George S. Patton, Jr. (1885-1945)


George S. Patton, Jr. George S. Patton, Jr., VMI Class of 1907, was the third generation of his family to attend VMI. While born in California, Patton considered himself a Southerner. His grandfather, COL George S Patton, CSA, VMI 1852 and grand uncle, COL Waller Tazewell Patton, CSA, VMI 1855, had died during the War for Southern Independence. His father, George S., had graduated from VMI in 1877. Young Patton went to VMI to fulfill the family military legacy, but transferred to West Point after one year. Graduating from West Point would assure Patton of receiving a direct commission in the U.S. Army, a goal he could not have been assured of graduating from VMI.

Patton was an undistinguished student but a remarkable athlete. A cavalry man and swordsman in the U.S. Army, in 1916 he went with General John J. Pershing and fought in Mexico, and during World War I Patton worked in the early days of tanks as offensive weapons. After the war he continued to study tanks, learned to be a pilot and sailor and held administrative posts in the Army. 

Audacious and profane, General George S. Patton, Jr. was one of the ablest and most controversial U.S. commanders in World War II. Patton was fond of presenting himself as a modern-day cavalryman, outfitted with ivory-handled sidearm and leading tank outfits across Nazi-occupied France. Patton once exclaimed, "Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance."

Patton distinguished himself in various World War II campaigns including the invasion of North Africa and the capture of Sicily. It was during the Sicilian campaign that Patton generated considerable controversy when he struck a hospitalized G.I. whom he accused of being a malingerer. For this act, the general was forced to issue a public apology. Such miscues forced Eisenhower to reprimand the outspoken and colorful general.

Toward the close of the war, Patton's Third Army defied the odds and drove the Nazis across France and back into Germany.Patton's expertise in tank command helped frustrate the December 1944 German counteroffensive in the Ardennes at the Battle of the Bulge. Under his command the Third Army swept into Germany and into Czechoslovakia. In April 1945, Patton was promoted to temporary four-star general.  Not known for diplomacy, "Old Blood and Guts'" outspokenness caused him to be relieved of command of the Third Army after the war for making inflammatory remarks concerning the denazification policies.

In December 1945, less than a year after the defeat of the Nazis, Patton was killed in an automobile accident in Germany.