George Smith Patton, Jr., b. San Gabriel, Calif., Nov. 11, 1885, d. Dec. 21, 1945, was one of the foremost American combat generals of World War II. Scion of a prominent military family from Virginia, he graduated from West Point in 1909 and saw tank service in France in World War I. The colorful, tough-minded, outspoken officer — he wore ivory-handled revolvers on his hips — was a chief proponent of the adoption of armored weapons and mobile tactics.
After the outbreak of World War II, Patton played a major part in the invasion (1942) of North Africa and in the capture (1943) of Sicily. His career climaxed in 1944–45 when, after the Allies' Normandy Invasion, Patton's Third Army swept across France and into Germany. One of the war's ablest tank commanders, he played a pivotal role in helping to halt the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944–January 1945). Relentlessly hard-driving and combative, "Old Blood and Guts" Patton incurred unfavorable publicity for slapping a combat-exhausted soldier in a hospital, although he later apologized publicly for the incident. Patton was fatally injured in an automobile accident near Mannheim, Germany. His memoirs, War As I Knew It, appeared in 1947.
Warren W. Hassler, Jr.
Bibliography: Blumenson, Martin, ed., Patton (1985; repr. 1995) and The Patton Papers, 2 vols. (1972 –74; repr. 1996 –98); D'Este, Carlo, Patton: A Genius for War (1995); Farago, Ladislas, The Last Days of Patton (1981) and Patton (1964); Hanson, Victor Davis, The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny (1999); Patton, Robert H., Pattons: A Personal History of an American Family (1994); Rickard, John N., Patton at Bay: The Lorraine Campaign, September to December, 1944 (1999).