WWII made Patton a hero, but the 'Great War' made him a commander
" WASHINGTON — Army officer George S. Patton Jr. was pinned down by German machine gun fire. His tanks were scattered, and many of his men had been hit. Armed only with his revolver, he was afraid to go forward, but knew he couldn't go back.
Trembling, and fighting the urge to run, he looked up and seemed to see his warrior ancestors watching from the clouds. Suddenly calm, he realized he was about to give his life, like his Patton kin in the Civil War.
He rose, made for the enemy lines and was felled by a machine gun bullet.
It was Sept. 26, 1918. And the future World War II hero was then a 32-year-old lieutenant colonel, his fame and notoriety years ahead. Yet it was that fall, near the end of World War I, in northeastern France, that scholars say the combat legend of George Patton was born.
Next month, the Library of Congress will open a major exhibit on World War I that touches on the role the war played in the life of Patton, who is best known as a brilliant but controversial general in the Second World War.
"It is surprising," said Sahr Conway-Lanz, a manuscript historian at the library. "Most people think of George Patton as a figure of World War II and don't remember that [he] also fought in World War I."
"This is where he gets his first experience ... commanding tanks, which is what he's known for in World War II," he said. "