George S. Patton, Jr.

Military Leader / World War II Figure

Born: 11 November 1885
Died: 21 December 1945 (automobile crash)
Birthplace: San Gabriel, California
Best known as:

Commander of the U.S. Third Army in World War II

Known as "Old Blood and Guts," George S. Patton, Jr. was one of the most colorful generals of World War II. Patton went to the Virginia Military Institute and to West Point, where he was an undistinguished student but a remarkable athlete. A cavalryman and swordsman in the U.S. Army, he served on the staff of General John J. Pershing during the 1916 pursuit of Pancho Villa in Mexico, and during World War I Patton fought in Europe and became an early expert in a radical new form of battle machine: tanks. After the war he continued to study tanks, learned to be a pilot and sailor and held administrative posts in the Army. During World War II he served in North Africa and Sicily before becoming the commander of the Third Army. Highly effective, he was also highly unusual: among other mild eccentricities, he wore ivory-handled Colt. 45 revolvers and (late in the war) travelled with a bull terrier named Willie. Toward the close of the war, with Patton using his tanks to their full effectiveness, the Third Army defied the odds and drove the Nazis across France and back into Germany. Patton was not known for diplomacy -- in one famous incident he slapped a hospitalized soldier for what he believed was cowardice -- and his outspokenness caused him to be relieved of command of the Third Army after the war.

Extra credit:

Actor George C. Scott won an Oscar for playing the general in the 1970 film Patton. The film also won an Academy Award for Francis Ford Coppola, who co-wrote it with Edmund North... Patton finished fifth in the Modern Pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. The competition included riding, pistol shooting, fencing, swimming and running.

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