George Smith Patton, Jr.
(1885 - 1945)
George S. Patton Jr. was certainly the most controversial, and probably the most admired, of the Allied commanders during WWII. Under Eisenhower's command, he led the Third Army, which led the breakout from Normandy in July--September 1944. He diverted his forces to relieve the Americans trapped in the Battle of the Bulge, before crossing the Rhine in March 1945 and advanced into Czechoslovakia, through the heart of Germany
Unlike Eisenhower, Patton was strongly anti-communist, and after the German surrender he argued, unsuccessfully, for a combined Allied-German campaign against the Soviet Union -- no way to treat a staunch ally, but typical of Patton's bullish disregard for convention, and a fitting end to his war.
Patton was a career soldier. Born in San Gabriel, California in 1885, he was the descendant of an old Virginia family, the nearest thing the U.S. of the period had to an aristocracy. After starting his military training at Virginia Military Institute, he moved to West Point a year later, and graduated in 1909 – he spent an extra year at the academy because, although he was intelligent, he hadn't learned to read until he was 12 and was academically behind his classmates.
He competed for the U.S. in the 1912 Olympics, placing fifth in the military pentathlon. He was an aide to General Pershing in his expedition to Mexico in 1916 and then accompanied him to France in 1917 when the U.S. entered WWI. Here he learned from the French and British how to use the newest weapon of war, the tank, and distinguished himself leading his tank brigade in battle. He was flamboyant and unconventional, a high profile soldier. When America entered World War II in 1941 he was commander of the Second Armoured Division and by January 1942 he was commanding general of I Armoured Corps. In October 1942 he directed the amphibious landings near Casablanca and was in charge of the U.S. campaign across North Africa. By July of 1943 he was in command of the U.S. Seventh Army in the Allied invasion of Sicily – his bold campaign and military excellence beat the British into Palermo, but his eccentric personality got the better of him and nearly cost him his career, when he abused two sick soldiers and slapped one of them.
Eventually he took command of the Third Army in the Allied invasion of Normandy and the final European offensive. However, when, after the Allied victory, he argued to keep former Nazis in administrative jobs, and suggested that Germany and the other Allies should join in an offensive against the Soviets, he was removed from command of the Third Army. He was badly injured in an automobile accident on December 9, 1945, and died 12 days later.
Patton was famous for carrying ivory-handled revolvers (A Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum and a Colt .45), for his coarse language, and his outrageousness, but he is also regarded as one of the most successful American field commanders of any war.