George Smith Patton, Jr. (also George Smith Patton III) (November 11, 1885 – December 21, 1945) was a United States Army officer most famous for his commanding corps and armies as a General in North Africa, Sicily and the European Theater of Operations during World War II. He was also widely known for his controversial outspokenness and strong opinions.
Commissioned in the army in 1909, Patton participated in the unsuccessful attempt to capture Pancho Villa in 1916-17. In World War I, he was the first officer assigned to the new United States Tank Corps and saw action in France. After the war he was a strong advocate of armored warfare.
It was in World War II that he made his mark, commanding both corps and armies as a general in North Africa, Sicily, and the European Theater of Operations. Near the end of the Sicilian campaign, Patton jeopardized his career by slapping a soldier recuperating from battle fatigue at a hospital; Patton considered him a coward. The well-publicized incident caused General Dwight D. Eisenhower to relieve him of command. Thus, instead of playing a major part in the Normandy Landings and Operation Overlord, he was relegated to commanding the decoy mission Operation Quicksilver. However, he was later given command of the U.S. Third Army and ably led it in breaking out of the hedgerows of Normandy and across France. When a surprise major German offensive at the Battle of the Bulge resulted in American units being surrounded in Bastogne, Patton rapidly disengaged his army from fighting in another sector and moved it over 100 miles in 48 hours to relieve the siege.
Patton often got into trouble with his outspokenness and strong opinions. In addition to the slapping incident, towards the end of the war, he voiced his detestation and mistrust of the Soviet Union and his desire to fight it. However, he was greeted warmly by the public when he returned to the United States in June 1945. He died in December of that year after an automobile accident
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