George Patton 1885-1945
Published on November 30, 2012
When General John Pershing took command of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, he knew he could count on Captain George Smith Patton. Born in 1885, the young Californian had graduated from West Point in 1909. Patton was an athlete; he made the pentathlon team for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. An experienced soldier, he had fought under Pershing in the campaign against Pancho Villa in 1916. But his love for and knowledge of France were Patton’s most important qualities: he had taken fencing classes at the prestigious Saumur Cavalry School, both he and his family spoke French fluently. Patton arrived with Pershing in France on June 13, 1917. By September 1, 1917, he had established headquarters in Chaumont, in the Haute-Marne. He studied French tanks at Champlieu and returned to Langres to begin training Americans to use them. On September 12, 1918, his 304th tank brigade took part in the liberation of Saint-Mihiel. Promoted to Lt-Colonel, Patton was injured on September 26th. On October 17th, he was promoted again to full Colonel. He was decorated for Distinguished Service just before the armistice. Twenty six years later, he played a major role in the liberation of Western Europe.