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World War 1 Picture - A younger Benjamin Davis Wilson ca. 1850.

George S. Patton, Jr. Information

George S. Patton, Jr.

Nickname: Bandito, Old Blood and Guts
Place of birth: San Gabriel Township, California
Place of death: Heidelberg, Germany
Place of burial: American Cemetery and Memorial Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Allegiance: United States
Service/branch: United States Army
Years of service: 1909-1945
Rank: General
Commands held: Machinegun Platoon/3/15th Cavalry Regiment
K/3/15th Cavalry Regiment
A/1/7th Cavalry Regiment
HQs Troop/American Expeditionary Force
302nd Tank Center
1st Light Tank Battalion
1st Light Tank Regiment
1st Tank Brigade
304th Tank Brigade
3/3rd Cavalry Regiment
5th Cavalry Regiment
3rd Cavalry Regiment
2/2nd Armored Division
2nd Armored Division
US 1st Armored Corps
Desert Training Center
US 1st Armored Corps
U.S. II Corps
US 1st Armored Corps
U.S. Seventh Army
U.S. Third Army
U.S. Fifteenth Army
Battles/wars: Mexican Revolution
Battle of San Miguelito
World War I
Saint Mihiel Campaign
Meuse-Argonne Campaign
World War II
North Africa Campaign
Sicily Campaign
Normandy Campaign
Lorraine Campaign
Ardennes Campaign
Awards: Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Order of the Bath
Order of the British Empire
Relations: Major General George Patton IV (son)
General John K. Waters (Son in law)

Mexican Revolution

Battle of San Miguelito

World War I

Saint Mihiel Campaign
Meuse-Argonne Campaign

World War II

North Africa Campaign
Sicily Campaign
Normandy Campaign
Lorraine Campaign
Ardennes Campaign

George Smith Patton, Jr. (November 11, 1885 - December 21, 1945) was a United States Army officer best known for his leadership while commanding corps and armies as a general during World War II. He was also well known for his eccentricity and controversial outspokenness.

Patton was commissioned in the U.S. Army after his graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1909. In 1916-17, he participated in the unsuccessful Pancho Villa Expedition, a U.S. operation that attempted to capture the Mexican revolutionary. In World War I, he was the first officer assigned to the new United States Tank Corps and saw action in France. In World War II, he commanded corps and armies in North Africa, Sicily, and the European Theater of Operations. In 1944, Patton assumed command of the U.S. Third Army, which under his leadership advanced farther, captured more enemy prisoners, and liberated more territory in less time than any other army in military history.


George Smith Patton was born in San Gabriel Township, California in 1885 (in what is now the city of San Marino), to George Smith Patton Sr. (1856-1927) and his wife Ruth Wilson (1861-1928). Although he was actually the third George Smith Patton, he was called Junior. The Pattons were an affluent family of Irish and Scottish ancestry.

As a boy, Patton read widely in the classics and military history. His father was a friend of John Singleton Mosby, the 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. Patton grew up hearing Mosby's stories of his adventures, and longed to become a general himself.

Patton came from a military family, his ancestors including General Hugh Mercer of the American Revolution. His great uncle, Waller T. Patton, died of wounds received in Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. John M. Patton and Isaac Patton, also his great uncles, were colonels in the Confederate States Army. His great uncle William T. Glassell was a Confederate States Navy officer. Hugh Weedon Mercer, a Confederate general, was his close relative. John M. Patton, a great-grandfather, was a lawyer and politician who had served as acting governor of Virginia.

Patton's paternal grandparents were Colonel George Smith Patton and Susan Thornton Glassell. His grandfather, born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 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, Virginia (now West Virginia). When the American Civil War broke out, he served in the 22nd Virginia Infantry of the Confederate States of America. Colonel George S. Patton, his grandfather, was killed during the Battle of Opequon. The Confederate Congress had promoted Colonel Patton to brigadier general; however, at the time, he had already died of battle wounds, so that promotion was never official.

World War 1 Picture - A younger Benjamin Davis Wilson ca. 1850.

Picture - A younger Benjamin Davis Wilson ca. 1850.

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 Los Angeles County, California, 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), mayor of Los Angeles in 1851-1852 and 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, came to Alta California as a fur trapper and adventurer during the American Indian Wars before marrying Ramona Yorba, the daughter of a California land baron, Bernardo Yorba, and made his fortune through the wedding dowry, receiving Rancho Jurupa, settling what would become California's San Gabriel Valley, after the Mexican American War.

Patton married Beatrice Banning Ayer (January 12, 1886-September 30, 1953), the daughter of wealthy textile baron Frederick Ayer, on May 26, 1910. They had three children, Beatrice Smith (March 19, 1911-October 24, 1952), Ruth Ellen Patton Totten (February 28, 1915-November 25, 1993), who wrote The Button Box: A Loving Daughter's Memoir of Mrs. George S. Patton, and George Patton III (although christened George Patton IV) (December 24, 1923-June 27, 2004), who followed in his father's footsteps, attending West Point and eventually rising to the rank of Major General as an armor officer in the United States Army.

Education and early military service

World War 1 Picture - Patton at Virginia Military Institute

Picture - Patton at Virginia Military Institute

Patton attended Virginia Military Institute for one year, where he rushed VMI's chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order. He then left VMI and enrolled in the United States Military Academy. The Academy required him to repeat his first "plebe" year because of his poor performance in mathematics. However, he did so with honors and was appointed Cadet Adjutant (the second highest position for a cadet), graduating in 1909 instead of 1908 and receiving his commission as a cavalry officer.

1912 Summer Olympics

Patton participated in the first-ever modern pentathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. He finished fifth overall. He placed seventh out of 37 contestants in the 300 meter freestyle swimming. He was fourth out of 29 fencers. In the equestrian cross-country steeplechase, he was among the riders who turned in perfect performances, but he placed sixth because of his time. Patton "hit the wall" 50 yards (46 m) from the finish line of the four kilometer cross-country footrace, then fainted after crossing the line at a walk; he finished third out of 15 contestants. He made the U.S. Modern Pentathlon team for the 1916 Summer Olympics, scheduled for Berlin, Germany, but the Games were canceled because of World War I.

Pistol shooting controversy

In pistol shooting, Patton placed 20th out of 32 contestants. He used a .38 caliber pistol, while most of the other competitors chose .22 caliber firearms. He claimed that the holes in the paper from early shots were so large that some of his later bullets passed through them, but the judges decided he missed the target completely once. Modern competitions on this level frequently now employ a moving background to specifically track multiple shots through the same hole. There was much controversy, but the judges’ ruling was upheld. Patton neither complained, nor made excuses. Patton's only comment was

Master of the Sword and the Patton Saber

Following the 1912 Olympics, Patton traveled with his family to Dresden, Berlin, and Nuremberg. Seeking the greatest swordsman in Europe to study with, Patton was told the “beau sabreur” of the French Army would be the one. Adjutant M. Clxry was a French “master of arms” and instructor of fencing at the Cavalry School at Saumur. Patton went to Saumur for intense study with the master. Upon his return, Patton wrote a report that was revised for the Army and Navy Journal. Patton’s first article for the Cavalry Journal appeared in the March 1913 issue. In the summer of 1913, after he advised the Ordnance Department on sword redesign, Patton was allowed to return to Saumur to study once again under Clxry.

Lieutenant Patton was made the Army's youngest-ever "Master of the Sword" at the Mounted Service School at Fort Riley, Kansas. While Master of the Sword, Patton became an instructor at Fort Riley and improved and modernized the Army's cavalry saber fencing techniques.

Earlier in the year, he assisted in the design of the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber. It had a large, basket-shaped hilt mounting a straight, double-edged, thrusting blade designed for use by light cavalry. Patton's 1914 manual "Saber Exercise" outlined a system of training for both mounted and on foot use of the saber. The weapon came to be known as the "Patton Saber." There is no one sword that this saber was modeled after. Patton suggested the revision from a curved sword and edge and cutting technique to a thrusting style of attack, following his extensive training in France. Patton's thoughts were expressed in his 1913 report "The Form and Use of the Saber":

The weapon was never used as intended. At the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War I, several American cavalry units armed with sabers were sent to the front, but they were held back. The nature of war had changed, making horse-mounted troops easy prey for enemy troops equipped with Gewehr 98 rifles and MG08 machine guns. Those cavalrymen who saw combat did so dismounted, using their horses only to travel. Patton instead adapted his style of move forward and attack technique to his use of tanks in battle. This became his trademark combat style in World War II.

Punitive Expedition into Mexico

World War 1 Picture - Generals Obregxn, Villa, and Pershing after meeting at Fort Bliss, Texas. Patton is immediately behind Pershing[citation needed].

Picture - Generals Obregxn, Villa, and Pershing after meeting at Fort Bliss, Texas. Patton is immediately behind Pershing[citation needed].

During the Punitive Expedition of 1916, Patton was assigned to the 8th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas. He served as aide to then-Brigadier General John J. Pershing in his pursuit of Pancho Villa, after Villa's forces had crossed into New Mexico, raided and looted the town of Columbus, and killed several Americans. Patton, accompanied by ten soldiers of the 6th Infantry Regiment, and using three armored cars, conducted the United States' first armored vehicle attack, and in the process killed two Mexican leaders, including "General" Julio Cardenas, commander of Villa's personal bodyguard. The bodies were brought back from San Miguelito to Pershing's headquarters strapped to the hoods of the vehicles in a manner similar to game animals brought back by hunters. For this action, as well as Patton's affinity for the Colt Peacemaker, Pershing titled Patton his "Bandido." 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

World War 1 Picture - Patton in France in 1918

Picture - Patton in France in 1918

At the outset of the U.S. entry into World War I, then-Major General Pershing promoted Patton to the rank of captain. While in France, Patton requested a combat command. Pershing asked him to undertake the establishment of a Light Tank Training School for U.S. troops, to which he agreed. In November 1917, Patton left Paris and reported to General Garrard of the French Army. At Champlieu, Patton drove a Renault char d’assault tank, testing its trench-crossing ability, and visited a Renault factory to observe the tanks being manufactured. Shortly after his arrival at Champlieu, the British launched what was then the largest armoured attack of the war at the Battle of Cambrai, and at the conclusion of his tour, on December 1, Patton went to Albert, 30 miles from Cambrai, to be briefed on the recent attack by the chief of staff of the British Tank Corps, Colonel J. F. C. Fuller. Patton received his first ten tanks on March 23, 1918 at the Tank School and Centre, which he commanded, at Langres, Haute-Marne department. The only one with tank driving experience, Patton himself backed seven of the light, two-man Renault FT tanks off the train.

For his successes and his organization of the training school, Patton was promoted to major, lieutenant colonel and then colonel, U.S. National Army. In August 1918, he was placed in charge of the 1st Provisional Tank Brigade, re-designated the 304th Tank Brigade on November 6, 1918. Patton’s Light Tank Brigade was part of Colonel Samuel Rockenbach’s Tank Corps, which was in turn part of the American Expeditionary Force. (Patton was not in charge of the Tank Corps as has often been misreported.) The 304th Tank Brigade fought as part of the First United States Army.

Patton commanded American-crewed French Renault tanks at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On September 26, 1918, Patton was wounded in the left leg while leading six men and a tank in an attack on German machine guns near the town of Cheppy during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The only survivors were the tank crew, Patton and his orderly Private First Class Joe Angelo, who saved Patton and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. While Patton was recuperating from his wounds, hostilities ended with the armistice of November 11, 1918 (which happened to be Patton's 33rd birthday).

For his service in the Meuse-Argonne Operations, Patton received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal, and was brevetted full colonel. For his combat wounds, he was presented the Purple Heart.

Inter-war years

While on duty in Washington, D.C., in 1919, Captain (he reverted from his wartime temporary rank of colonel) Patton met Dwight D. Eisenhower, who would play an enormous role in Patton's future career. During their assignment at Fort Riley, Kansas, Patton and Eisenhower developed the armored doctrine which would be used by the US Army in World War II. 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.

Patton served in Hawaii before returning to Washington once again to ask Congress for funding for armored units. During his time in Hawaii, Patton was part of the military units responsible for the defense of the islands, and specifically wrote a defense plan anticipating an air raid against Pearl Harbor-10 years before the attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on December 7, 1941. At the wedding of Patton's daughter Ruth Ellen (1940), a couple who knew Patton from Hawaii (Restarick and Eleanor Jones Withington) crashed the wedding, and explained they were in the area when they saw the wedding announcement and hoped Patton didn't mind them showing up uninvited. To this Patton unsheathed his sword and replied, "Restarick, if I’d found out you were within a hundred miles and not come, I’d have shoved this sword up your behind.” The remark was typical of Patton.

In July 1932, Patton served under Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur as a major commanding 600 troops, including the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. On July 28, MacArthur ordered these troops to advance on protesting veterans known as the "Bonus Army" in Washington, D.C. with tear gas and bayonets. One of the veterans dispersed by the cavalry was Joe Angelo, who had saved Patton's life in World War I. Patton was dissatisfied with MacArthur's conduct as he recognized the legitimacy of the veteran's complaints and had himself earlier refused to issue the order to employ armed force to disperse the veterans. (Source : De Este and Farago biographies)

In the late 1930s, Patton was assigned command of Fort Myer, Virginia. Shortly after Germany's blitzkrieg attacks in Europe, Major General 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. Colonel Patton was given command of the 2nd Armored Brigade, US 2nd Armored Division in July 1940. He became the assistant 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 April 4 and made commanding general of the 2nd Armored Division seven days later.

World War II

During the buildup of the United States Army prior to its entry into World War II, Patton commanded the 2nd Armored Division, which performed with mixed results in 1941 in both the Louisiana Maneuvers and Carolina Maneuvers. The 2nd Armored 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, Major General Jacob L. Devers. Patton was subsequently appointed commander of the newly activated I Armored Corps by Devers, and he was in this position when the corps was assigned to Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. In preparation, Patton trained his troops in the Imperial Valley. He commenced these exercises in late 1941 and continued them well into the summer of 1942. Patton chose a 10,000-acre (40 km) expanse of unforgiving desert, known for its blistering temperatures, sandy arroyos and absolute desolation. It was a close match for the terrain Patton and his men would encounter during the campaigns in North Africa. Tank tracks, foxholes and spent shell casing can still be found in an area about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Palm Springs.

From his first days as an armored division commander, Patton strongly emphasized the need for armored forces to stay in constant contact with the enemy, concluding that aggressive, fast-moving mechanized and armored forces disrupted enemy defensive preparations while presenting less of a target to enemy gunners. His instinctive preference for relentless offensive movement was typified by an answer Patton gave to war correspondents in a 1944 press conference. In response to a question on whether the Third Army's rapid offensive across France should be slowed to reduce the number of U.S. casualties, Patton replied "Whenever you slow anything down, you waste human lives."

North African campaign

In November 1942, Major General Patton commanded the Western Task Force of the U.S. Army, which landed on the coast of Vichy French-held Morocco in Operation Torch for the North African Campaign. Patton and his staff arrived in Morocco aboard the heavy cruiser USS Augusta, which came under fire from the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart while entering the harbor of Casablanca. Casablanca fell after two days of fighting. So impressed was the Sultan of Morocco that he presented Patton with the special Order of Ouissam Alaouite, with the citation: "Les Lions dans leurs tanixres tremblent en le voyant approcher" (The lions in their dens tremble at his approach).

Patton was one of the first American commanders in World War II to make full use of light Army observation aircraft to visit friendly troop forces as well as independently reconnoiter enemy positions. Flying with an Army pilot in a Taylorcraft L-2 or a Stinson L-5, Patton was able to inspect many more troop positions and headquarters in a day than could be accomplished by using a motor vehicle.

In 1943, following the defeat of the U.S. II Corps (then part of British 1st Army) by the German Afrika Korps, first at the Battle of Sidi Bou Zid and again at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, General Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Major General Ernest Harmon to assess the II Corps.

On March 6, 1943, as a result of Harmon's report, Patton replaced Major General Lloyd Fredendall as commander of the II Corps. Patton was also promoted to lieutenant general. Soon thereafter, Patton had Omar Bradley reassigned to his corps as deputy commander. Thus began a long wartime association between the two different personalities.

It is said that his troops preferred to serve with him rather than his predecessor since they thought their chances of survival were higher under Patton. For instance, Patton required all personnel to wear steel helmets (even physicians in the operating wards) and required his troops to wear the unpopular lace-up canvas leggings and neckties since the leggings prevented injury from scorpions, spiders and rats which would climb up under soldiers' trousers. A system of fines was introduced to ensure all personnel shaved daily and observed other uniform requirements. While these measures may not have made Patton popular, they did tend to restore a sense of discipline and unit pride that may have been missing when Fredendall was still in command. In a play on his nickname, "Old Blood and Guts," troops joked that it was "our blood and his guts." This nickname however derives not from his casualty figures which were consistently lower than Bradley's, but from his days as Master of Sword when his colorful language about 'blood and guts' made an impression on junior officers.

The discipline Patton instilled paid off quickly. Patton found victory at the Battle of El Guettar. By mid-March 1943, the counter-offensive of the U.S. II Corps, along with the rest of the British 1st Army, pushed the Germans and Italians eastwards. Meanwhile the British Eighth Army, commanded by General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, simultaneously pushed them westwards, effectively squeezing the Germans and Italians into a smaller and smaller portion of Tunisia and out of North Africa altogether by mid-May.

Sicily campaign

World War 1 Picture - Near Brolo, Sicily. 1943

Picture - Near Brolo, Sicily. 1943

As a result of his performance in North Africa, Patton received 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.

Officers quoted General Patton's speech to them before the invasion of Sicily, referring to Italians and Germans:

When we land against the enemy, don't forget to hit him and hit him hard. When we meet the enemy we will kill him. We will show him no mercy. He has killed thousands of your comrades and he must die. If you company officers in leading your men against the enemy find him shooting at you and when you get within two hundred yards of him he wishes to surrender-oh no! That bastard will die! You will kill him. Stick him between the third and fourth ribs. You will tell your men that. They must have the killer instinct. Tell them to stick him. Stick him in the liver. We will get the name of killers and killers are immortal. When word reaches him that he is being faced by a killer battalion he will fight less. We must build up that name as killers. - George S. Patton

When we land against the enemy, don't forget to hit him and hit him hard. When we meet the enemy we will kill him. We will show him no mercy. He has killed thousands of your comrades and he must die. If you company officers in leading your men against the enemy find him shooting at you and when you get within two hundred yards of him he wishes to surrender-oh no! That bastard will die! You will kill him. Stick him between the third and fourth ribs. You will tell your men that. They must have the killer instinct. Tell them to stick him. Stick him in the liver. We will get the name of killers and killers are immortal. When word reaches him that he is being faced by a killer battalion he will fight less. We must build up that name as killers.

- George S. Patton

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. American forces liberated the port city in accordance with the plan jointly devised by Montgomery and Patton. However, the Italians and Germans evacuated all of their soldiers and much of their heavy equipment across the Strait of Messina to the Italian mainland under the cover of anti-aircraft artillery.

Slapping incident

The "slapping incident" of Private Charles H. Kuhl of 3 August 1943, nearly ended Patton's career.

On 3 August General Patton was visiting wounded patients from the recent Sicilian campaign at the 15th Evacuation Hospital near Nicosia when he encountered 27-year-old Private Charles H. Kuhl of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, sitting slouched on a stool midway through a tent ward filled with injured soldiers. Years later, Kuhl would affirm this version of his initial meeting with General Patton, recalling that when Patton entered the hospital tent, "all the soldiers jumped to attention except me. I was suffering from battle fatigue and just didn't know what to do." When Patton asked Kuhl where he was hurt, Kuhl shrugged and replied that he was 'nervous' rather than wounded, adding "I guess I can't take it." In response, Patton slapped Kuhl across the chin with his gloves, then grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to the tent entrance, shoving him out of the tent with a final kick to Kuhl's backside. Yelling "Don't admit this son-of-a-bitch", Patton demanded that Kuhl be sent back to the front at once, adding, "You hear me, you son of a bitch? You're going back to the front." Patton briefly resumed visiting the other patients, then returned and berated Kuhl again.

Although the Kuhl incident received the most publicity, a second soldier, Private Paul G. Bennett of C Battery, 17th Field Artillery, 1st Infantry Division was slapped and berated under similar circumstances on 10 August 1943 at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital.

Patton's actions at the evacuation hospitals may have been motivated in part by an encounter with Gen. Clarence R. Huebner, the newly-appointed commander of the 1st Infantry Division in which Privates Kuhl and Bennett both served. Patton had asked Huebner how things were going at the front. Heubner replied "The front lines seem to be thinning out. There seems to be a very large number of "malingerers" at the hospitals, feigning illness in order to avoid combat duty."

A group of news reporters filed a report on the Kuhl slapping incident with Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's chief of staff. When General Eisenhower learned of the matter, he ordered Patton to make amends, after which, it was reported, "Patton's conduct then became as generous as it had been furious," and he apologized to the soldier "and to all those present at the time," The news reporters who had sent their report to Bedell Smith demanded that Patton be fired in exchange for killing the story, a demand which Eisenhower refused. Contrary to popular impression, Eisenhower never seriously considered removing Patton from duty in the ETO: "If this thing ever gets out, they'll be howling for Patton's scalp, and that will be the end of Georgie's service in this war. I simply cannot let that happen. Patton is indispensable to the war effort - one of the guarantors of our victory."

Private Kuhl's parents had avoided mention of the matter "because they did not wish to make trouble for General Patton." Eventually the story of Kuhl's slapping was broken in the U.S.A. after muckraking newspaper columnist Drew Pearson revealed it on his November 21 radio program Pearson's version not only conflated details of both slapping incidents but falsely reported that the private in question was visibly "out of his head", telling General Patton to "duck down or the shells would hit him" and that in response "Patton struck the soldier, knocking him down." Pearson further stated that General Patton had been "severely reprimanded" as a result of his actions. Pearson punctuated his broadcast by twice repeating the statement that Patton would never again be used in combat, despite the fact that Pearson had no factual basis for making such a prediction. In response, Allied Headquarters denied that Patton had received an official reprimand, but confirmed that Patton had slapped at least one soldier. Demands for Patton to be relieved and sent home were made in Congress and in news articles and editorials across the country. However, public reaction was largely sympathetic to Patton, and Herman F. Kuhl, Private Kuhl's father, even wrote his own congressman, stating that he forgave Patton for the incident and requesting that he not be disciplined.

After the film Patton was released in 1970, Charles H. Kuhl recounted the incident, stating that Patton had slapped him across the face and then kicked him as he walked away. "After he left, they took me in and admitted me in the hospital, and found out I had malaria," Kuhl noted, adding that when Patton apologized personally (at Patton's headquarters) "He said he didn't know that I was as sick as I was." Kuhl, who later worked as a sweeper for Bendix Corporation in Mishawaka, Indiana, added that Patton was "a great general" and added that "I think at the time it happened, he was pretty well worn out himself." Kuhl died on January 24, 1971.

After consulting Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, Eisenhower retained Patton in the European theater, though without a major command. General Marshall and Secretary Stimson not only supported Eisenhower's decision, but defended it. In a letter to the Senate, Secretary Stimson stated that Patton must be retained because of the need for his "aggressive, winning leadership in the bitter battles which are to come before final victory."

Instead General Omar Bradley was promoted to lieutenant general. In late 1943, Bradley moved to London as commander in chief of the American ground forces preparing to invade France in 1944. Bradley was later chosen to command the US 1st Army after D-Day. This decision was not based on the slapping incident alone, but also on confirmed intelligence that the Germans believed Patton would be leading the Allied assault into Nazi-held territory. Eisenhower used Patton's "furlough" as a trick to mislead the Germans as to where the next attack would be, since Patton was the general that the German High Command believed would lead the attack. During the ten months Patton was relieved of duty, his prolonged stay in Sicily was interpreted by the Germans as an indication of an upcoming invasion of southern France. Later, a stay in Cairo was viewed as heralding an invasion through the Balkans. German intelligence duly misinterpreted Patton's movements, shifting forces in response to those of Patton.

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 mis-allocated their forces as a result, and were slow to respond to the actual landings at Normandy.

In a story recounted by Professor Richard Holmes, just three days before D-Day, during a reception in the London Ritz Hotel, Patton shouted across a crowded reception in the direction of paratroop commander General Jim Gavin, "I'll see you in the Pas De Calais, Gavin!" (source: De Este and Farago biographies), much to the consternation of all those around him. The ploy appears to have worked as reports of overnight troop movements north from Normandy were detected by Bletchley Park code decrypts.


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. His good friend Gilbert R. Cook was Deputy Commander whom Patton had later to relieve because of an illness, a decision which "shook him to the core." Patton's Third Army became operational at noon on August 1, 1944. Patton would lead the Third during the late stages of Operation Cobra, the campaign to break out from 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.

The Third Army typically employed forward scout units to determine enemy strength and positions. Each column was protected by a standing patrol of three to four P-47 fighter-bombers as a combat air patrol (CAP). Self-propelled artillery moved with the spearhead units and was sited well forward, ready to engage protected German positions with indirect fire. Light aircraft such as the L-4 Piper Cub served as artillery spotters and provided airborne reconnaissance. Once located, the armored infantry would attack using tanks as infantry support. Other armored units would then break through enemy lines and exploit any subsequent breach, constantly pressuring withdrawing enemy forces to prevent them from regrouping and reforming a cohesive defensive line. Armored vehicles would often advance via reconnaissance by fire. Each vehicle would alternate its machine guns and/or cannon to the left or right respectively, firing continuously to cover the flanks on both sides of the column and suppress enemy counterfire. The U.S. .5 Browning heavy machine gun proved most effective in this role, often flushing out and killing German panzerfaust teams waiting in ambush as well as breaking up German infantry assaults against the armored infantry. In its advance from Avranches to Argentan the Third Army advanced unopposed over vast distances, covering 60 miles (97 km) in just two weeks. The speed of the advance forced Patton's units to rely largely on air reconnaissance and tactical air support. Patton's armored divisions made frequent use of tactical fighter-bombers of the XIX Tactical Air Command of the Ninth Air Force to protect his right (southern) flank during his advance to the Seine.

Equally important to the advance of Third Army columns in northern France was the rapid advance of the supply echelons. Third Army logistics were overseen by Colonel Walter J. Muller, Patton's G-4, who was instrumental in modernizing logistical arrangements to fit the pace of the advance across France. Flexibility, improvisation, and adaption were cardinal requirements for Third Army supply echelons of an armored division seeking to exploit a breakthrough. The Signal Section identified required radio nets, mapped circuits and obtained applicable supplies. The Combat Engineers conducted analyses of bridge requirements, road engineering studies, traffic circulation plans, supply requirements, and survey and map coverage for the proposed advance. Patton even read The Norman Conquest by Edward A. Freeman, "paying particular attention to the roads William the Conqueror used in his operations in Normandy and Brittany."

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 of the unit's soldiers believed they were still part of the latter.


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. One explanation for this was that Patton's ambition was to conquer Germany and he refused to recognize that he was engaged in a secondary line of attack. Others suggest that General John C.H. 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. However, Eisenhower favored a "broad front" approach to the ground-war effort, believing 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 for Operation Market Garden. The combination of Montgomery being given priority for supplies, and diversion of resources to moving the Communications Zone, resulted in the Third Army running out of gas in Alsace-Lorraine while exploiting German weakness. In late September, a large German panzer counter attack sent expressly to stop the advance of Patton's Third Army was defeated by the 4th Armored Division at the Battle of Arracourt. Despite the victory, the Third Army stayed in place as a result of Eisenhower's order. Ironically, the Germans believed this was because their counterattack had been successful.

Patton's rapid drive through the Lorraine demonstrated his keen appreciation for the technological advantages of the U.S. Army. The major US and Allied advantages were in mobility and air superiority. The U.S. Army had a greater number of trucks, more reliable tanks, and better radio communications, which all contributed to a superior ability to operate at a high tempo. However, probably the key to Patton's success compared to all of the other U.S. and British forces, which had similar advantages, was his intensive use of close air support; the Third Army had by far more G-2 officers at headquarters specifically designated to coordinate air strikes than any other army. Third Army's attached close air support group was XIX Tactical Air Command, commanded by Gen. Otto P. Weyland. Developed originally by Gen. Elwood Quesada of IX TAC for the First Army at Operation Cobra the technique of "armored column cover" whereby close air support was directed by an air traffic controller in one of the attacking tanks was used extensively by the Third Army. In addition, because Patton's rapid drive resulted in a salient that was vulnerable to flanking attacks and getting trapped by the Germans, Weyland and Patton developed the concept of using intensive aerial armed reconnaissance to protect the flanks of this salient. Microwave Early Warning (MEW) radar, another technique pioneered by Quesada, was also used by XIX TAC to both cover against Luftwaffe attacks and to vector flights already in the air to new sites as an air traffic control radar. As a result of the close cooperation between Patton and Weyland, XIX TAC would end up providing far more air sorties for ground support for the Third Army than the other attached Tactical Air Commands would for the First and Ninth Armies. Despite their success, however, Eisenhower had faith only in the traditional method of advancing across a broad front to avoid the problem of flanking attacks, which most account for the decision to halt the Third Army.

The halt of the Third Army during the month of September was 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.

Battle of the Bulge

World War 1 Picture - Bradley, Eisenhower, and Patton

Picture - Bradley, Eisenhower, and Patton

In late 1944, the German army launched a last-ditch offensive across Belgium, Luxembourg, and northeastern France, popularly 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 Europe had seen in years. General Eisenhower called a meeting of all senior Allied commanders on the Western Front to a headquarters near Verdun, France on the morning of 19 December to plan strategy and a response to the German assault.

At the time, Patton's Third Army was engaged in heavy fighting near Saarbrxcken. Guessing the intent of the Allied command meeting, Patton ordered his staff to make three separate operational contingency orders to disengage elements of the Third Army from its present position and begin offensive operations towards several objectives in the area of the Bulge occupied by German forces. At the Supreme Command conference, General Eisenhower led the meeting, which was attended by General Patton, General Bradley, General Jacob Devers, Major General Sir Kenneth Strong, Deputy Supreme Commander Arthur Tedder, and a large number of staff officers. Eisenhower commenced the meeting by announcing that the German offensive was to be viewed as an opportunity, not as a disaster, and that he wanted to see only "cheerful faces."

When Eisenhower asked Patton how long it would take him to disengage six divisions of his Third Army and commence a counterattack north to relieve the 101st Airborne, Patton replied "As soon as you're through with me." Patton then clarified that he had already worked up an operational order for a counterattack by three full divisions on 21 December, then only 48 hours away. Eisenhower was incredulous: "Don't be fatuous, George. If you try to go that early you won't have all three divisions ready and you'll go piecemeal." Patton replied that his staff already had a contingency operations order ready to go. Still unconvinced, Eisenhower ordered Patton to attack the morning of 22 December, using at least three divisions. Patton strode from the conference room, located a field telephone, and upon reaching his commmand, uttered two words: "Play ball". This code phrase initiated a prearranged operational order with Patton's staff, mobilizing three divisions - the U.S. 4th Armored Division, the U.S. 80th Infantry Division, and the U.S. 26th Infantry Division - from the Third Army and moving them north towards Bastogne. The operations order included order of battle, road deployment order, fuel, resupply, security, and clearance of the road net. In all, Patton would reposition six full divisions (including his 3rd and 12th Army Corps) from their positions on the Saar front along a line stretching from Bastogne to Diekirch to Echternach. Within a few days, more than 133,000 Third Army vehicles were re-routed into an offensive that covered a combined distance of 1.5 million miles, followed by supply echelons carrying some 62,000 tons of supplies.

On 21 December Patton met with General Bradley to go over the impending advance: "Brad, this time the Kraut's stuck his head in the meatgrinder, and I've got hold of the handle." Patton then argued that his Third Army should attack towards Koblenz, cutting off the Bulge at the base and trapping the entirety of the German armies involved in the offensive. After briefly considering this, Bradley vetoed this proposal, as he was less concerned about killing large numbers of Germans than he was in arranging for the relief of Bastogne before it was overrun.

Desiring good weather for his advance, which would permit close ground support by USAAF tactical aircraft, Patton ordered the Third Army chaplain, Colonel James O'Neill, to compose a suitable prayer: "Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen." When the weather cleared soon after, Patton awarded O'Neill a Bronze Star on the spot.

During the advance, Patton led his divisions from the front, frequently leapfrogging ahead in his command car, then stopping to urge the men on. As one tank destroyer sergeant related: "On the way to Bastogne, we would see Patton along the side of the road waving us on. I don’t know how he got ahead of us all the time, but he did. Patton was right there breaking it up and getting things moving again. He was a relentless man...and a great general. Patton had a theory that the Germans didn’t shoot as well on the run. That’s why he never wanted to stop. The only time he stopped in the field was when he ran out of gas."

On 26 December 1944, the first spearhead units of the Third Army's U.S. 4th Armored Division reached Bastogne, opening a corridor for relief and resupply of the besieged forces. Patton's ability to disengage six divisions from frontline combat during the middle of winter, then wheel north to relieve besieged Bastogne was one of his most remarkable achievements during the war. Author John MacDonald cites it as one of the greatest extant examples of the mastery of military logistics, stating, "probably his greatest military achievement, unsurpassed at the time, was the logistic repositioning, within twenty-four hours, of a whole army corps at the Battle of the Bulge." Patton certainly thought so, claiming that the relief of Bastogne was "the most brilliant operation we have thus far performed, and it is in my opinion the outstanding achievement of the war. This is my biggest battle."

Crossing of the Rhine

By February, the Germans were in full retreat and Patton had pushed units into the Saarland. Once again, however, Patton found other commands given priority on gasoline and supplies. Field Marshal Montgomery suggested deprecatingly that Patton's forces be limited to holding a defensive line at the Rhine River. However, Patton had no intention of being left behind, and promptly began initiating several "reconnaissances in force". The 5th Mechanized Infantry Division of the Third Army crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim on the night of March 22, 1945, thirty-six hours ahead of Montgomery's Rhine crossing, Operation Varsity. To obtain gasoline and supplies, Third Army Ordnance units passed themselves off as First Army personnnel, in one incident securing thousands of gallons of gasoline from a First Army gasoline dump. Within a day, Patton's forces had established a six-mile deep bridgehead, after capturing 19,000 demoralized German troops.

Task Force Baum

On March 26, 1945, Patton sent Task Force Baum, consisting of 314 men, 16 tanks, and assorted other vehicles, 50 miles (80 km) behind enemy lines to liberate an Allied POW camp, OFLAG XIII-B near Hammelburg, some 80 km (50 miles) behind the German lines. One of the inmates was Patton's son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters. The raid was an utter fiasco. Only 35 men made it back; the rest were either killed or captured, and all 57 vehicles were lost. Waters himself was shot and had to be left at the camp. When Eisenhower learned of the secret mission, he was furious.

Patton later reported it was the only mistake he made during World War II. He felt the correct decision was to have sent a Combat Command, about three times larger.

Final offensive operations

On 14 April 1945 Patton was promoted to a full General with a four-star rank, a promotion long advocated by Secretary of War Stimson in recognition of Patton's battle accomplishments during 1944. Patton's operations staff was drafting plans to take Prague, when Eisenhower, under pressure from the Soviets, ordered American forces in Czechoslovakia to stop short of the city limits. Patton's troops liberated Pilsen, on May 6, 1945, and most of western Bohemia.

In its advance from the Rhine to the Elbe, Patton's Third Army captured 32,763 square miles of enemy territory. Its losses were by far the lightest of any Third Army operation: 2,102 killed, 7,954 wounded, and 1,591 missing. Enemy losses in the campaign totaled 20,100 killed, 47,700 wounded, and 653,140 captured.

Since becoming operational in Normandy on 1 August 1944 until 9 May 1945, the Third Army was in continuous combat for 281 days. It had advanced farther and faster than any army in military history, crossing 24 major rivers and capturing 81,500 square miles of territory, including more than 12,000 cities and towns. With a normal strength of around 250,00-300,000 men, the Third had killed, wounded, or captured some 1,811,388 enemy soldiers, six times its strength in personnel. By comparison, the Third Army suffered 16,596 killed, 96,241 wounded, and 26,809 missing in action for a total of 139,646 men, a ratio of enemy to U.S. losses of nearly thirteen to one.

June 1945 visit to California

World War 1 Picture - Patton during a parade in Los Angeles, California.

Picture - Patton during a parade in Los Angeles, California.

Largely overlooked in history is the warm reception that Patton received on June 9, 1945, when he and Army Air Forces Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle were honored with a parade through Los Angeles and a reception at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before a crowd of over 100,000 people. 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-handled (not pearl, as is often incorrectly asserted) pistols. He punctuated his speech with some of the same profanity that 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 civilians, en masse, heard and saw the famous warrior on the podium.

During this visit, Patton quietly donated 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, in San Marino. Patton instructed physicist Robert Millikan, then the chairman of the board of trustees of the Huntington Library, to make no official record of the transaction, and to keep their possession of the materials secret during Patton's 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 lend the Nuremberg Laws to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. On August 25, 2010, the National Archives announced that the Nuremberg Laws would be transferred from the Huntington Library to their collection.

Road accident and death

World War 1 Picture - Patton's grave in Hamm, Luxembourg.

Picture - Patton's grave in Hamm, Luxembourg.

On December 9, 1945, Patton was severely injured in a road accident. He and his chief of staff, Major General Hobart R. "Hap" Gay, were on a day trip to hunt pheasants in the country outside Mannheim, Germany. Their 1938 Cadillac Model 75 was driven by Private First Class Horace L. Woodring (1926-2003), Patton sitting in the back seat on the right side, with General Gay on his left, as per custom. At 11:45 near Neckarstadt (Mannheim-Kxfertal), a 2 ton GMC truck driven by Technical Sergeant Robert L. Thompson made a left turn in front of Patton's Cadillac. Patton's car hit the front of the truck, at a low speed.

At first the crash seemed minor, the vehicles were hardly damaged, no one in the truck was hurt, and Gay and Woodring were uninjured. However, Patton was leaning back with trouble breathing. The general had been thrown forward causing his head to strike a metal part of the partition between the front and back seats. This impact inflicted a severe cervical spinal cord injury. Paralyzed from the neck down, he was rushed to the military hospital in Heidelberg, where quadriplegia was diagnosed. Patton died of a pulmonary embolism on December 21, 1945. The funeral service was held at the Christ Church (Christuskirche) in Heidelberg-Sxdstadt.

This incident was dramatized in the made for TV movie The Last Days of Patton in 1986 with George C. Scott reprising his role as Patton.

Patton was buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg along with other members of the Third Army, as per Patton's request to "be buried with my men." On March 19, 1947, 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 and confirmed. 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 was placed on the grounds of the church. Patton's car was repaired and used by other officers. The car is now on display with other Patton artifacts at the General George Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Controversies and criticism

Patton's problems with humor, his image, and the press

Unlike Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was popular with troops partly for his self-effacing humor, Patton disliked jokes aimed at himself, feeling that accepting such jokes would decrease the respect which he felt that troops should have toward their commanders.

Patton reportedly had the utmost respect for the men serving in his command, particularly the wounded. However, he tended to classify cases of psychological battlefield breakdown as malingering. Many of Patton's directives on caring for the enlisted men under his command, such as ordering that captured supplies of enemy food and liquor be delivered to frontline units were overlooked in the media in favor of more popular news items, such as his system of fines for officers and men who failed to shave daily and wear helmets and leggings at all times. The fighting elements of Patton's Third Army had guaranteed mail deliveries, priority on hot chow and showers, regular uniform issues, plus liberal distribution of passes and unit rotations out of the line. The Stars and Stripes cartoonist, Sergeant Bill Mauldin, who habitually portrayed front line infantry as exhausted, begrimed footsloggers Willie and Joe came in for special criticism, even prompting Patton to summon Sergeant Mauldin to his headquarters, where Patton unsuccessfully attempted to convince Mauldin into drawing a cleaned-up version of the popular comic strip.

Patton was 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 facetiously that his Third Army could "drive the British [his allies] back into the sea for another Dunkirk."

While Patton has a reputation today as a senior general who was both impatient and impulsive, with little tolerance for officers who had failed to succeed on the battlefield, the truth is somewhat different. Compared to Omar Bradley, Patton actually fired only one general during the entire war, Orlando Ward, and only after two warnings, whereas Bradley sacked numerous generals during the war.

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 "Peacemaker" and later also a S&W Model 27 .357). His vehicles carried over-sized rank insignia and sirens. His speech was riddled with profanities. While Patton had many detractors in the press, he also received praise from others, including a tribute from a UPI writer who wrote, "Gen. George S. Patton believed he was the greatest soldier who ever lived. He made himself believe he would never falter through doubt. This absolute faith in himself as a strategist and master of daring infected his entire army, until the men of the second American corps in Africa, and later the third army in France, believed they could not be defeated under his leadership."

After the German surrender

After the surrender of May 8, 1945, eliminated the 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 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 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 became 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. 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.

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, "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.

Attitudes on race and nationality

Considering the period, Patton's attitude toward minorities was neither negative nor positive. His attitudes were varied depending on time and circumstance, with military necessity being of particular importance.

On black soldiers: "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."

On black soldiers: "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."

Patton stated that performance was more important than race or religious affiliation: "I don't give a damn who the man is. He can be a nigger or a Jew, but if he has the stuff and does his duty, he can have anything I've got. By God! I love him."

Later, Patton addressed a group of African-American tankers, saying:

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!

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!

Patton also insisted on the assignment of some black officers as judges in military tribunals involving black defendants, and he spent more time with his African-American aide, Sergeant Meeks, than with nearly anyone else while in Europe, developing a relationship of mutual respect that transcended that of a general with his valet. Patton disliked the British, but appreciated Montgomery's organizational abilities more than either Eisenhower or Bradley did.

Patton was 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, though at least a few admitted to knowing of the atrocities but insisted they had been powerless to stop it. He ordered American troops to round up the approximately 2,000 local Germans and march them through the camps. He wanted them to see the atrocities firsthand.

Though many of his attitudes were common in his day, as with all of his 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.

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.

After reading the Koran and observing North Africans, he wrote to his wife, "Just finished reading the Koran-a good book and interesting." Patton had a keen eye for native customs and methods, wrote knowingly of local architecture, even rated the progress of word-of-mouth rumor in Arab country at 40-60 miles a day. In spite of his regard for the Koran, he concluded, "To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Mohammad and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab. . . . Here, I think, is a text for some eloquent sermon on the virtues of Christianity."

Relations with Eisenhower

World War 1 Picture - Patton (seated, second from left) and Eisenhower (seated, middle) with other American military officials, 1945.

Picture - 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, as both men had strong interest in tank warfare. During the inter-war period, budget cuts to the U.S. Army caused by the Great Depression resulted in a significant decline of available funding for tank development.

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 Brigadier 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 rapid 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-both men were still colonels there throughout 1943-predated Eisenhower's.

When Patton came under criticism for the "Sicily slapping incident" (see above), Eisenhower met privately with Patton and reprimanded him.

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, fearing that the Red Army would slaughter the horses for food. Patton was relieved of duty after openly revolting against the punitive occupation directive JCS 1067. 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 defense of the rights of man and the civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles." (See also Rheinwiesenlager).

Patton as viewed by his contemporaries

On 1 February 1945 General Eisenhower wrote a memo ranking the military capabilities of his subordinate American generals in the ETO. Army General Omar Bradley and Army Air Force General Carl Spaatz shared the number one position, while Walter Bedell Smith, (a staff officer with no field command experience during the war), was ranked number 2. Eisenhower ranked Patton at a distant number 3. It was a curious conclusion, since in terms of military successes Patton had accomplished far more than any other U.S. ground force commander, particularly in comparison to Bradley. Eisenhower revealed his reasoning in a 1946 review of the book Patton and his Third Army: "George Patton was the most brilliant commander of an army in the open field that our or any other service produced. But his army was part of a whole organization and his operations part of a great campaign." Eisenhower believed that other generals such as Omar Bradley should be given the credit for planning the succcessful Allied campaigns across Europe in which Patton was merely "a brilliant executor". Eisenhower once remarked, "George, you are a great leader, but a poor planner." Patton shot back, "Except for Operation Torch, which I planned and which was a great success, I have never been given the chance to plan."

Notwithstanding Eisenhower's estimation of Patton's abilities as a strategic planner, his overall view of Patton's military value in achieving Allied victory in Europe can best be seen in Eisenhower's refusal to even consider sending Patton home after the 'slapping incident' of 1943. As Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy told Eisenhower: "Lincoln's remark after they got after Grant comes to mind when I think of Patton - 'I can't spare this man, he fights'." After Patton's death, Eisenhower would write his own tribute: "He was one of those men born to be a soldier, an ideal combat leader...It is no exaggeration to say that Patton's name struck terror at the hearts of the enemy."

General Bradley's view of Patton was decidedly negative. Patton received scant praise in Bradley's memoirs, where the latter made it clear that had he been Patton's superior in Sicily in 1943, he not only would have relieved Patton of command immediately but "would have had nothing more to do with him". It was well known that the two men were polar opposites in personality, and there is considerable evidence that Bradley despised Patton both personally and professionally. Patton in turn resented Bradley's frequent "borrowing" of Patton's own ideas and operational concepts to convert into war plans for which Bradley got the credit. Patton's diary reports, "I do not want any more of my ideas used without credit to me, as happens when I give them orally."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared to greatly esteem Patton and his abilities, stating "he is our greatest fighting general, and sheer joy." On the other hand, Roosevelt's successor, plain-spoken Harry S. Truman appears to have taken an instant dislike to the flamboyant Patton.

For the most part, British commanders did not hold Patton in high regard. Field Marshal Alan Brooke noted in January 1943 that "I had heard of him, but I must confess that his swashbuckling personality exceeded my expectation. I did not form any high opinion of him, nor had I any reason to alter this view at any later date. A dashing, courageous, wild and unbalanced leader, good for operations requiring thrust and push but at a loss in any operation requiring skill and judgment." One possible exception was none other than Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Although the latter's rivalry with Patton was well known, Montgomery appears to have actually admired Patton's ability to command troops in the field, if not his strategic judgment.

Other Allied commanders were more impressed, the Free French in particular. General Henri Giraud was incredulous when he heard of Patton's dismissal by Eisenhower in late 1945, and invited him to Paris to be decorated by President Charles de Gaulle at a state banquet. At the banquet, President de Gaulle gave a speech placing Patton's achievements alongside those of Napoleon. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was apparently an admirer, stating that the Red Army could neither have planned nor executed Patton's rapid armored advance across France.

Patton as viewed by the enemy

On the German side of the conflict, there was little doubt that from 1943 on, Patton caused the greatest amount of concern to Germany's senior command. Adolf Hitler himself was impressed by Patton, reportedly calling him "that crazy cowboy general", and "the most dangerous man [the Allies] have." Referring to the escape of the Afrika Korps Panzerarmee after the battle of El Alamein, General Fritz Bayerlein opined that "I do not think that General Patton would let us get away so easily." Oberstleutnant Horst Freiheer von Wangenheim, operations officer of the 277th Volksgrenadier Division, stated that "General Patton is the most feared general on all fronts. [His] tactics are daring and unpredictable...He is the most modern general and the best commander of [combined] armored and infantry forces.". After the war, General der Infanterie Gxnther Blumentritt revealed that "We regarded Patton extremely highly, as the most aggressive Panzer-General of the Allies. A man of incredible initiative and lightning-like action." General der Panzertruppen Hasso von Manteuffel, who had fought both Soviet and Anglo-American tank commanders, agreed: "Patton! No doubt about this. He was a brilliant panzer army commander."

In an interview conducted for Stars and Stripes just after his capture, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt summed up the predominant German view of the American general: "Patton, Rundstedt concluded simply, "he is your best."

Patton, the film

Patton was the focus of the epic 1970 Academy Award-winning film Patton, with the title role played by George C. Scott in an iconic, Academy Award winning performance. The film was a huge commercial success, and spawned fierce critical debates over the accuracy of its portrayal of General Patton.

Screenwriters Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North wrote most of the film based on two biographies, General Bradley's A Soldier's Story and Ladislas Farago's Patton: Ordeal and Triumph. General Bradley also served as a military advisor and consultant to the film's producers. As the film was made without access to General Patton's diaries or any information from his family, it largely relied upon observations by Bradley and other military contemporaries when attempting to reconstruct Patton's thoughts and motives. In a review of the film Patton, S.L.A. Marshall, who knew both Patton and Bradley, stated that "The Bradley name gets heavy billing on a picture of [a] comrade that, while not caricature, is the likeness of a victorious, glory-seeking buffoon...Patton in the flesh was an enigma. He so stays in the film...Napoleon once said that the art of the general is not strategy but knowing how to mold human nature...Maybe that is all producer Frank McCarthy and Gen. Bradley, his chief advisor, are trying to say." Bradley himself acknowledged that the two men were polar opposites in personality, and there is little doubt that Bradley despised Patton's swashbuckling method of leading the men under his command. Bradley's role in the film remains controversial to this day.

Some historians have accused the film of exaggerating Patton's negative traits, particularly the repeated portrayal of Patton as a commander whose desire for military glory on the battlefield overrode any need to limit unnecessary casualties by the men under his command. These scenes are criticized as contemporary revisionism, a token to the widespread antiwar sentiment of the time (it was released during the apex of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War). Others see the movie's treatment of Patton as too reverential and hagiographic. These critics often discern in the film a thinly-disguised attempt to glorify the military by portraying Patton as an inspirational leader, a commander whose bold plans to conquer Germany and end the war were constantly sabotaged by higher command as well as his military inferiors on the battlefield.

Many Patton contemporaries, including those who knew him personally or served with him, have applauded Scott's characterization of Patton for accurately capturing the essence of the man - war-loving, egotistical, overbearing, obsessive, conflicted, and enigmatic, yet unrivalled in his ability to inspire and lead large forces of men in a desperate and ultimately victorious struggle against a determined enemy.

Legacy - Poem

Perhaps I stabbed our Savior
In His sacred helpless side.
Yet I've called His name in blessing
When in after times I died.

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

I have sinned and I have suffered
Played the hero and the knave
Fought for belly, shame or country
And for each have found a grave.

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.

World War 1 Picture - General George S. Patton statue Ettelbruck / Luxembourg 2007

Picture - General George S. Patton statue Ettelbruck / Luxembourg 2007

General George Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Place du Gnral Patton in Paris (next to Avenue de la Grande Arme) is named after Patton. Some 10 other French towns and cities, including Avranches, Thionville, Troyes and Le Mans, have a "Place du Gnral Patton" in his honor.
A museum dedicated to Patton, and his efforts training thousands of soldiers for African desert combat, is located at the site of the Desert Training Center in Chiriaco Summit, California. A statue of Patton can be seen from nearby Interstate 10. [2]
Two active United States Army installations are named in memory of General Patton. Patton Barracks in Heidelberg, Germany houses the headquarters for the United States Army Garrison Heidelberg.
Patton Army Air Field, located on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, provides rotary-wing aviation support for Army units in southern Kuwait.
Patton United States Army Reserve Center, in Bell, California is named for General Patton.
Patton Hall, located in Fort Riley, Kansas, houses much of the Judge-Advocate General (JAG) Corps at the base.
Patton Junior High School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is named for him.
The Patton series of tanks is named for him.
A chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution is named for Patton.
Patton Monument (West Point)
There is a large Patton Monument in Avranches, France.
At the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in San Gabriel, California, there is a stained glass window depicting Patton as a version of Saint George. He is shown in a tank fighting a dragon festooned with swastikas. The lettering in the window reads "I fought a good fight." The Wilson-Patton family members are buried in the San Gabriel Cemetery about 120 yards to the west of the Church, including the patriarch, Benjamin (Don Benito) Wilson. The exception is General Patton, buried in Luxembourg.
Hamilton, Massachusetts, where Patton's summer home was located, dedicated its central park to Patton, boasting a World War II-era tank in the center of town, and the town's school sports teams play under the name "Generals." In addition, the French government gave two statues to the town commemorating Patton's service to their nation. They were improved in 2003 and sit at the entrance to Patton Park.
Patton was named the class exemplar for the United States Air Force Academy's class of 2005, the only non-aviator to receive this honor.
A street in Arlon in the province of Luxembourg, Belgium, is named for General Patton, and a street in the comune of Ixelles, in Brussels.
Patton Monument, Lacy Park, San Marino, CA
1220 Patton Court, San Marino, CA; former residence of the Patton family. The house is a private residence and is not open to the public.
Boston, Massachusetts - The standing portrait statue of General George Smith Patton, Jr., designed by sculptor James Earle Fraser, was installed at the Charles River Esplanade along the Hatch Shell Circle in 1953. The 8-foot tall bronze statue depicts a uniformed Patton raising a pair of binoculars up to his eyes, atop a 4-foot pink granite base.
Patton wrote much material, including speeches, lectures, and poetry. Incorporating the biblical phrase "Through a Glass, Darkly" he composed a poem imbued with his personal interpretations of reincarnation:

Awards and decorations

United States awards

World War 1 Picture - General Patton's Ribbons as they would appear today

Picture - General Patton's Ribbons as they would appear today

Foreign and international awards

Dates of rank


Primary sources

George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It; Houghton Mifflin
ISBN 0-395-73529-7;(1947/1975); (Soft Cover) ISBN 0-395-08704-6 (1947/1975); (Hard Cover)

George S. Patton, Jr., The poems of General George S. Patton, Jr.: Lines of fire, edited by Carmine A. Prioli. Edwin Mellen Press, 1991.
Patton's photographs: War as he saw it, edited by Kevin Hymel. Potomac Books,
ISBN 1-57488-871-4 (2006) (Hard Cover);
ISBN 1-57488-872-2 (2006) (Soft Cover; Alkali Paper).
Blumenson, Martin, The Patton Papers. Vol. 1, 1885-1940,
ISBN 0-395-12706-8 (Hard Cover) Houghton Mifflin Co., 1972. 996 pp.
ISBN 0-306-80717-3 (Soft Cover; Alkali Paper) Da Capo Press; 1998; 996 pp.
Blumenson, Martin, The Patton Papers: Vol. 2, 1940-1945, ISBN 0-395-18498-3 (Hard Cover); Houghton Mifflin, 1974. 889 pp. ISBN 0-306-80717-3 (Soft Cover; Alkali Paper); Da Capo Press, 1996. 889 pp.
Patton, Robert H., The Pattons: A Personal History of An American Family, ISBN 1-57488-127-2 (Soft Cover); Crown Publishers (1994); Brassey's (1996) 320 pp.
Platt, Anthony M. with O'Leary, Cecilia E., Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler's Nuremberg Laws, From Patton's Trophy To Public Memorial, ISBN 1-59451-140-3 (paperback); Paradigm Publishers, 2006. 268 pp.

Secondary sources

Axelrod, Alan, Patton: A Biography, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Martin Blumenson, Patton: The Man Behind the Legend, 1885-1945 ISBN 0-688-06082-X; 1985
Blumenson, Martin, The Battle of the Generals: The Untold Story of the Falaise Pocket-the Campaign That Should Have Won World War II; 1993.
Brighton, Terry, Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War, Crown, (2009). ISBN 978-0-307-46154-4
Carlo D'Este, Patton: A Genius for War, HarperCollins, (1995). ISBN 0-06-016455-7
Carlo D'Este, Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life, New York: Henry Holt & Co., ISBN 0805056874 (2002)
Dietrich, Steve E., "The Professional Reading of General George S. Patton, Jr.", Journal of Military History 1989 53(4): 387-418. Issn: 0899-3718 Fulltext in Jstor
Eisenhower, John S.D., The Bitter Woods, Cambridge MA: Da Capo Press, ISBN 9780306806520, 9780306806520 (1995)
Essame, H., Patton: A Study in Command, New York: Scribner & Sons, ISBN 9780684136714, 9780684136714, 1st ed. (1974)
Farago, Ladislas, Patton: Ordeal and Triumph ISBN 1-59416-011-2
Gooderson, Ian, Air Power at the Battlefront, 1998, Frank Cass Publishers, 0714642118.
Hirshson, Stanley P., General Patton: A Soldier's Life (2002) ISBN 0-06-000982-9
Jordan, Jonathan W (2011). Brothers Rivals Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, and the Partnership That Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe. NAL. ISBN 978-0451232120
McNeese, Tim, Battle of the Bulge, Chelsea House Publications, ISBN 0791074358, 9780791074350 (2003)
Nye, Roger H., The Patton Mind: The Professional Development of an Extraordinary Leader, Avery; 1993.
Pullen, John J. "'You Will Be Afraid.'", American Heritage 2005 56(3): 26-29. Issn: 0002-8738 Fulltext in Ebsco. Patton's March 1945 was made famous by the movie, which sanitized it. Patton used harsh and foul language and castigated cowards, or "psychoneurotics", and those who used self-inflicted wounds to get out of combat. The basic message was "shoot and keep shooting."
Reit, Seymour, Masquerade: The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II, Hawthorn Press, 1978. ISBN 0-8015-4931-0.
Rickard, John Nelson, Patton at Bay: The Lorraine Campaign, September to December 1944, Praeger, 1999.
Dennis Showalter, Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century (2005). ISBN 978-0-425-20663-8.
Smith, David Andrew, George S. Patton: A Biography, Greenwood, 2003.
Sobel, Brian, The Fighting Pattons, ISBN 0-440-23572-2 (Soft Cover) Dell Publishing, 1997; Praeger Publishers Reprint, July, 2000.
Spires, David N., Patton's Air Force: Forging a Legendary Air-Ground Team, Smithsonian Inst. Pr., 2002.
von Mellenthin, F.W., Panzer Battles, Ballantine, 1971, first published by the University of Oklahoma Press, 1956 ISBN 0-345-32158-8
Brenton G. Wallace, Patton & His Third Army ISBN 0-8117-2896-X
Russell F. Weigley, Eisenhower's Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany 1944-1945, (1990)
Wilson, Dale Eldred, 'Treat 'Em Rough'! The United States Army Tank Corps in the First World War; Temple U. Press (1990).
Zaloga, Steven, Armored Thunderbolt, Stackpole, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8117-0424-3

More aircraft.

Source: WikiPedia

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