Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1885

George Patton born

George Smith Patton, one of the great American generals of World War II, is born in San Gabriel, California.

Patton came from a family with a long history of military service. After studying at West Point, he served as a tank officer in World War I, and his experience in that conflict, along with his extensive military study, led him to become an advocate of the crucial importance of the tank in future warfare. After the American entrance into World War II, Patton was placed in command of an important U.S. tank division and played a key role in the Allied invasion of French North Africa in 1942. In 1943, Patton led the U.S. Seventh Army in its assault on Sicily and won fame for out-commanding Montgomery during the so-called Race to Messina.

Although Patton was one of the ablest American commanders in World War II, he was also one of the most controversial. He presented himself as a modern-day cavalryman, designed his own uniform, and was known to make eccentric claims that he was a direct descendant of great military leaders of the past through reincarnation. During the Sicilian campaign, Patton generated considerable controversy when he accused a hospitalized U.S. soldier suffering from battle fatigue of cowardice and then personally struck him across the face. The famously profane general was forced to issue a public apology and was reprimanded by General Dwight Eisenhower.

However, when it was time for the invasion of Western Europe, Eisenhower could find no general as formidable as Patton, and the general was again granted an important military post. In 1944, Patton commanded the U.S. Third Army in the invasion of France, and in December of that year his expertise in military movement and tank warfare helped crush the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes.

During one of his many successful campaigns, General Patton was said to have declared, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” On December 21, 1945, he died in a hospital in Germany from injuries sustained in an automobile accident near Mannheim.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

World War I ends

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France. The First ...read more

Dedication of the Tomb of the Unknowns

Exactly three years after the end of World War I, the Tomb of the Unknowns is dedicated at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia during an Armistice Day ceremony presided over by President Warren G. Harding. Two days before, an unknown American soldier, who had fallen somewhere on a ...read more

Nat Turner executed in Virginia

Nat Turner, the leader of a bloody slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia, is hanged in Jerusalem, the county seat. Turner, a slave and educated minister, believed that he was chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery. On August 21, 1831, he initiated his slave ...read more

Viet Cong release U.S. prisoners of war

Three U.S. prisoners of war, two of them African American, are released by the Viet Cong in a ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The three men were turned over to Tom Hayden, a “new left” antiwar activist. U.S. officials in Saigon said that the released prisoners had been ...read more

Operation Commando Hunt commences

U.S. joint-service Operation Commando Hunt is launched. This operation was designed to interdict Communist routes of infiltration along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, through Laos into South Vietnam. The aerial campaign involved a series of intensive air operations by U.S. Air Force, ...read more

Long Binh base turned over to South Vietnam

The massive Long Binh military base, once the largest U.S. installation outside the continental United States, is handed over to the South Vietnamese. This logistical complex, which had been constructed on the outskirts of Bien Hoa near the outskirts of Saigon, included numerous ...read more

Fernando Valenzuela wins Cy Young Award

On November 11, 1981, Rookie of the Year Fernando Valenzuela wins the National League’s Cy Young Award, becoming the first player in baseball history to win both prizes in the same season. In the spring of 1981, at the beginning of his first full season with the Los Angeles ...read more

Franklin Pierce marries Jane Appleton

On this day in 1834, future President Franklin Pierce marries a petite and devout Calvinist named Jane Appleton. Her brother-in-law officiated at the wedding. Jane and Franklin had three sons, all of whom died before adulthood. These tragedies haunted the couple and contributed ...read more

The General Lee jumps into history

On this day in 1978, a stuntman on the Georgia set of “The Dukes of Hazzard”launches the show’s iconic automobile, a 1969 Dodge Charger named the General Lee, off a makeshift dirt ramp and over a police car. That jump, 16 feet high and 82 feet long (its landing totaled the car), ...read more

Ben McCulloch born

On this day in 1811, Confederate General Benjamin McCulloch is born near Rutherford City, Tennessee. Raised in Tennessee, McCulloch followed his friends Davy Crockett and Sam Houston to Texas in 1835.An illnesskeptMcCulloch from joining Crockett at the Alamo, where its ...read more