Sunday, March 28, 2010

Old Blood and Guts

The George S. Patton Collection at Fort Knox

As was discussed in the previous post from our History Trip, Fort Knox, Kentucky is not only home to the gold depository but also the Patton Museum, home of one of the largest collections of historic tanks and the largest collection of artifacts relating to the life of General George Smith Patton, the famed WWII commander of the 7th, 3rd, and 15th Armies of that conflict. Born in San Gabriel, California on November 11, 1885, Patton was accepted at the Virginia Military Institute and then West Point. He was infamous for his aggressive behavior and tactics throughout his career. His younger days in the Army were with General John Pershing in the campaign to capture Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. It was there in Mexico where Patton was in his first gunfight and killed his first man. During WWI, he served on Pershing's staff and later as a tank commander in France.

As many of you may know, Patton came from a celebrated military tradition. Several of his family members attended the Virginia Military Institute. These Civil War artifacts belonged to the original George S. Patton, a colonel in the 22nd Virginia Infantry. He was killed on September 20, 1864 in one of the many battles for Winchester, Virginia. Patton's great uncle, Waller Tazewell Patton, was killed in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg while in the 7th VA Infantry. The brothers George and Waller share a common grave in Winchester's Stonewall Confederate Cemetery. Waller was played by mogul Ted Turner in Gettysburg. It was on this saddle that George Patton III (the WWII general) would learn to ride. The military career did not end with his death, however. George S. Patton IV served as a general in the Vietnam War and lived until 2004.

This somewhat freaky-looking 1901 Remington Target Pistol was Patton's first pistol. To the right is one of his childhood toys amongst other artifacts from his youth. Guns and toy dolls compliment each other, right?

On December 9, 1945, Patton and General "Hap" Gay were driving back from pheasant hunting when a large Army supply truck collided with the front of this Cadillac. Patton was the only one in the car who was injured...

...His head smashed into the metal partition dividing the front seats and passenger seats. He had severe spinal injury and was paralyzed. Having trouble breathing, he died from an embolism four days before Christmas 1945. He is buried in the American Cemetery in Luxembourg with many of his men. To survive two world wars and several gunfights only to die from a Cadillac crash is indeed a sad irony. As you can see, the car has been refurbished and still probably gets four miles to the gallon.

And this is the famous leather coat and helmet he wore during the Battle of the Bulge, which I consider perhaps his finest hour. The photo below the coat shows Patton decorating Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe for his defense of Bastogne, Belgium with the 101st Airborne. The coat, actually an Army Air Corps jacket, was made world famous due to the above photo. Now with four stars on it, Patton had the old insignia unstitched and replaced with four evenly spaced stars when promoted. (He was always concerned about appearances.)

His four star helmet from the 3rd Army and his holster.

And then of course there are his famous ivory-handled pistols. Some staff and high command (except maybe Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery) tried to discourage Patton from wearing these for fear that he would make a better target for Nazis. Never one for subtlety or to wince from danger, Patton sported these Colt pistols throughout the entire war. Click to enlarge.

Understandably, Patton always had a taste for the romantic cavalier image. In this photo you can see his early fencing equipment as well as some interesting "in action" poses he made for the camera.

This small flag flew from Patton's car. He signed it as a souvenir for the 6th Army in 1945.

Here is an interior shot of Patton's field headquarters - the granddaddy of the RV I suppose you could call it. Inside was a sink, a changing area, a map table/wall, a desk, and a comfy-looking chair tucked in the corner. On that chair are his "riding" gloves and riding crop. In front are his briefcases with his name inscribed on them.

An exterior view of Patton's field headquarters truck.

Pardon the poor photo quality, but this is the dog tag of Willie Whiffle...Patton's dog.

This video is a segment from the TV series Patton 360...when the History Channel still produced historical programming. The remainder of this episode can be found on YouTube.


  1. I got to play Patton's great-grandmother in a really crappy independent film that some guy shot at the Guyandotte, WV reenactment last year.

  2. Hi Tracey,

    Was it about the Patton's in the Civil War or WWII? Interesting. What's it called?