On U.S. entry into World War I, Patton deployed to France as an aide to American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander General John J. Pershing, but he transferred to the Tank Corps and, as a temporary major, commanded the first U.S. Army tank school at Langres, France. He then commanded the 304th Tank Brigade as a temporary lieutenant colonel. Wounded in the Saint-Mihiel Offensive, he was promoted to temporary colonel and took part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
After the war, Patton remained an ardent champion of tank warfare. He graduated from the Cavalry School in 1923, the Command and General Staff School in 1924, and the Army War College in 1932. Returning to armor, Patton was promoted to temporary brigadier general in October 1940 and to temporary major general in April 1941, when he took command of the newly formed 2nd Armored Division. Popularly known as "Old Blood and Guts" for his colorful speeches to inspire the men, Patton commanded I Corps and the Desert Training Center, where he prepared U.S. forces for the invasion of North Africa.
In November 1942, Patton commanded the Western Task Force in the landing at Casablanca, Morocco, part of Operation torch. Following the U.S. defeat in the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, in March 1943 he won promotion to lieutenant general and assumed command of II Corps. He quickly restored order and morale and took the offensive against the Axis forces.
In April, Patton received command of the Seventh Army for the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. He used a series of costly flanking maneuvers along the northern coast of the island to reach Messina ahead of the British Eighth Army on the eastern side. Patton, however, ran afoul of the press and his superiors when he struck two soldiers who suffered from battle fatigue.
Relieved of his command, Patton was then used as a Trojan horse to disguise the location of the attack of Operation overlord, the cross-Channel invasion of France. The Germans assumed that Patton would command any such invasion, but he actually remained in Britain in command of Third Army, the fictional 1st U.S. Army Group, in a successful ruse to trick the Germans into believing the invasion would occur in the Pas de Calais area.
Following the Normandy Invasion, Patton was at last unleashed in August when his Third Army arrived in France and spearheaded a breakout at Saint-L™ and campaigned brilliantly across northern France. Moving swiftly, his forces swung wide and then headed east, although he was frustrated by the refusal of General Omar Bradley and Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower to recognize the importance of sealing the Falaise-Argentan gap. Patton's forces crossed the Meuse River in late August to confront German defenses at Metz, where the Germans held the Americans until December. During the German Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge), Patton executed a brilliant repositioning movement and came to the relief of the hard-pressed American forces at Bastogne.
By the end of January, Patton began another offensive, piercing the Siegfried Line between Saarlautern and Saint Vith. On 22 March, the Third Army crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim. Patton continued his drive into Germany and eventually crossed into Czechoslovakia. By the end of the war, his men had covered more ground (600 miles) and liberated more territory (nearly 82,000 square miles) than any other Allied force.
Promoted to temporary general, Patton became military governor of Bavaria. He soon found himself again in trouble for remarks in which he criticized denazification and argued that the Soviet Union was the real enemy. Relieved of his post, he assumed command of the Fifteenth Army, slated to write the official U.S. Army history of the war. Patton suffered a broken neck in an automobile accident near Mannheim and died at Heidelberg on 21 December 1945.
T. Jason Soderstrum and Spencer C. Tucker
Blumenson, Martin. Patton: The Man behind the Legend, 1885–1945. New York: William Morrow, 1985.; D'Este, Carlo. Patton: A Genius for War. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.; Hirshson, Stanley P. General Patton: A Soldier's Life. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.; Hogg, Ian V. The Biography of General George S. Patton. London: Hamlyn, 1982.