Daily Archives: November 11, 2010

Happy Birthday General George Patton!

Besides Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton (born this day in 1885) might be the most recognized general in modern American history.  Brilliantly played by George C. Scott in a 1970 biopic, General Patton was a man of harsh contrasts.   He embraced the violent actions of war as readily as he took to ballroom dancing, and when he wasn’t spewing profanities at slights both real and imagined, he could be found writing poetry.

Carnegie Library owns a host of great resources on General Patton, and delving into them will help interested parties sort the man from the myth.   In 1916 a young George Patton acted as an aid to Pershing in Mexico, and personally killed three of Pancho Villa’s bodyguards in a raging gun battle.

World War II became the cauldron which forged Patton’s legend.  Many military historians believe that no general ever moved so many troops so efficiently as Patton.   His Third Army’s sweep through occupied France in 1944 displayed a ruthless bravado that rivaled Hannibal’s  classic march over the Alps in 218 BC.

He was a man who craved action, and performed at his best in the thick of it, but some of his worst character flaws were revealed during those periods when the fighting was over.  Insensitive comments, paranoia, heavy drinking, and a general lack of empathy were just a few of his problems.

Historian Martin Blumenson wryly wrote of Patton after his death in a 1945 car accident near Mannheim, Germany, “He died at just the right time, while his triumphs remained fresh, before he could destroy his reputation by absurd ravings.”  Like many great figures, George Patton was many things, and his colorful life makes for fascinating study.

–Scott

Source Citation:

“George S. Patton.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 9 Nov. 2010.

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