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George Smith Patton, Jr.

Patton, George Smith, Jr., 1885–1945, American general, b. San Gabriel, Calif. A graduate of West Point (1909), he served in World War I and was wounded while commanding a tank brigade in France. Subsequently he served in the cavalry and the tank corps. In World War II he commanded (1942–43) a corps in North Africa and the 7th Army in Sicily. Despite a brilliant record, a much-publicized incident (Patton slapped a soldier suffering from battle fatigue) cost him his command and delayed until Aug., 1944, promotion to the permanent rank of major general. Patton was a particularly skilled at the rapid advance of his forces as well as the surprise flanking attack. Early in 1944 he was given command of the 3d Army, which spearheaded the spectacular sweep of U.S. forces from Normandy through Brittany and N France, relieved Bastogne in Dec., 1944 (see Battle of the Bulge), crossed the Rhine (Mar., 1945), and raced across S Germany into Czechoslovakia. As military governor of Bavaria, he was criticized for leniency to Nazis and was removed (Oct., 1945) to take charge of the U.S. 15th Army. Patton was fatally injured in an automobile accident in Germany.

See his autobiography (1947); M. Blumenson, ed., The Patton Papers (2 vol., 1972–74); biographies by F. Ayer, Jr. (1971), C. Peifer, Jr. (1988), and C. D'Este (1995); studies by H. Essame (1974), Z. Favago (1986), M. Blumenson (1985), and J. W. Jordan (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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