Daily Mountain Eagle
The world knew Major Gen. George Smith Patton best as the son of the famous World War II commander of the same name.
However, he also became a father figure to thousands of G.I.’s during the illustrious military career he carved out in his own right.
“He treated every soldier like a son. He was one of the best,” said Sgt. Roger Smith of Jasper, who served under Patton in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment during the Vietnam War.
Smith said he first met Patton during an inspection in which the 18-year-old Smith had not removed an M-50 submachine gun from his tank as he had been instructed by a lieutenant.
Patton questioned Smith about other matters and started to walk away but returned at the last second.
“He said, ‘I’ve got to ask you. What’s that M-50 doing up there?’ I said, ‘That’s to take me back to the world.’ He hugged my neck, shook my hand and said, ‘You’re a fine soldier,’” Smith said.
Later in the war, the tank Smith was assigned to hit a mine. Patton walked alongside Smith in the field picking up body parts of the dead soldiers.
Smith said it was years before he realized what an honor it was to have served under Patton, who died in 2004.
He recently wrote a letter to Patton’s widow, Joanne. Several weeks later, a package arrived containing a black and white photo of Patton, a copy of the book “Growing up Patton” that was written by the couple’s son and a personal letter from Mrs. Patton.
“No military leader could ask for more of a tribute than to have the men serving under his command approve of the way he did it,” she wrote. “I know — and you confirmed — that my husband truly cared about the troops who served under him.”
Patton was instrumental in establishing a scholarship fund that benefits the children of soldiers who were killed in action or incapacitated while serving in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, also known as the Blackhorse Regiment.
In 1969, then-Colonel Patton held a dying soldier in his arms who begged him to “take care of our kids” and “not let people forget us.” The scholarship fund was the fulfillment of the vow he made on the battlefield that day.
According to Patton’s wife, he also named the fields of his Massachusetts farm for the men who had died heroically under his command.