One of the military innovations of World War I was the emergence of the armored tank. George S. Patton, Jr. (1885-1945), was the first American officer assigned to the fledgling United States Tank Corps in 1917.
He continued to champion the tank in the interwar years when the money-short army largely neglected the corps.
In World War II in Europe and North Africa, however, the tank and armored warfare quickly emerged as the most decisive means of land warfare. With this development, Patton moved into the spotlight and soon distinguished himself as America's most successful combat commander of armored troops.
During the war, Patton kept a diary in which he noted nearly every day his activities and observations. It is a remarkably candid work and an indispensable source of information not only on Patton himself but on American ground combat operations in North Africa and Europe from 1942 to 1945.
Patton commanded major combat units in the North African campaign, the invasion of Sicily, the liberation of France, and the final assault on Germany.
In March 1943 he was in charge of the United States II Corps, part of the American force fighting eastward across North Africa toward Tunisia.
Coming westward out of Egypt was the British Eighth Army, and in between was the formidable German Africa Corps and their Italian allies under one of Germany's leading armored warfare commanders, Gen. Erwin Rommel (1891-1944).
In his handwritten diary entries for March 1943, Patton recorded his observations on several of his subordinate units and commanders and gave his thoughts on a future operation against Rommel.
On 12 March, he noted his satisfaction on being told that he had been promoted from major general (two stars) to lieutenant general (three stars). He remembered that "when I was a little boy at home, I used to wear a wooden sword and say to myself, 'George S. Patton, Jr., Lieut. Gen.' At that time I did not know there were full generals. Now I want, and will get, four stars."
Patton was right. In April 1945 he was promoted to four-star general in command of the Third United States Army, which had raced across southern Germany, Austria, and into Czechoslovakia.
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U S Legacies Magazine 2002