George Smith Patton, Jr. was born in San Gabriel, California on November 11, 1885. In 1903, he enrolled in Virginia Military Institute and was appointed to West Point the following year. He graduated in 1909 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 15th Cavalry. Patton served as acting aide to General John J. Pershing during the United States Punitive Expedition to Mexico in 1916. In April, 1917, two months after Patton's return, the United States declared war on Germany. Pershing, appointed commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.), promoted Patton to captain and asked Patton to accompany him to France. Here, Patton began taking an interest in tanks, which were then new and largely untried weapons. He was promoted to Major and, in November, 1917, became one of the first men detailed in the newly established United States Army Tank Corps. He was ordered to direct a new tank school at Langres, France, where he would organize and train the 304th (1st) Tank Brigade. He was soon promoted to lieutenant colonel. Patton led the 1st Tank Brigade into battle at St. Mihiel in mid-September, 1918. Later that month, he was wounded in the Meuse- Argonne Offensive. He sent word that Major Sereno Brett was to take command in his absence. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive continued until mid-October. Meanwhile, Patton was promoted to full colonel. The War ended shortly after, on November 11, 1918. Patton was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal for his service. He continued to serve in the Tank Corps until its disbandment at Fort Meade, Maryland in 1920. In the period between the two world wars, he served two tours of duty in Hawaii, a tour in the Chief of Cavalry's office in the War Department and three tours with the 3rd Cavalry in Fort Myer, Virginia. He graduated from the Command and General Staff School in 1924 and from the Army War College in 1932. In July 1940, Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall established the Armored Force, with General Adna R. Chaffee in command. One division was to be located at Fort Knox, Kentucky and the other at Fort Benning, Georgia. Patton was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed to command a brigade of the Second Armored Division at Fort Benning. In less than a year, he was given command of the division and promoted to Major General. The United States entered World War II shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A few months later, Patton became commander of the 1st Armored Corps. He commanded the Western Task Force, which landed in North Africa in November, 1942. In March, 1943, he was given command of all American forces in the Tunisia Combat Area. Within a month, he was promoted to lieutenant general and put in charge of American preparations for the invasion of Sicily. He commanded the American assault on Sicily in July, 1943. In March 1944, Patton assumed command of the 3rd Army, which became operational in France the following August. Patton and the 3rd Army advanced at a remarkable rate throughout the rest of the war. When the Germans began the Ardennes counteroffensive in December, 1944, Patton redirected his forces to the north, relieved Bastogne and contained the enemy. General Omar Bradley referred to this action as "one of the most astonishing feats of generalship of our campaign in the west." In April, 1945, Patton received his fourth star. Germany surrendered the following month. In October, 1945, Patton assumed command of the 15th Army in America- occupied Germany. He died on December 21, 1945, as a result of an automobile accident near Mannheim, Germany.
Blumenson, Martin. Patton: The Man Behind the Legend, 1885-1945. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1985
"Patton, General George S. (1885-1945)". In The Oxford Companion to World War II. I.C.B. Dear, General Editor. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995
Pogue, Forrest C. "Patton, George Smith, Jr. (1885-1945)." Encyclopedia Americana, v. 21, pp. 540-41. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Incorporated, 1990.
Additional material was donated by:
Colonel and Mrs. William A. Brant, Austin, Texas, on July 28, 1998 (98-2235)
M. Edwin Nuetzman, Bismarck, North Dakota, on October 20, 1998 (99-2275)
Yvonne Mahoney (via Earl Strinden), Devils Lake, North Dakota, on November 12, 2002 (2002-2581)
The George S. Patton Papers were brought together by Sereno Elmer Brett, Patton's second in command during World War I. Brett organized and took command of the 345th (327th) Battalion, Tank Corps in June, 1918. In the St. Mihiel Offensive of September, 1918, he led the first American tank attack in World War I, along with the 344th (326th) Battalion. He assumed command of the 304th (1st) Tank Brigade after Patton was wounded in late September, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Spanning the years 1918-1944, the George S. Patton Papers document activities of Patton and the 304th (1st) Tank Brigade during the First World War, and document the early development of tanks and tank warfare. Items include war diaries of the 345th (327th) Battalion and of the 304th Tank Brigade, which describe daily activities from August, 1918 to February, 1919. The first nine entries of the 304th war diary for September are in Patton's hand and subsequent reports are signed by him. The Battle of St. Mihiel is documented through an official operations report submitted by Patton, as well as by field orders, reports of officers of the 344th and 345th Battalions and transcriptions of Sereno Brett's diary. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive is documented through field orders, official operations reports (submitted by Patton and Brett), reports of officers in the 344th Battalion and transcripts of Army Liaison Office communications transmitted during the Offensive. An unpublished history of the 304th Brigade provides detailed background information. "Personal Experiences of Officers of the Tank Corps, American Expeditionary Forces" compiles experiences related by Patton, Brett and other Tank Corps officers in November and December, 1918. Patton Papers also contain rosters of the 304th, including lists of those killed in action.
Several materials document the early development of tanks and tank warfare. Items dating from World War I include a British official report entitled "Tanks as Time and Man Savers," the "Instructions for the Training of the U.S. Tank Corps in France," and the "Report of Investigation, French Renault Tanks, With 1st Army, A.E.F., Argonne Sector, October, 1918." Unpublished essays, manuscripts, reports and other materials dating from the immediate post- World War I period review the history of tanks during the war and examine successes and failures of their employment. Several materials reflect contemporary debates on the future of tanks within the United States Army. One folder, for example, contains correspondence regarding the possible formation of a tank division (including a 1930 letter written and signed by Colonel G. C. Marshall.). Lectures by Sereno Brett at the Army War College speculate on the development of tanks and on how the United States could defend itself against an armored attack. George S. Patton Papers also contain 329 photographs, some newspapers, and thirty-six maps. The maps depict World War I theatres of combat. Often, they illustrate specific battles and other military engagements and, as such, complement the war diaries and other materials in Patton Papers documenting these actions. Most newspapers date from 1940 and 1941 and describe the development of the Armored Forces Division. One newspaper, dating from 1927, describes Sereno Brett testing tanks for the U.S. Army. The photographs date from 1918-1941. Generally, they relate to the history of tanks and mechanized, armored warfare. They depict many tank models, including American, British, French, German and Italian models. Some photos show specific tank experimentation. Other photographs depict Sereno Brett and fellow military officers, including General Adna R. Chaffee, commander of the Armored Division from 1940 until his death in August 1941. Eighteen aerial photographs depict the World War I combat theatres. The topography in each of these is carefully labeled. One poster, dating from 1944, features an illustration of Patton, with the caption "General Patton says: `Buy More Bonds!'"
NOTE: A microfilmed reference copy of the George S. Patton Papers is available for viewing in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers may make copies on Special Collections' microfilm reader/printer. Materials from Boxes 1 and 2 were filmed on Roll 1. Materials from Box 3 (Photographs) and oversize materials (Maps and newspapers) are filmed on Roll 2.