On December 21, 1945, General George S. Patton Jr died. For a man who survived two World Wars, the manner in which he died was quite unusual and unexpected: an automobile accident.
I'm sure General Patton had a more glorious ending in mind, but you get the hand life deals you. And even Patton knew this Dealer wasn't under his command. So, following orders, he left us 64 years ago today. His job, his duty, was done.
Since the days of the Great World Wars, times have changed. Wars have changed. Generals have changed. However, there's one thing that hasn't changed over the years: service members being away from family and friends during tours of duty. Just like his men, Patton was away from his family for very long stretches.
As the war in Europe came to a close, Patton had the opportunity for a brief respite from his duties in Germany. His first stop would be Boston, where he would spend some much needed time with his family. After Boston, Patton was off on a whirlwind War Bond tour that would take him cross-country to Los Angeles.
This trip back to the states would be Patton's last. Time Magazine chronicled Patton's final visit, and what a visit it was:
TIME--June 18, 1945
HEROES: 24 STAR GENERAL
New England had rarely seen anything like it. But, after all, the world has rarely seen anything like General George Smith Patton Jr. Last week, when he came home from the wars, 750,000 people jammed the 20-mile parade route into downtown Boston waiting to see and cheer the conquering hero. Georgie Patton did not disappoint them.
He stepped down onto U.S. soil agleam with 24 stars, variously placed, all glittering: four on his shiny steel helmet, four on each shoulder loop, four on each collar tab, and four on the black butt of the automatic pistol at his hip. On the side of his helmet was the painted insigne of the armored divisions; on the front, below the stars, was the Third Army's "A"—which, in photographs, looked like a fifth star. On his chest was a quintuple corsage of campaign ribbons; on his left sleeve, five overseas bars and four wound chevrons. He wore two rings on his left hand, one on his right.
As he hurried to embrace his wife, it was apparent that he had grown old as well as famous in battle. His hair was white, his face lined. But he was still erect and turkey-cock as ever.
There He Is! As the crowds roared their applause, he stood stiffly erect in a Fire-Department touring car, bowing, saluting, holding his helmet over his heart. At Lexington, where the world-heard shot was fired in 1775, citizens had raised a banner: "WELCOME GEORGE BLOOD 'N' GUTS PATTON. NICE GOING!" At Cambridge City Hall the car drove beneath arched Fire-Department ladders. Handed a gavel .made from the Washington Elm, Georgie Patton promised, "I'll cherish it forever."
The triumphal procession moved through downtown Boston, finally reached the Charles River Esplanade, where 30,000 people roared themselves hoarse as Governor Maurice J. Tobin compared General Patton to Washington, Sheridan, Grant, Forrest and Stonewall Jackson.
That night, at a state dinner in Boston's Copley-Plaza Hotel, the General surreptitiously flipped an olive pit at his two married daughters, blew kisses, beamed happily at his wife. But as he rose to speak —still wearing his pistol—tears rolled down his cheeks and his high, thin voice grew almost inaudible. He sat down after less than five minutes, put a big handkerchief to his face. Then he lighted a big cigar.
Said his son, West Point Cadet George Smith Patton IV: "Same old Pop."
A Poet, Too. As "Pop," he went off to Hamilton, Mass., to spend the night with his family. But the triumphal tour had just begun. Next day, after an eleven-and-a-half-hour plane flight, he arrived in Denver. Happily profane, he rattled off a stream of characteristic Pattonisms. Sample: he classed himself a "better poet than general." As his plane rolled into its takeoff, Los Angeles bound, he found his hotel key in his pocket, chucked it out, yelling to those on the ground to return it.
Los Angeles outdid the earlier receptions. But a crowd fully as big as Boston's turned out to cheer California's Patton and Co-Hero Jimmy Doolittle. That night, 100,000 crowded into the Coliseum for a mammoth reception engineered by Hollywood Producer Mervyn Le Roy.
The Hollywoodian effects included 600-million-candlepower floodlights, a tank battle, assorted movie stars. A gargantuan U.S. flag stretched from one side of the stadium to the other. Georgie Patton was equal to the occasion. While the vast crowd roared, he stood on a speaker's stand with red-white-&-blue streamers flowing down before him. He wept, swore, roared for defeat of the Jap. Los Angelenos, who had wondered whether he could outshine Hollywood, called it a tie.
Six months later, General Patton would be gone. By his request, he was buried next to his men in American Cemetery, Luxembourg. Newsreel from his funeral:
I do my best to pay tribute to our hereos. It's our responsibility, our duty, to do so. Men such as Master Sgt C. J. Grisham live by this code--THEY HAVE NAMES. I thank C. J. for his selfless efforts and for his service to our country.
Please take time to visit my main Patton tribute:
GENERAL GEORGE SMITH PATTON, JR.
11 NOV 1885--21 DEC 1945
Rest in Peace