A 1909 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and a descendant of a Virginia family with a long military tradition, Patton became a keen student of the American Civil War (1861-65), especially its great cavalry leaders, an interest that likely contributed to the strategy of bold, highly mobile operations associated with his name. After serving with the U.S. Tank Corps in World War I, Patton became a vigorous proponent of tank warfare. Having taken part in the North African campaign (1942), he commanded the U.S. 7th Army in Sicily, employing his armour in a rapid drive that captured Palermo (1943).
The apogee of his career came with the dramatic sweep of his 3rd Army across northern France in the summer of 1944 in a campaign marked by great initiative, ruthless drive, and disregard of classic military rules. Patton's armoured units, operational since August 1, had by the end of the month captured Mayenne, Laval, Le Mans, Reims, and Chalons. In December his forces played a strategic role in defending Bastogne in the massive Battle of the Bulge. By the end of January 1945 Patton's forces had reached the German frontier; on March 1 they took Trier, and in the next 10 days they cleared the entire region north of the Moselle River, trapping thousands of Germans. They then joined the 7th Army in sweeping the Saar and the Palatinate, taking 100,000 prisoners.
Patton's military achievements caused authorities to overlook strong civilian criticism of some of his methods, including his widely reported striking of a hospitalized, shell-shocked soldier in August 1943. (Patton publicly apologized for the incident.) His public criticisms of the Allied postwar denazification policy in Germany led to his removal from the command of the 3rd Army in October 1945.
The controversial general died in a Heidelberg hospital after an automobile accident near Mannheim. His memoirs, War As I Knew It, appeared posthumously in 1947.
Patton was a showman. He spoke bluntly and dressed flamboyantly to attract attention. Number one on his list of responses would be that people listen to what he has to say. He used to watch peoples' faces for their response, just to insure what he said had registered.