacemaker, Pershing titled Patton his "Bandito". Patton's success in this regard gained him a level of fame in the United States, and he was featured in newspapers across the nation.
World War I
At the onset of the USA's entry into World War I, General Pershing promoted Patton to the rank of captain. While in France, Patton requested that he be given a combat command and Pershing assigned him to the newly formed United States Tank Corps. Depending on the source, he either led the U.S. Tank Corps or was an observer at the Battle of Cambrai (1917), where the first tanks were used as a significant force. As the U.S. Tank Corps did not take part in this battle the role of observer is the most likely. From his successes (and his organization of a training school for American tankers in Langres, France), Patton was promoted to major and then lieutenant colonel and 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 Battle of Saint-Mihiel, September 1918, and was wounded by machine gun fire as he sought assistance for tanks that were mired in the mud. The bullet passed through his upper thigh and for years afterwards, when Patton was inebriated at social events, he would drop his pants to show his wound and called himself a "half-assed general." While Patton was recuperating from his wounds, hostilities ended.
For his service in the Meuse-Argonne Operations, Patton received the Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross, and was given a battlefield promotion to a full colonel. For his combat wounds, he was presented the Purple Heart.
The interwar years
While on duty in Washington, D.C. in 1919, Captain (he reverted from his wartime temporary rank of Colonel) Patton met and became close friends with Dwight D. Eisenhower, who would play an enormous role in Patton's future career. In the early 1920s, Patton petitioned the U.S. Congress to appropriate funding for an armored force, but had little luck. Patton also wrote professional articles on tank and armored car tactics, suggesting new methods for their use. He also continued working on improvements to tanks, coming up with innovations in radio communication and tank mounts. However, the lack of interest in armor created a poor atmosphere for promotion and career advancement so Patton transferred back to the horse cavalry.
In July 1932, Patton served under Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur, as a major leading 600 troops, including the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, in an action to disperse the protesting veterans known as the "Bonus Army" in Washington, DC. MacArthur ordered the troops to advance on the protesters with tear gas and bayonets. At one point, when the protesters resisted with bricks and curses, Patton led the last mounted charge of the U.S. Cavalry. One of the veterans rousted by the cavalry was Joe Angelo, who had won the Distinguished Service Cross in 1918 for saving Patton's life.
Patton served in Hawaii before returning to Washington to once again ask Congress for funding for armored units. In the late 1930s, Patton was assigned command of Fort Myer, Virginia. Shortly after Germany's blitzkrieg attacks in Europe, Maj. Gen. Adna Chaffee, the first Chief of the U.S. Army's newly created Armored Force was finally able to convince Congress of the need for armored divisions. This led to the activation of the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions in 1940. Col. Patton was given command of the 2nd Armored Brigade, US 2nd Armored Division in July 1940. He became the Asst. Division Commander the following October, and was promoted to Brigadier General on the second day of that month. Patton served as the acting Division Commander from November 1940 until April 1941. He was promoted to Major General on 4 April and made Commanding General of the 2nd Armored Division 7 days later.
World War II
During the buildup of the U.S. Army prior to its entry into World War II, Patton commanded the 2nd Armored Division which performed with mixed results in both the Louisiana Maneuvers and Carolinas Maneuvers in 1941. The 2nd Armored Division was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, until the unit, along with its commander, was ordered to the newly established Desert Training Center in Indio, California by the Chief of the Armored Force, Maj. Gen. Jacob L. Devers. Patton was subsequently appointed as the commander of the newly activated I Armored Corps by Devers, and was in this position when the corps was assigned to Operation Torch, the Invasion of North Africa.
On June 3, 1942, Patton believed the Japanese were on a course to invade the new ally Mexico. He believed the Japanese would use the beaches of Mexico to move north into California. For three days, Patton had his troops on high alert to move within minutes to meet the invading Japanese at the tip of the Gulf of California.  The Japanese invasion fleet eventually landed on Kiska Island on June 6.
North African campaign
- Main article: 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. Patton and his staff arrived in Morocco aboard the heavy cruiser USS Augusta, which came under fire from the French battleship Jean Bart while entering the harbor of Casablanca.
Following the defeat of the U.S. II Corps as part of British 1st Army, by the German Afrika Korps at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in 1943, General Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower assessed the aftermath by sending Major General Omar Bradley to observe the conditions of the II Corp operations. As a result of his report, Patton was made Lieutenant General and placed in command of II Corps on March 6, 1943. Soon thereafter, Patton had Bradley reassigned to his Corps Command as deputy commander, and thus began a long wartime association between the two diverse personalities.
Tough in his training, he was generally unpopular with his troops. However, they preferred to serve with him nonetheless, because they thought he was their best chance to get home alive. Both British and US officers had noted the "softness" and lack of discipline in the II Corps under Lloyd Fredendall. Patton required all personnel to wear steel helmets, even physicians in the operating wards, and required his troops to wear the unpopular lace-up leggings and neckties. A system of fines was introduced to ensure all personnel shaved daily and observed other uniform requirements. While these measures did not make Patton popular, they did tend to restore a sense of discipline and unit pride that may have been missing earlier. In a play on his nickname, troops joked that it was "our blood and his guts".
The discipline paid off quickly; by mid-March, the counteroffensive was pushing the Germans east, along with the rest of British 1st Army, while the British Eighth Army commanded by General Bernard Law Montgomery in Tunisia was simultaneously pushing them west, effectively squeezing the Germans out of North Africa.
As a result of his accomplishments in North Africa, Patton was given command of the Seventh Army in preparation for the 1943 invasion of Sicily. The Seventh Army's mission was to protect the left (western) flank of the British Eighth Army as both advanced northwards towards Messina.
The Seventh Army repulsed several German counterattacks in the beachhead area before beginning its push north. Meanwhile, the Eighth Army stalled south of Mount Etna in the face of strong German defenses. The Army Group commander, Harold Alexander, exercised only the loosest control over his two commanders. Montgomery therefore took the initiative to meet with Patton in an attempt to work out a coordinated campaign.
Patton formed a provisional Corps under his Chief of Staff, and quickly pushed through western Sicily, liberating the capital, Palermo, and then swiftly turned east towards Messina. US forces liberated Messina in accordance with the plan jointly created by Montgomery and Patton. However the Italians and Germans had air and naval supremacy over their withdrawal routes and evacuated all of their soldiers and much of their heavy equipment across the straits of Messina onto the Italian mainland.
Slapping incident and removal from command
Patton's bloodthirsty speeches resulted in controversy when it was claimed one inspired the Biscari Massacre, in which American troops killed seventy-six prisoners of war.
Even worse was the "slapping incident" that nearly ended Patton's career in August 1943. While visiting hospitals and commending wounded soldiers, he slapped and verbally abused two privates who he thought were exhibiting cowardly behavior. The soldiers were suffering from "shell-shock," now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and had no visible wounds.
Newsmen decided to keep the incident quiet but the doctors used their own chain of command to inform Eisenhower. Eisenhower thought of sending him home in disgrace, as many newspapers demanded. But after consulting with George Marshall, Ike decided to keep Patton, but without a major command. Eisenhower ordered Patton to apologize to the individual soldiers and hospital staff who witnessed the incidents.
Eisenhower used Patton's "furlough" as a trick to mislead the Germans as to where the next attack would be, since they assumed Patton would lead the attack. During the 10 months Patton was relieved of duty, his prolonged stay in Sicily was interpreted by the Germans to be indicative of an upcoming invasion of southern France. Later, a stay in Cairo was interpreted as heralding an invasion through the Balkans. German intelligence misinterpreted what happened and made faulty plans as a result.
In the months before the June 1944 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 disinformation, Operation Fortitude. The Germans misallocated their forces as a result, and were slow to respond to the actual landings at Normandy.
Following the Normandy invasion, Patton was placed in command of the U.S. Third Army, which was on the extreme right (west) of the Allied land forces. Beginning at noon on August 1, 1944, he led this army during the late stages of Operation Cobra, the breakout from earlier slow fighting in the Normandy hedgerows. The Third Army simultaneously attacked west (into Brittany), south, east towards the Seine, and north, assisting in trapping several hundred thousand German soldiers in the Chambois pocket, between Falaise and Argentan, Orne.
Patton used Germany's own blitzkrieg tactics against them, covering 600 miles in just two weeks, from Avranches to Argentan. Patton's forces were part of the Allied forces that freed northern France, bypassing Paris. The city itself was liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division under French General Leclerc, insurgents who were fighting in the city, and the US 4th Infantry Division. The French 2nd Armored Division had recently been transferred from the 3rd Army, and many soldiers of that Division thought they were still part of 3rd Army. These early 3rd Army offensives showed the characteristic high mobility and aggressiveness of Patton's units.
Rather than engage in set-piece slugging matches, Patton preferred to bypass centers of resistance and use the mobility of US units to the fullest, defeating German defensive positions through maneuver rather than head-on fighting whenever possible. He was able to do this in part because of his systematic exploitation of ULTRA, a highly classified system that was very successful in reading German ENIGMA ciphers. Still, Patton was able to continue these tactics despite German radio silence during preparation for the Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge).
General Patton's offensive, however, came to a screeching halt on August 31, 1944, as the Third Army literally ran out of gas near the Moselle River, just outside of Metz, France. Berragan (2003) argues it was due primarily to Patton's ambitions and his refusal to recognize that he was engaged in a secondary line of attack. Others suggest that General Lee, commander of the Zone of Communication, chose that time to move his headquarters to the more comfortable environs of Paris. Some 30 truck companies were diverted to that end, rather than providing support to the fighting armies.
Patton expected that the Theater Commander would keep fuel and supplies flowing to support successful advances. Although Eisenhower favored a "broad front" approach to the ground-war effort, knowing that a single thrust would have to drop off flank protection, and would quickly lose its punch. Still, within the constraints of a very large effort overall, Eisenhower gave Montgomery and his 21st Army Group a strong priority for supplies, to give him the chance to make the breakout that Montgomery claimed would end the war.
The combination of supply priority to Montgomery, and diversion of resources to moving the Communications zone, coupled with Patton's refusal to attack slowly, resulted in the 3d Army running out of gas in Alsace-Lorraine while exploiting German weakness.
Patton's experience suggested that a major US and allied advantage was in mobility. This led to greater number of US trucks, higher reliability of US tanks, better radio communications, all contributing to superior ability to operate at high tempo. Slow attacks were wasteful, and resulted in high losses; they also permitted the Germans to prepare multiple defensive positions, then withdraw from one to another after inflicting heavy casualties on US and allied forces. He refused to operate that way.
The time needed to resupply was just enough to allow the Germans to further fortify the fortress of Metz. In October and November, the Third Army was mired in a near-stalemate with the Germans, with heavy casualties on both sides. By November 23, however, Metz had finally fallen to the Americans, the first time the city had been taken since the Franco-Prussian War.
Bradley, Eisenhower, and Patton
In late 1944, the German army made a last-ditch offensive across Belgium, Luxembourg, and northeastern France in the Ardennes Offensive (better known as the Battle of the Bulge), nominally led by German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. On December 16, 1944, the German army massed 29 divisions (totaling some 250,000 men) at a weak point in the Allied lines and made massive headway towards the Meuse River during one of the worst winters in Europe in years. It was during the midst of this fighting that the weather had become bitterly cold and snowy, which halted tank operations for a spell.
Needing just one full day (24 hours) of good weather, Patton ordered the Third Army Chaplain, (COL) James O'Neill, to come up with a prayer beseeching God to grant this. The weather did clear soon after the prayer was recited, and Patton decorated O'Neill with the Bronze Star Medal on the spot. Following this, he continued ahead with dealing with the German offensive and von Rundstedt.
Patton turned the 3rd Army north abruptly (a notable tactical and logistical achievement), disengaging from the front line to relieve the surrounded and besieged 101st Airborne Division pocketed in Bastogne. By February, the Germans were in full retreat and Patton moved into the Saar Basin of Germany. The bulk of 3rd Army completed its crossing of the Rhine at Oppenheim on March 22, 1945.
Patton's son-in-law Johnny Waters was a German prisoner, and in late March, Patton used his army for a personal task, rescuing Waters. He planned to use 3,000 men, but two generals objected and Patton used two companies with 300 men and 15 tanks to raid the Hammelburg POW camp where Waters was held. The raid by Task Force Baum was a total failure, and only 35 of the 300 men returned--the rest were captured or killed. Waters was wounded and was left behind. Bradley was outraged at Patton's actions. 
Patton was planning to take Prague, Czechoslovakia, when the forward movement of American forces was halted. His troops liberated Pilsen (May 6, 1945) and most of western Bohemia.
Brief June 1945 visit to California
Patton during a parade in Los Angeles, California.
Largely overlooked in history is the warm reception he received on June 9, 1945, when he and Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle were honored with a parade through Los Angeles and a reception at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before over 100,000 people that evening. The next day, Patton and Doolittle toured the metropolitan Los Angeles area. Patton spoke in front of the Burbank City Hall and at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. He wore his helmet with a straight line of stars, chest full of medals, and two ivory handle trademark pistols. He punctuated his speech with some of the same profanity he had used with the troops. He spoke about conditions in Europe and the Russian allies to the adoring crowds. This may be the only time in America when the civilian people, en masse, heard and saw the famous warrior on the podium.
This was also the time when he quietly turned over an original copy of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, which he had smuggled out of Germany in violation of JCS 1067, to the Huntington Library, a world-class repository of historical original papers, books, and maps, near Pasadena. He instructed Robert Millikan, then the president of the Huntington Library to make no official record of the transaction, and to not make the materials available for public inspection during his lifetime. The Huntington Library retained the Nuremberg Laws in a basement vault in spite of a legal instruction in 1969 by the general's family to turn over all of his papers to the Library of Congress. On June 26, 1999, Robert Skotheim, then the president of the Huntington Library announced that the Library was to permanently loan the Nuremberg Laws to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where they are currently on display.
Accident and death
On December 9, 1945, in Germany a day before he was due to return to the United States, Patton was severely injured in a road accident. He and his chief of staff, Major General Hobart R. 'Hap' Gay, were on a daytrip to hunt pheasants in the country outside Mannheim. Their 1939 Cadillac Model 75 was driven by PFC Horace Woodring (1926 - 2003). Patton sat in the back seat, on the right with General Gay on his left, as per custom. At 11:45 near Neckarstadt, (Käfertal), a 2½ ton truck driven by T/5 Robert L. Thompson appeared out of the haze and made a left-hand turn towards a side road. The Cadillac smashed into the truck. General Patton was thrown forward and his head struck a metal part of the partition between the front and back seats. Gay and Woodring were uninjured. Paralyzed from the neck down, George Patton died of an embolism on December 21, 1945 at the military hospital in Heidelberg, Germany with his wife present.
Patton's grave in Luxembourg
Patton was buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg along with other members of the Third Army. His body was moved from the original grave site in the cemetery to its current prominent location at the head of his former troops. A cenotaph was placed at the Wilson-Patton family plot at the San Gabriel Cemetery in San Gabriel, California, adjacent to the Church of Our Saviour (Episcopal), where Patton was baptized. In the narthex of the sanctuary of the church is a stained glass window honor which features, among other highlights of Patton's career, a picture of him riding in a tank. A statue of General Patton is in the court yard adjacent to the church.
Patton's car was repaired and used by other officers. The car is now on display, with other Patton artifacts, at the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Controversies and criticism
Patton more than once caused political irritations and was criticised for some controversial faux pas, such as the "Sicily slapping incident" in 1943 (see above). Patton in several reports insisted on the highest standard of order and grooming within his army's area and imposed fines for anyone who violated his strict guidelines.
Patton's problems with humor, his image, and the press
Patton was not known for his sense of humor, and his reckless words often made him his own worst enemy. Unlike Eisenhower, who was popular with troops partly for his self-deprecating humor, Patton disliked jokes aimed at himself. Soldiers stationed in the Pacific theater of war were not pleased with what was going on in the European continent and disliked him for his perceived disregard for the lives of his troops. Patton actually had the utmost respect for the men serving in his command but had no regard for men that were "shell shocked". The cartoonist Bill Mauldin ridiculed Patton several times in his comics, prompting Patton to summon Sergeant Mauldin to his headquarters for a dressing-down. On the other hand, he was himself capable of the occasional blunt witticism: "The two most dangerous weapons the Germans have are our own armored halftrack and jeep. The halftrack because the boys in it go all heroic, thinking they are in a tank. The jeep because we have so many God-awful drivers." During the Battle of the Bulge, he famously remarked that the Allies should "let the sons-of-bitches [Germans] go all the way to Paris, then we'll cut 'em off and round 'em up!" He also suggested that the German forces could attack towards the British and create "another Dunkirk". His remarks frequently ridiculed General Montgomery and at times the Soviet Red Army, contributing to inter-Allied discord. In the context of coalition warfare, these remarks were occasionally harmful. Eisenhower wisely used Patton's high profile with the press to contribute to Operation Fortitude; he knew the press would report on his appearances in Britain and that the Germans would pick up these reports.
Patton deliberately cultivated a flashy, distinctive image in the belief that this would motivate his troops. He was usually seen wearing a highly polished helmet, riding pants, and high cavalry boots. He carried flashy ivory-handled, nickel-plated revolvers as his most famous sidearms (a Colt Single Action Army .45 (aka "Peacemaker") and later the addition of a S&W Model 27 .357). His vehicles carried oversized rank insignia and loud sirens. His speech was riddled with profanities. The toughness of his image and character appeared well-suited to the conditions of battle. His theatrics were admired by many, so much so that, upon his death, upwards of 20,000 soldiers volunteered to be pall bearers at his funeral. This came as a surprise to the American populace, as the media had often portrayed Patton's armies as disliking him.
Task Force Baum controversy
On March 24th, shortly after completing his crossing of the Rhine, Patton ordered US XII Corps commander Major General Manton Eddy to undertake an immediate operation to liberate the OFLAG XIII-B prison camp at Hammelburg, some 80 kilometers behind enemy lines. Eddy strongly argued against the necessity and prudence of the raid, reportedly going so far as to refuse to pass the order to the US 4th Armored Division without General Eisenhower's approval. Patton, having no desire to involve Eisenhower (who was already well acquainted with Patton's headstrong tendencies and would likely have cancelled the operation), flew to the XII Corps command post at Undenheim, waited until Eddy left for dinner, and personally delivered the operation order to Brigadier General Hoge of the US 4th Armored Division. Noting that intelligence indicated a strong Wehrmacht and possible SS Panzer presence in the area (as well as its relative distance from the front line), Hoge and "Combat Command B" commander Lieutenant Colonel Creighton Abrams told Patton that no less than a full Combat Command would be required. Patton rejected this, insisting that only a limited task force be sent. He also mandated that his aide-de-camp and personal friend, Major Alexander Stiller accompany the force "to gain experience". 
The task force, named Task Force Baum (after its leader, Captain Abraham Baum), fought valiantly through significant resistance to liberate the camp, but was too exhausted and reduced in size from 52 hours of continuous fighting to break out of the noose of Wehrmacht reinforcements that rapidly swarmed into the area to surround them. The bulk of the remaining force was hacked to pieces and routed in the woods around Hammelburg. Only a few managed to evade the Germans and return to American lines.
After the news of the operation became public, it was revealed that Patton's motivation for ordering the operation against apparent common sense and the strident objections of his officers was most probably personal: he had been informed on February 9th by General Eisenhower that his son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters, captured in North Africa in 1943, was being held at Hammelburg. Until this information came out, Patton had always insisted he had no knowledge of the location of Waters. Upon further review, Patton's explanation for insisting that Stiller go along also didn't hold water; as a decorated World War I officer, Stiller had already seen significantly more combat than most of the men in Task Force Baum, and (most importantly) as a personal friend of Patton's family, he had met Waters and would be able to identify him. Furthermore, Patton had always insisted that the operation to liberate the camp at Hammelburg was motivated by a deep concern for the welfare and safety of captured US servicemen, yet in an ironic twist, after Stiller was captured, Patton refused to try to liberate the camp where he and other survivors were being held, even though it was much closer to the 3rd Army line of advance than Hammelburg had been, and contained nearly twice as many troops. Patton's superior, General Omar Bradley, later famously characterized the raid as "a wild goose-chase that ended in a tragedy."
After the German surrender
After the surrender of May 8, 1945 extinguished the common threat of Nazi Germany, Patton was quick to assert the Soviet Union would cease to be an ally of the United States. He was concerned that some 25,000 American POWs had been liberated from POW camps by the Soviets, but were never returned to the US. In fact, he urged his superiors to evict the Soviets from central and eastern Europe. Patton thought that the Red Army was weak, under-supplied, and vulnerable, and the United States should act on these weaknesses before the Soviets could consolidate their position. In this regard, he told then-Undersecretary of War Robert P. Patterson that the "point system" being used to demobilize Third Army troops was destroying it and creating a vacuum that the Soviets would exploit. "Mr. Secretary, for God’s sake, when you go home, stop this point system; stop breaking up these armies," pleaded the general. "Let’s keep our boots polished, bayonets sharpened, and present a picture of force and strength to these people, the Soviets. This is the only language they understand." Asked by Patterson — who would become Secretary of War a few months later — what he would do, Patton replied: "I would have you tell the Red Army where their border is, and give them a limited time to get back across. Warn them that if they fail to do so, we will push them back across it."
On a personal level, Patton was disappointed by the Army's refusal to give him a combat command in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Unhappy with his role as the military governor of Bavaria and depressed by his belief that he would never fight in another war, Patton's behavior and statements became increasingly erratic. He also made many anti-Russian statements in letters home. Various explanations beyond his disappointments have been proposed for Patton's behavior at this point. Carlo D'Este, in Patton: A Genius for War, writes that "it seems virtually inevitable ... that Patton experienced some type of brain damage from too many head injuries" from a lifetime of numerous auto- and horse-related accidents, especially one suffered while playing polo in 1936.
It should be noted, however, that many of the controversial opinions he expressed were common (if not exactly popular) at the time and his outspoken opposition to post-surrender denazification is still widely debated today. Many still laud his generous treatment of his former German enemies and his early recognition of the Soviet threat, while detractors say his protests reflect the views of a bigoted elitist. Whatever the cause, Patton found himself once again in trouble with his superiors and the American people. While speaking to a group of reporters, he compared the Nazis to losers in American political elections, and that being a Nazi in Germany was just being a member of a political party, "like being a Democrat in the States." Patton was soon relieved of command of Third Army and transferred to the Fifteenth Army, a paper command preparing a history of the war.
Attitude on race
The use of black troops during the push to the Siegfried Line offers some insight into Patton's attitude towards them. The first black tank unit, the 761st "Black Panther" Tank Battalion, was assigned to Patton in the fall of 1944, at his reluctant request. As the 761st was about to enter combat, Patton reviewed the battalion and addressed the men:
Men, you're the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren't good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of bitches. Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all your race is looking forward to you. Don't let them down and damn you, don't let me down!
– George S. Patton, The 761st "Black Panther" Tank Battalion in World War II"
However, like many military officers of the era, Patton expressed his doubts about using black men in combat. On returning to headquarters afterwards, he remarked, "They gave a good first impression, but I have no faith in the inherent fighting ability of the race." He only accepted the 761st because he desperately needed all the ground power he could get. Even after the war, Patton was not inclined to reform his perception of black soldiers. In War As I Knew It, he relates the interaction described above, and comments, "Individually they were good soldiers, but I expressed my belief at the time, and have never found the necessity of changing it, that a colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor."
D'Este explains that "on the one hand he could and did admire the toughness and courage" of some black soldiers but his writings can also be frequently read as "disdaining them and their officers because they were not part of his social order." Historian Hugh Cole points out that Patton was the first American military leader to integrate the rifle companies "when manpower got tight."
Patton's views on blacks seem mild and even generous compared to remarks he made about Jews and other ethnic groups he encountered throughout his military career (much less his legendary hatred of the Russians). Like many Americans of his era, he generally considered those who were not of Northern European ancestry to be dirty and uncivilized. However, his statements regarding history show that this did not amount to lack of respect for the military accomplishments of other races. He expressed his feelings about Jews with his writings:
We entered a synagogue which was packed with the greatest stinking bunch of humanity I have ever seen. Either these Displaced Persons never had any sense of decency or else they lost it all during their period of internment by the Germans... My personal opinion is that no people could have sunk to the level of degradation these have reached in the short space of four years.
– George S. Patton, "After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Post War Germany"
[others may believe]... believe that that Displaced Person is a human being, which he is not, and this applies particularly to the Jews, who are lower than animals .
However, he was nonetheless horrified at what he found when his Third Army liberated Buchenwald concentration camp. Local German citizens claimed that they didn't know what was going on. He ordered American troops to round up the roughly 2000 local Germans and march them through the camps. He wanted them to see the atrocities firsthand.
Though many of his attitudes were common (if not universal) in his time, as with all of his controversial opinions, he was often exceptionally blunt in his expression of them. He once wrote:
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.
– George S. Patton
Relations with Eisenhower
Patton (seated, second from left) and Eisenhower (seated, middle) with other American military officials, 1945.
The relationship between George S. Patton and Dwight Eisenhower has long been of interest to historians in that the onset of World War II completely reversed the roles of the two men in the space of just under two years. When Patton and Eisenhower met in the mid 1920s, Patton was six years Eisenhower’s senior in the Army and Eisenhower saw Patton as a leading mind in tank warfare.
Between 1935 and 1940, Patton and Eisenhower developed a very close friendship to the level where the Patton and Eisenhower families were spending summer vacations together. In 1938, Patton was promoted to full colonel and Eisenhower, then still a lieutenant colonel, openly admitted that he saw Patton as a friend, superior officer, and mentor.
Upon the outbreak of World War II, Patton’s expertise in mechanized warfare was recognized by the Army, and he was quickly made a brigadier general and, less than a year later, a major general. In 1940, Lt. Col. Eisenhower petitioned Major General Patton, offering to serve under the tank corps commander. Patton accepted readily, stating that he would like nothing better than for Eisenhower to be placed under his command.
George Marshall, recognizing that the coming conflict would require all available military talent, had other plans for Eisenhower. In 1941, after five years as a relatively unknown lieutenant colonel, Eisenhower was promoted to colonel and then again to brigadier general in just 6 months time. Patton was still senior to Eisenhower in the Regular Army, but this was soon not the case in the growing conscript army (known as the Army of the United States). In 1942, Eisenhower was promoted to major general and, just a few months later, to lieutenant general — outranking Patton for the first time. When the Allies announced the invasion of North Africa, Major General Patton suddenly found himself under the command of his former subordinate, now one star his superior.
In 1943, Patton became a lieutenant general one month after Eisenhower was promoted to full (four-star) general. Patton was unusually reserved in never publicly commenting on Eisenhower's hasty rise. Patton also reassured Eisenhower that the two men’s professional relationship was unaffected. Privately however, Patton was often quick to remind Eisenhower that his permanent rank in the Regular Army, then still a one-star brigadier general, was lower than Patton’s Regular Army commission as a two-star major general.
When Patton came under criticism for the "Sicily slapping incident" (see above), Eisenhower met privately with Patton and reprimanded him, but then reassured Patton that he would not be sent home to the United States for his conduct. Many historians have speculated that, had it been anybody other than Eisenhower, Patton would have been demoted and court-martialed. Of the two slapped soldiers, one was AWOL from his unit, and reported diarrhea (which could be induced by eating the issue yellow soap) the other had malaria, but had been labeled by the hospital unit as a "battle fatigue" case.
The story of the slapping incident was broken by Drew Pearson, a reporter who specialized in releasing classified background information as "predictions". Drew Pearson reported this old information (widely disseminated among the press corps, but the honorable reporters did not forward it,) because he needed to divert attention from the Sumner Welles scandal, on which he was the wrong side.
Eisenhower is also credited with giving Patton a command in France, after other powers in the Army had relegated Patton to various unimportant duties in England. It was in France that Patton found himself in the company of another former subordinate, Omar Bradley, who had also become his superior. As with Eisenhower, Patton behaved with professionalism and served under Bradley with distinction.
After the close of World War II, Patton (now a full General) became the occupation commander of Bavaria, and made arrangements for saving the world-famous Lipizzaner stallions of Vienna. However, he was relieved of duty after making comments that the Nazis were nothing more than a normal political party, and ordering former SS units to begin drilling in attempt to gain some respectability. His view of the war was that with Hitler gone, the German army could be rebuilt into an ally in a potential war against the Russians, whom Patton notoriously despised and considered a greater menace than the Germans. During this period, he wrote that the Allied victory would be in vain if it led to a tyrant worse than Hitler and an army of "Mongolian savages" controlling half of Europe. Eisenhower had at last had enough, relieving Patton of all duties and ordering his return to the United States. When Patton openly accused Eisenhower of caring more about a political career than his military duties, their friendship effectively came to an end. In addition, Patton was highly critical of the victorious Allies use of German forced labor. He commented in his diary "I’m also opposed to sending PW’s to work as slaves in foreign lands (in particular, to France) where many will be starved to death." He also noted "It is amusing to recall that we fought the revolution in defence of the rights of man and the civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles". (See also Eisenhower and German POWs). Patton was relieved of duty after openly revolting against the punitive occupation directive JCS 1067.
From time to time, conspiracy theorists have suggested that Eisenhower had Patton assassinated; that the auto accident in which Patton broke his neck was not an accident at all. While there is no evidence to suggest that this is true, Patton's diary does suggest that the General was planning either to retire or resign his commission, and enter politics. Given his popularity with the American people and the respect in which he was held by his men, it is entirely possible he could have won the same nomination his erstwhile friend accepted. It must be noted that Patton's medals for combat valor make Eisenhower's medals for merit seem pale by comparison, and that by 1948 many Americans had come to see the Soviet menace as Patton had in 1945.
When the biography of George Patton was aired on the A&E network, a single quote perhaps best described the relationship and destinies of George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower: