An appreciation of History is one of America’s most important gifts we can give to the “Next Generation.” There are many cliques about the preservation of history and it is not quit clear who said, “If we do not remember our History, we are destined to repeat it” and “Freedom is not Free, It comes with a cost,” but are true. There are many ways to teach History. For our Patton’s Living Historians, we chose to do it in the first person by restoring, recreating, displaying historical artifacts in Patton’s Third Army headquarters. By explaining history in the first person, and though acting out parts, we tell the story. By telling the story of the “Greatest Generations at Patton Headquarters, we can point toward the World War II veterans and their sacrifices to keep us free. By telling their story we can also point to our troops today, their sacrifices and explain that Freedom is not free and this generation is paying the cost for freedom everyday. The “next generations” will needs to know understand what Freedom is and who came before them, so it is not repeated. That is our mission. Patton’s Headquarters We have recreated a portion of General Patton’s Headquarters as it existed in Europe. It consisted from 3,500 to well over 4,500 soldiers. We try to give a small glimpse of what it was like is our displays. As Patton wrote, “Through a looking glass, though darkly” as we capture it though the recreation and the lenses of our cameras.
Patton Headquarters was set up as near the front as was possible and safe. It was located near the center of the Third Army Headquarters bivouac and heavily secured. It took quit a few security passes to final get to his headquarters van and get through the several levels of security and chains of command.
The 503rd MP Battalion was the first set of security to to Patton HQ. Once they were satisfied and your orders were checked and cleared, you were escorted through a maze of tents and brought to the outskirts of a large tent complex. There the 6th Cavalry Group had there Army Information Service. From there, you would be escorted by the 503rd MP sentries who had their bayonets fixed and brought past a formidable array of armed guards which included tripod 30 caliber water cooled and air cooled machine guns. If your papers were in ordered you walked down still another path till you entered the more heavily guarded Staff area. Here there were several sets of tents, each housing a chief of staff of one function or another.
General Patton believed in having bayonets fixed on rifles of those guarding his headquarters. He said that it made everyone know they meant business. He called the MP detachment permiter guards, “Sentinals” In Patton HQ, nothing was done for show. They were authorzed to use what ever force nessesary ands no one doubted, friend or foe, that they would do just that. Secuirty was high in and near his HQ Van and the War Room.
Once you rounded the maze of other tents, most of which were either off limits and top secret and heavily guarded, you soon came into view of General Patton unique set of mobile transports. He personal vehicle were marked 3A-X HQ-1. The marking stood for 3rd Army Commanding General, Headquarters 1st Vehicle. Patton wanted you to know he was in charge, totally in charge. You soon came to understand that the Stars of Rank were be part of the Patton way of commanding.
In the forefront is the fully restored WC 57 Dodge Command car, modified as General Patton had it, complete with armor shielding and a functional .50 caliber heavy machine gun. Patton visited the front almost every day and knew he would be a target. He was quit capable of defending himself. Behind the command car, in the back ground, you can see the Headquarters tent and one of Patton’s “Caravans”. He had three and one of the three was his personal sleeping van.
Patton would have a briefing every morning in a large tent they called a “War Room.” It consisted of seating areas and large maps. Each day, at 0900 sharp, he had his Chief of Staff’s give a short report and plot out the days activities based on the changing nature of the front. He heard the recommendations, confirmed with his chief of staff, then made his decision. Once it was made, that was it. The orders were given and then expected to be carried out.
Patton ran a no nonsense headquarters. Once the orders were given, the an additional briefing was held in another tent and the days orders were delivered to his various corps commanders, who had liaisons at the morning briefings. They, in turn, would deliver the days orders to the troops in the field. There were several ways that orders were carried to the field. Most were typed or hand written and carried by jeep couriers, usually manned by the 6th Cavalry Group. In addition, there were radio transmissions and field phones hard wired directly to Corps commands. Other forms of communications used were teletype, telegraphs and carrier pigeons.
General Patton’s van was a converted shop van and used by him throughout the war in Europe. To read more about it you can go to this link. Patton Van Restoration
If you were a high ranking General, a visiting VIP, a head of state or an old friend, you were almost to the point that you would be granted an audience with the Command General of the Third United States Army, General George S. Patton Jr. By now you were heavily reminded of that fact and you understood that you were at Patton’s command and nothing happened unless he ordered it to.
Patton did delegated his authority as all army commanders must, but it was a calculated delegations of authority and under strict guidelines. By the time you made it to his personal headquarters van, you were not sure if you where now beginning to understand that you were about to meet a living legend and possible the finest combat general in the world.
On a personal level, General Patton was very friendly and had a great sense of humor. He also knew that respect is earned and discipline must be perfect. Otherwise, lives would be lost. In that respect, there was no nonsense about him. When you were on duty you were expected to do your job. You were also allowed to do your job as he did not micro-manage. If you were efficient, you got alone well. If you were a slacker, you were “rolled.” That was a term used at headquarters when someone was transferred out because they failed to do their job or failed to get alone.
As you approached his HQ Van, there was a loud shout, Attention! and all work came to an immediate halt. All stopped what they were doing and jumped to rigged attention, a hand saluted was giving and returned. You were now in the presence of the commanding General of the United States Third Army, General George S. Patton Jr. If you were in uniform he quickly inspected you with his eyes. You had best been wearing a Helmet, Tie and the proper foot wear, with all of your uniform in perfect order. He understood if you had come from the field and was there on a priority basis but if the message was not urgent, you should have taken the time to clean and prepare your uniform properly. Failure to do this would be a great mistake. He demanded disciple when on duty and would not tolerate his orders being violated.
Standing before you now was a General dress in riding breeches, and highly boots, He wore a polished helmet and a a gun belt of his own design, which more often than not carried a single action army colt .45 caliber with ivory grips. He had a riding crop and an Ike jacket
tailored perfectly and a pair of gloves in one hand. He talked with a high voice and had great command of the English language. He could be eloquent in his speech but was fond of cursing and took to using in four letters words to the point they too were almost eloquent as they rolled off his tongue. You soon understood that beneath a very hard exterior he was a man that commanded loyalty and respect. He, to those who really knew him and worked under him, both loved and respected. They would following him to hell as he lead by example and never told anyone to do their duty unless he had done his first. He lead by example.
If you were squared away and came quickly to the point, you were home free. Once the business was concluded, he could not only be cordial but quite enjoyable to be around. If you were finished with your business and he had the time, he might invite you to a meal or even a hot of whiskey.
The immediate staff that was with General Patton constantly were his two trusted aide de camp. Colonel Charles Codman and Major Alexander Stiller had there
hands full constantly. Both of his aids were men of character and were loyal to a fault. Both men were World War One veterans and saw combat duty. Col. Codman had been in the army air corps a flew biplanes in the great war. Major Stiller and had been in the calvary. There men traveled with the General and had been with him since North Africa. They were highly efficient, loyal and trustworthy. They looked after the General and made sure his every move was protected by both the the enemies he was fighting on the field of battle and the ones he believed he was fighting on his own chain of command above him.
General Patton trusted these two men and a few others within his command with his very carrier as they watched over him. They would inform him of what they had heard and see to it that his orders were carried out. Nothing got past them to get to the General unless they knew about it.
Upon visiting the General’s Headquarters, you soon learned that they would be in and out as if you were not there and carry on their work as if nothing around them effected them. They would interrupt conversation, though politely, with urgent messages, hand the phone to the General and tell him who was on the line. If he was decorating someone, they had the medal with them. They knew what the General needed sometimes before the General new what it was he needed, Patton appreciated their attention to details and was as loyal to them as they were to him.
Both Major Alexander Stiller and Colonel Charles Codman survived the War. Codman went on to write a first hand account of his time with General Patton in a book called “Drive.” It was from his book that the famous words of General Patton were recorded when he heard the General say, ““ Just look at that Codman, he shouted, could anything be more magnificent? And as he said that, they passed a clump of bushes and witnessed one of the artillery batteries let go a salvo. The General cupped both hands and leaned forward to catch his words, “ Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance” his voice shook with emotion, “God how I love it!”
In recreating Patton “Lucky Forward” Headquarters, is simply impossible to duplicate all that once existed in Third Army Headquarters during World War Two in Europe. Since there were so many functions it became evident that just the major concepts would be interpreted in living history. We then duplicated in a tent setting as much as possible to help the general public and military enthusiast get a concept of what went on from day to day. We started with with the things most known about him and his headquarters and expand to give the visitor a sense of it. The movie “Patton” is perhaps one of the most watched war movies of the 20th century. It has almost risen to cult like popularity in that people often quote scenes and verses from it. There was much more to the man and certainly much more to Third Army than the movie could show. Our exhibits cover parts of of the functions of headquarters and coupled with the living historians explanation, the story is told.
Here are some of the images of our headquarters that show what would have been found in various tents in and near the HQ of General Patton and his Third Army.
The Chaplain Service was an all important part of of Third Army and very imploration to General Patton. His “Chief of Chaplains” for Third Army was Chaplain/Colonel James O’ Neil. He is best known though the movie as having written the the Christmas Prayer depicted in the movie. In reality the real Chaplain O’ Neil was much more in depth than the depiction in the movie and was deeply faithful to the Lord, a first rate administer and retired service as a General. We believe the best person to depict an Army Chaplain is a real ordained minister. In Texas we have our Chaplain Kenneth Stewart how has studied Col. James O’ Neil and gives an accurate depiction of him.
Patton Command Car
General Patton was known for his flamboyant style and when he visited the front, or anywhere else, he made a grand entrance. He had a Command Car that was second to none and it was unique in may ways. Elsewhere on this web site there is a page dedicated to it. If you were to visit his headquarters it would be the one vehicle that would stand out above all others. One of the finer display accomplishments Third Army Living Historians has presented has been the Headquarters Mobile Van and recently;ay completed the Patton Command Car. The modified Dodge WC 57 Patton command car made it’s debut at the open house of the Museum of the American GI. Pictured below are the first shots taken of it’s completion March 26, 2011. Also making his debut was Willie, Patton’s English Bull Terrier who now lives in Texas with his General.