The 64th Anniversary of General Patton’s Death
U.S. Army Medical Department (MSAMH)
Rarely is there a chance to visit the hospital and the very room where General Patton died. Denny Hair was asked to come to Heidelberg Germany, and received traveling orders from the D.O.D. U.S. Army to do so. He was to be present at the wreath laying ceremony and play the part of General Patton during the celebration of his life after a luncheon there at the hospital. Traveling with him was the Chief of Staff of the Patton Third Army Living Historians, Col. Carlos Manning. and both were honored to be a part of the celebration of his life on December 21st and 22nd 2009. Denny Hair with his portrayal of General Patton, has won international recognition with his portrayal of General Patton at historical events, documentaries, PBS Specials, and historical lectures. Denny was asked to be the key note speaker in the very hospital where Patton died. Denny and Carlos flew to Heidelberg Germany to participate in the ceremony as the keynote speaker and gave a presentation “as Patton” of his life and battle campaigns. The United States Army Hospital at Heidelberg Germany has been in continuous use since WWII and is a secured facility for activity military service personal and authorized person’s only. For this reason there has been almost no pictures taken of the hospital or General Patton’s Hospital Room. Though there is no security clearance needed to take the pictures nor restrictions, it is on a restricted site so there are no images available simply because no one has taken any…until now. Permission was granted to Denny Hair to take these rare pictures and they appear no where else that we are aware of. To understand the historical significance of this event, it is important to review a brief history of the events that lead up to General Patton’s Death.
A little History
General Patton’s Accident and Death
On December 9, 1945, Patton was severely injured in a car accident. He and his chief of staff, General Hobart R. Hap Gay, were on a one day trip to hunt pheasants in the country outside Mannheim General Patton was leaving on the next day to fly home on vacation and was considering either resigning or retiring from the army. Their 1938 Cadillac 75 was driven by Private First Class Horace Woodring (1926–2003), with Patton sitting in
the back seat on the right side, with General Gay on his left, as per custom. At 11:45 near Neckarstadt (Mannheim), a 2½ ton GMC truck driven by Technical Sergeant Robert L. Thompson made a left turn in front of Patton’s Cadillac. Patton’s car hit the front of the truck, at a low speed.
The accident seemed to be of a minor nature as General Patton’s vehicle was only damaged in the front, though not drivable, and the 2 1/2 ton truck showed almost no damage. No one in the truck was hurt, and Gay and Woodring were uninjured. However, General Patton was leaning back with trouble breathing. The general had been thrown forward almost 5 feet in the spacious rear seat area and his head struck a metal part of the partition between the front and back seats, incurring a cervical spinal cord severance injury.
General Patton was conscience and aware of his circumstances. Understanding many things and not having much time, he asked that no one be charged in the accident. General Patton was rushed to the 130th U.S. Army station hospital 25 miles away at 12 45 pm. Paralyzed from the neck down, he was rushed to the military hospital in Heidelberg, Germany. Patton was examined by Hospital Commander, Col. Lawrence C. Ball and Chief Surgeon Lt .Col. Paul S. Hill. He had a barley readable pulse of 45bpm and barley obtainable blood pressure of 86/60. Col. Spurling, one of the Army’s top neurosurgeons was summoned from the states and flown to Heidelberg. Accompanying him was Beatrice Patton. After her arrival Beatrice Patton read to her “George” every day and watch as he slowly began to slip away. On the morning of the 21st, General Patton was cheerful but his vital signs showed continued pulmonary distress. Beatrice spent most of the afternoon reading to him. At about 5: 15 p.m. he had fallen asleep. Beatrice left for supper alone with Dr. Spurling and Dr. Hill. At 6 pm Dr. Duanne summoned them back. By the time they arrived, Patton had finished his final battle and passed on to be with the Lord. The official cause of death was “pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure.” The final entry in his log read “1755 hours expired.”
While they awaited a mortician to attend to the body, General Patton’s remains were removed to the basement, just below his hospital room. Sgt Meeks, Patton’s friend and orderly, was summoned to bring Patton’s personal four star flag. He arrived and tearfully handed it to Dr. Hill who in turn gently placed it over the General’s body. It was ironic and would have been totally to Patton’s liking that he laid, after death, on a table in one of the rooms that had once been one of the cavalry horse stalls occupied by horses of the German Cavalry prior to WWII. At that time is was recondition to be part of the hospital many offices. The hospital was formerly the site of a German Cavalry school and transformed to a military hospital. There is an extremly ironey to this. In “Georgie” Patton’s youth, as he was known as a child, long before he entered military service, Patton recalled while writing about his “Papa, in 1927, that, “Papa gave me two horses. First a black, named Galahad, then a brown named Marmion. They were both about 3/4th bred. Marmion was a really fine horse . I had a dog named polvo at this time and he slept by Marmion. I remember once going to the stable at night when I was supposes to be studying and laying by Polvo, looking at Marmion and thinking that I must be the happiest boy in the world. I was probably right.” Now General George S. Patton Jr., had accomplished his life dreams and shortly before his burial, he is lying at rest in a former horse stall. The Hospital he was now about to be transferred from to his final destination was known as the 130th Station Hospital, U.S. Army, Heidelberg, Germany. General Patton’s casket was later taken to Villa Reiner high on a mountain over looking the Neckar river and the charming city of Heidelberg. The funeral service was held at the Christ Church (Christuskirche) in Heidelberg-Südstadt church of Christ and the service was held on the 23rd of December. Read at the service was the 63rd and 90 Psalms, two of Patton’s favorite passages.
Mrs. Patton decided that her husband should be laid to rest in the cemetery at Hamm, Luxembourg, alongside the men who fought and died in his great Third Army. This would have been in accordance to General Patton’s wishes as well.
Heidelberg Germany December 2009
United States Army Medical Hospital
Elements of active duty personnel assigned to the hospital, honored guest and invited civilians were brought together just outside at the very room Patton died in. A solemn and respectful wreath laying ceremony honoring the passing of General Patton was conducted with full military honors due such an occasion. The pictures posted here are extremely rare and show the great respect afforded General Patton each year on the anniversary of his death. I can name no other American General that is so honored as General Patton is, each year on the anniversary of his death. Until now, there are no known pictures of the inside of Patton’s hospital room and it is currently being used and a radiological room and examination facility. Helen Patton, grand daughter of General Patton was scheduled to attend but at the last moment had to cancel.
Link to Memorial Brouchure of the Event
Link to Very very Rare pictures of the Hospital Room Patton Died in. These are the only known pictures of the room
After the ceremony the visitors and army personnel went to the hospital cafeteria for lunch and then the “Patton Presentation” Denny Hair (as Patton) and Carlos Manning (Chief of Staff) Patton Third Army Living Historians, entered the room and the gathering dignitaries, commanding officers and visiting historians from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg were treated to a historical presentation by Denny Hair as he covered the life of General Patton, his military service and death. The presentation was done as if Patton was telling of his life from his birth in 1885 until his car accident. Then, out of character, Denny Hair explained the General’s hospital stay and his passing away (December 21) concluding with his burial in Hamm Luxemburg on December 24, 1945. The presentation was well received and Denny received a standing ovation for the presentation lead by the commanding officer of the hospital.
There was a group of military historians who were invited and attended the event. The gentlemen were from The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and were members of C.E.B.A. which stand for “Cerle d’Etudes sur la Batailla des Ardennes Luxembourg” or in English “Study Group of the Battle of the Bulge.” These men are much more than just historians, they are some of the most noted historians of a generation, ambassadors of Luxembourg and have assisted countless veterans groups and visiting dignitaries world wide in touring and understanding the the history of World War II in Europe. They have been responsible for obtaining and maintaining memorials, statues and museums throughout the area of Luxembourg France and Belgium.
he presentation of General Patton as portrayed by Denny Hair was kept secret as to be a surprise to the group. Denny was only mentioned as a guest speaker until the presentation began. Denny had a chance to meet with them before the presentation and enjoyed the discussion of history. They were not told that he would be playing the part of General Patton and later said of the performance, ” I had also the great privilege to made a speech after your fantastic lecture on General Patton etc. You made a great job imitating the unforgettable General, just outstanding and superior. Not only that, but the imitation of the General’s uniform was just excellent; I tried to find some shortcoming or inadequacy, but I have to tell you that I failed miserably!! I appreciate so very much the acquaintance with you! Meeting you was a big thrill for all of us!! Be good and take care! So nice to keep furthermore in contact by this way! Camille “
Later that evening the delegation traveled to Mannheim were a wreath was placed at the intersection were he had his car accident.
This included active duty personnel, civilians and Denny Hair and Carlos Manning. Invitations were received for a return visit at a later date and there will be a planned trip to Luxembourg.
After the ceremonies Denny Hair and Carlos Manning traced the rout back that General Patton had traveled the year before his death and went to Bastogne, Belgium to the museum, town square and memorial to the Battle of the Bulge. The Museum at Bastone allowed Denny to pose as General Patton inside the exhibition area. Later Denny went to the memorial honoring the soldiers who fought at Bastone in the Battle of the Bulge. The final destination was aside trip too honor the soldiers murdered by the SS at Malmady and visit their memorial.
Historical Note on Patton’s Car Accident and Death from Denny Hair.
“I have studied the life of General Patton for well over 30 years. I have portrayed him for almost as long. Having studied all the available evidence and read all the books and periodicals on the subject of his death, I believe it was injuries to General Patton caused by an accident that caused his death. I do not believe he was murdered nor do I believe their was any conspiracy that had anything to do with his car accident or his death. I believe he died exactly as the hospital reports and eye witness accounts said he did. I do not believe any of the soldiers involved covered up anything nor do I believe that the United States Army or anyone else covered up the investigation. It was a tragic accident, pure and simple.
Many Many Thanks go to Carlos Manning, who is pictured here but not in any of the other pictures. The reason he got so little of himself in the pictures is because he took all the great pictures. Denny Hair and Carlos Manning are part of the Patton’s Third Army Living historians who were recently featured in Army Motors as they restored and brought back to use a perfectly restored shop van representing General Patton’s Headquarters van.
C.E.B.A. Study Group
Study Group of the Battle of the Bulge
Cerle d’Etudes sur la Batailla des Ardennes Luxembourg
Grand Duhy of Luxembourg
You can contact Denny at firstname.lastname@example.org