Memories of the General
George Patton Waters, General George S. Patton’s grandson
I first saw “Old Pattonie”, as I referred to him, in 1945, in Washington, D.C. He had come home after the war before returning to Germany to take care of his rebuilding efforts. He arrived at our home in the fall, in all of his military splendor. To a child – here was a big man, in boots, and carrying two guns. I guess my thought was, “There goes my Christmas…” This guy was at our home to stay awhile! Up to that point in my life, I had never even seen my father or, for that matter, any other men, as I recall. Everyone’s dad was in the war, so my cousins were in the same fix as I…
My first experience was his taking me to meet my dad, who had been sent home at the war’s end, to Walter Reed Hospital. My father had been shot in the back side by a German about 20 days before the surrender. Daddy had been a prisoner of war for two years, two months and 10 days. He was only a skeleton of a man… but alive. When we got to the hospital, I got my first indication that this massive man with me, Old Pattonie, was important. There were a lot of people braced against the wall and everyone was saying, “Yes, sir!” (not “No, sir” – for sure!)
When I saw my father, he was thin, had two black eyes, and was very weak. It was a brief meeting and then off we went. At home, Old Pattonie (OP) relaxed and had a few cocktails (I guess – because, at the age of 5, I wouldn’t know what they were). There he was, on the porch, starting to sit down in a lawn chair, when the seat gave way. Down went his back end and he was trapped in the chair with his knees against his chest. That was when I learned he spoke a second language (profanity). He must have gone five minutes without repeating himself. My mom swept me off my feet and took me away, saying that her dad was just upset and using “soldier talk”. I know better now, but it was somewhat of a shock…
One morning, as he stood out on the porch again, a cat – about twenty meters away – came out to sun himself. OP was having a cigar, and perhaps a brandy, as he looked on. Suddenly these two “cannons” came up from his side and opened up on the cat. There was a lot of dust and hair, but no cat anymore. My brother and I ran down to the scene of the “incident” and only found the tail. To offset the incident, my mother told us that when a cat gets scared, it drops its tail. I believed this for many years afterwards…
Another experience I had was when OP would make my brother and me stand side-by-side and put our hands together like little boats and he would flick his cigar ashes into each of our hands. He would tell us: “If you flinch, so help me God, I’ll break every damn bone in your body!” One day, as we “received” the ashes, I got the first set of ashes – which were cool. John got the second set of ashes, which included the glowing part. He flinched, and I remember OP picking him up – way up – and there were a lot of tears and noise. He didn’t break any bones but this game suddenly became a lot more serious. That’s when I learned to always go first!!!
I was afraid of lightning, as was our dog (a boxer). During a storm, the boxer and I decided we would just hide under a bed. Up to that time, I had been called “Georgie” by my family. I heard this voice call out, “Where the hell is Georgie?!?” My brother obviously gave away my hiding place and led OP to my location. This hand of great magnitude came under the bed, sweeping for physical contact. I pushed the boxer toward the hand, which tried to grab him. The boxer firmly bit OP on the hand and both the hand and boxer exited from under the bed. I have no idea what happened to the boxer but the hand returned to extract me – it was bloody and not a friendly hand… Upon my removal, OP informed me that no one called “Georgie” would be afraid of anything and my name was no longer “Georgie”. I guess that’s how my Mom came up with “Pat”. Since the storm was a lightning storm, I took heed of the lesson and today, I’ll stand outside with the lightning, and not worry about it.
And so my life goes on.
From book 500 hours to victory