George Patton

General George S. PATTON

Soldier, General, Pilot, Athlete, Father, Gun Owner, Hero, Legend
UNLIKE many war heroes who had no intention of ever becoming famous, George Patton decided during childhood that his goal in life was to be a hero. This noble aim was first inspired by listening to his father read aloud for hours about the exploits of the heroes of ancient Greece. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey were particular favourites of young Georgie, who could recite lines from both texts long before he could even lift a sword. These classic images were filled out by recent war stories of living soldiers, particularly those of John Singleton ''Ranger'' Mosby. John often visited the Patton house and would entertain Georgie for hours with tales of his Civil War adventures. With this steady diet of combat regalia, Georgie was convinced that the profession of arms was his calling.

Young George didn't want to be just any soldier; he had his sights fixed on becoming a combat general. He had one major obstacle to overcome, however. Though he was obviously intelligent (his knowledge of classical literature was encyclopaedic and he had learned to read military topographic maps by the age of 7), George didn't learn to read until he was 12 years old. It was only at age 12 when George was sent off to Stephen Cutter Clark's Classical School that he began to catch up on his academic skills; he managed to find plenty of time for athletics as well. While at school, the path toward his goal became focused he planned on attending West Point as the next major step in the pursuit of his general's stars.

When he graduated from high school, however, there were no appointments open to West Point in his home state of California, so he enrolled at his father's alma mater, Virginia Military Institute. As a first year "rat" at VMI, young Patton did quite well despite his late start at formal learning. However, spelling and punctuation were to give him problems throughout his life. An appointment to West Point opened the next year and George was awarded it. He reported to ''Beast Barracks'' in 1904. During his career at the Point, George developed into an expert fencer. His football career suffered due to his aggressiveness he suffered three broken noses and two broken arms playing end. Due to deficiencies in mathematics, he had to spend an extra year at West Point, but this deficiency was no detriment to his superb military skills which gained him the cadet adjutancy his final year. When he graduated in the class of 1909 he ranked 46th out of a class of 103. As would befit one with a love of heroics, Lieutenant Patton chose the cavalry as his special branch, no doubt picturing himself leading hell-for-leather charges against the enemy. He also married Bee Ayer, whom he met while at the Point, in 1910. The next two years saw the dashing young cavalry of officer become one of the Army's best polo players.

Patton also represented the United States in the 1912 Olympics at Stockholm in the Modern Pentathlon. This event, which includes five traditional military skills shooting, fencing, swimming, riding, and running was considered a rigorous test of those skills most necessary for an officer. Patton did quite well, but lost points on perhaps his best event shooting. The competitors were allowed to choose whatever pistol they wished, and most used .22 revolvers. Patton, however, felt that he should use a true military weapon, which at that time was a .38 revolver. Consequently, Patton's handgun punched larger holes in the target, which probably cost him points in the shooting finals since he supposedly missed with one round; in actuality the "missing" round had passed through a cluster of holes he had already put in the target. Still, Patton finished fifth overall, an excellent finish in an event traditionally dominated by European marksmen.

After the Olympics, Patton kept busy by visiting the French cavalry school as an observer and studying French sword drill. The latter studies helped him become the U.S. Army's Master of the Sword when he was assigned to teach the use of the blade to fellow officers. Patton, also designed a new U. S cavalry saber