On November 15th, Breitbart News was honored to speak with Helen Patton, granddaughter of General George S. Patton, Jr.
Our conversation began with a reference George C. Scott’s portrayal of the general in the movie Patton. For many people, that movie represents their greatest exposure to General Patton. Because of this, we asked Helen how well Scott captured her grandpa–specifically when he mustered his troops and told them what he expected of them. She said, “My aunt, who knew my grandfather probably better than anyone, said, ‘He didn’t look like my father, he didn’t act like my father, but he was my father. He captured the essence of my father.'”
Helen did note that her grandpa differed from Scott in that “he spoke with a very thick kind of Bostonian accent, that was very high pitched.”
We talked to Helen about the frequent textbook assertions that her grandpa was “one of the greatest military figures in history.” We asked her what she thought when she heard that:
Hearing that description makes me wish that I wasn’t his granddaughter so people could believe I’m not being bias when I say General Patton deserves to be remembered that way: he knew exactly what he was doing. He did his homework, he was prepared. His middle name was ‘Readiness.’
It started when Pershing said, “Look fella, you’re going to be too late. We’re heading down to Mexico,” and my grandpa responded, “I’m already packed.”
Because General Patton was a precise man who planned and prepared, we made sure to ask Helen about times when Patton said planning was not possible. We cited Operation Cobra, in which Patton’s Third Army had to pass through the corridor at Avranches. Of this passage, Patton wrote:
[It] was an impossible operation. Two roads entered Avranches; only one left it over the bridge. We passed through this corridor 2 infantry and 2 armoured divisions in less than 24 hours. There was no plan because it was impossible to make a plan.
For him to say there wasn’t a plan means he must have gotten an unexpected surprise at that single exit. Because while he was waiting for the breakout of Avranches, he was sequestered in Nehou, Normandy. He was relegated to an apple orchard for bad behavior for not having remembered the Russians in his famous speech to the troops in England.
During this time he did a ton of reconnaissance. He used to go out into the apple orchard and think about the ways he would exit Avranches. So I don’t believe his admission that “it was impossible to make a plan” was hyperbole at all.
General Patton pursued excellence and excepted nothing less, so we asked Helen if she believed her grandpa lived up to his own expectations for himself. She responded:
My grandpa was his own worst critic, from the get-go. His example, what he wanted to live up, were his military ancestors. He idolized his military ancestors–he was groomed to idolize them by his aunt, who pumped him full with stories of these Civil War knights in shining armor.
He was constantly raising the bar for himself and achieving it, raising it again, achieving it. Whether it’s standing on the toilets at West Point so when the flashlights come by he’s not seen studying or being driven by a disappointment like his shooting experience at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics–which left him asking, “Why, why, why?”–he was constantly pressing himself.
But I will say that when he achieved the relief of Bastogne–and there are others who deserve credit in that relief as well–I can’t imagine that he didn’t feel as though he’d reached a height that he could live with.
In closing, we asked Helen if she might tell us something about her grandpa that the world doesn’t know–perhaps something the world has missed about him personally while focusing so much on his professional military life.
“My grandpa hated being called, ‘Blood and Guts,'” she replied. “He wanted to be called, ‘Brains and Guts.’ That’s little known, but I think if I could rewrite history or start now afresh, that’s what I would like to have him called.”
Pictured: David Webb, Helen Patton, Gary Sinise
Helen Patton is the chairman of The Patton Foundation, where she works to keep the memory of the World War II generation alive. More information on General Patton and the World War II generation can be found at ThePattonFoundation.org.
*Jon David Kahn contributed to this report
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins