General George S. Patton’s army career began long before WWII. He enlisted in the US Army in 1909 and earned himself a Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal and a Purple Heart during World War I. To read about Patton’s early and WWI military career or his WWII involvement, click on the links below:
General George S. Patton and WWII
Patton Meets Eisenhower
Four months after the end of WWI, Patton returned to the states to Camp Meade in Maryland. He was returned to his permanent rank of captain in June of 1920. However, he was promised to be promoted once again to major the very next day. He was assigned temporary duty in Washington DC, serving on a committee responsible for writing manuals on tank operations. It was during this time Patton developed the theory that rather than be a part of infantry support, tanks should be their own fighting force. This insight would later assist him in adapting US tank operations used to counter Germany’s blitzkrieg warfare.
During his time in Washington DC, Patton met Dwight D. Eisenhower. This chance meeting would have a huge influence on the future of Patton’s career. Once he left DC, he and Eisenhower still remained in touch. Patton actually assisted Eisenhower so he could graduate from the General Staff College.
During the interwar time frame, Patton – along with Eisenhower and a few other officers – began to push for additional development of armored warfare. Dwight Davis, Secretary of War at the time, was in agreement, but military budget restrictions coupled with a prevalent, well-established Infantry and Cavalry resulted in the US only minimally developing its armored corps.
That all changed in 1940.
In September of 1920, Patton was assigned to Ft. Myer, commander of the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry. He loathed his responsibilities as a peacetime staff officer. During this time, he wrote a number of technical papers and gave speeches about his
WWI combat experience at the General Staff College. He began taking a number of courses at the Field Officer’s Course at the Cavalry School and then went on to attend the Command and General Staff College, where he graduated 25th (out of 248) in his class.
In August of 1923, Patton was awarded the Lifesaving Medal after saving a number of children from drowning after they fell from a yacht. Shortly after, he was briefly appointed to the General Staff Corps in Boston, MA. In March of 1925, Patton was reassigned as G-1 and G-2 to the Hawaiian Division in Honolulu where he designed a defense plan – Surprise. The plan seemed to anticipate the air attack on Pearl Harbor, yet written ten years prior to the actual attack.
While in Hawaii, Patton received G-3 status. In May of 1927, he was transferred to Washington, DC’s Office of the Chief of Cavalry. Here, Patton started to develop various concepts of mechanized warfare. He implemented an experiment merging the infantry, cavalry and artillery units into one combined force, however cancelled funding forced Patton to the experiment to halt. In 1931, Patton left his office in Washington, DC and returned to Massachusetts. Patton went to the Army War College while in Massachusetts and was the first ‘Distinguished Graduate’ of the college in June of 1932.
In July of that same year, Patton became the executive officer of the US Army’s 3rd Cavalry. The cavalry was ordered to Washington by none other than US Army Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur. On July 28, 1932, Patton became commander of all 600 troops of the 3rd Cavalry and was ordered by MacArthur to move advance his troops on protesting veterans using tear gas and bayonets. When Patton discovered Joe Angelo (who had saved his life in WWI) among the protesters, realized their complaints were legit. However, as distasteful as he found the order, he also realized this move would also prevent further insurrection and result in the saving of lives and properties. The 3rd Cavalry – led by Patton himself - marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and dispersed the veteran protestors.
In March of 1934, Patton received a promotion in the regular Army to Lieutenant colonel. He was transferred back to Hawaii and served as a G-2. Patton became depressed and began drinking rather heavily. He began engaging in extra marital affairs and in his spare time playing polo and sailing. He once sailed from Hawaii to Los Angeles for an extended leave and was kicked by horse. The incident left Patton with a fractured leg which eventually developed phlebitis and almost killed him. His injury almost forced him from active service. Patton took an administrative assignment at the Academic Department at the Cavalry School at Ft. Riley for six months, which allowed him to recover from his injuries.
In July of 1938, Patton received a promotion to colonel and received command of the 5th Cavalry at Ft. Clark, TX. Patton enjoyed his position at Fort Clark but in December of that same year, he was reassigned back to Ft. Myer, this time commander of the 3rd Cavalry. While at Fort Myer, Patton met the Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, who was definitely impressed by Patton. In fact, Marshall felt Patton would be the perfect candidate for flag officer rank. Since it was still peace time, however, he would continue as a colonel to remain eligible for a commanding a regiment.
In 1939, the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of WWII in Europe had the US military begin a period of mobilization. During this time, it was Patton’s goal to build up the power of the United States armed forces. In 1940, while serving as an umpire of the maneuvers of the Third U.S. Army, Patton met Adna Chaffee, Jr. The two collaborated to develop an armed force; a force for which Chaffee was would be named commander. This created the US 1st Armored Division and US 2nd Armored Division and also the first combined arms doctrine.
Chaffee appointed Patton commander of the 2nd Armored Brigade, 2nd Armored Division and responsible for its training. On October 2nd, Patton received another promotion to brigadier general. In November, he was appointed as acting division commander and in April of 1941, Patton received another promotion to major general. At that time, he was appointed division commander of the 2nd Armored Division.
Eventually, Chaffee stepped down as commander of the US I Armored Corps. At this time, Patton became the most recognizable figure in the US doctrine of armor. In December of 1940, Patton staged a high-profile exercise in which 1,000 tanks and vehicles were driven from Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA to Panama City, FL and back. He repeated the same trip again the following month using his entire vehicle division – 1,300 in all.
Patton was able to make use of his pilot’s license during the maneuvers to observe the movements from the air, allowing him to devise ways of effectively deploying them in combat. As a result of his exploits that year, Patton made the cover of Life Magazine.
In June of 1941, Patton led his division during the Tennessee Maneuvers where his leadership was applauded. He was able to execute 48 hours’ worth of objectives in just nine hours. In September, during the Louisiana Maneuvers, his division – part of the Red Army - lost in Phase I, but during the second phase, they were placed with the Blue Army. The Division managed to execute a 400-mile end run around the Red Army and win with the ‘capture’ of Shreveport, LA. He was successful also in the Carolina Maneuvers which took place in October-November of 1941.
On January 15, 1942, just a little over a month since the United States entered the war, Patton was appointed commander of the I Armored Corps. Within the month, he established the Desert Training Center located in Imperial Valley. The training exercises continued into the summer of 1942. Patton had chosen a 10,000 acre desert area just southeast of Palm Springs, CA. During this mission, Patton put a strong emphasis on the need for armored forces to remain in constant contact with opposing forces.
Given his strong stance to maintain offensive movement, Patton became known as ‘Old Blood and Guts’. He was quoted as saying “whenever you slow anything down, you waste human lives.”
A huge undertaking lie ahead for Patton and his interwar experience assisted in preparing him for the difficult tasks he would encounter throughout World War II.