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General George S. Patton

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George Patton hails from San Gabriel, California in 1885. His parents loved outdoors, and imbued him with a love for sports that lasted a lifetime. His mother, an excellent equestrian, taught him to ride. His dad trained him fishing and hunting. George could easily find food in the wild, because of the camping skills that his parents imparted to him. After graduating from Pasadena high school, George proceeded to the Virginia Military Establishment. He was there for a year before relocating to the esteemed West Point Academy. His prowess for sports allowed him to participate in the 1912 Olympic Games. He competed in the Pentathlon category and secured the fifth position overall.

Five years later, he graduated from West Point and immediately began to exhibit his exceptional military skills. In 1916, he assisted General John Pershing in capturing the infamous bandit, Pancho Villa, who had killed 16 Americans in New Mexico. At the commencement of the First World War, he led the American Expeditionary Forces. He took care to receive technical knowledge, concerning the capabilities of tanks, from the French forces and permitted American firms to commence the construction of tanks. General Patton quickly became recognized for his casual attitude towards war and death. Even as he was speedily promoted, due to his courageous nature, in some areas of society his bravery was viewed as carelessness. In a speech he gave at a gathering, shortly after World War I, he stressed the necessity for “blood and brains” to win any war. The mass media misquoted him, claiming that he had asserted the need for “blood and guts” in order to win all wars. His nickname thereafter would be “Old Blood and Guts” (Eisenhower 445).

“My men do not surrender”, Patton would later assert, “I do not want to hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he has been hit” (Lukacs 91). His bravery would see the Allied Armies sweep through Europe and claim victory in the coming conflict that saw the worst bloodshed ever recorded. General Patton was promoted to major. He trained his men hard in extreme weather conditions, but did not require them to do anything that he did not do himself. He gained such a tough reputation for his bravery that the United States Army would regularly assign him to places, where the army had no experience in the hope that Patton would figure something out. At the beginning of the Second World War, Patton was sent to fight the German general Erwin Rommel in the Moroccan desert.

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Utilizing the 18, 000 square miles between California and the Arizona desert, Patton trained his men on how to do combat in desert settings. The conditions in this stretch of land were extremely harsh, and his men nicknamed the area “the place that God forgot”. To any complaints about the absence of electricity, presence of poisonous bugs and lack of beds, Patton replied, “We have no time to do anything, except to learn how to fight.” Patton could be cruel, when he felt that it was necessary  in order to impress upon the soldiers the fact that they had to win the war at all costs. On two occasions after Patton had captured Palermo during the Second World War, he visited the hospitals, where wounded soldiers were recuperating. During these visits, he spotted two soldiers, who did not seem to have any physical wounds.

On demanding what was the matter with them, they broke down and admitted that they were too scared of the shelling to go into the fighting fields again. “It’s my nerves”, Paul G. Bennet stammered, “I can’t stand the shelling anymore” (D’Este 665). Incensed, Patton removed his gloves and slapped him. He would receive heavy censure for his action. However, it is also believed that this action promoted him to be the major in charge of the Third U.S. Army. “We shall attack and attack until we are exhausted, and then we shall attack again”, he exhorted his troops. Patton did not believe in cowardice or giving one’s self time to think about the possibilities of running from one’s enemies. He confronted the rough life as it came, having made his peace with his creator before heading for the battlefront.

Ike Eisenhower, himself a major general and future president of the United States, recognized this admirable characteristic in his fearless friend. He wrote him in 1942, “Maybe I’ll finally get out of this slave seat, so I can let a little loose with you; by that time you’ll be the blackjack of the damn war” (Bradley and Liebling 505). On another occasion, on which General Patton had lost many men without any noticeable victory, the renowned Winston Churchill commented to him, “George you have gotten yourself into a very serious fix” (Patton and Atkinson 350). The indomitable Patton would go on to not only win the confidence of Churchill, but would secure stunning victories in the next few months.

The number of medals for military valour that he received from numerous countries after the end of the Second World War were so many that no one could recall them all without reading them out first. When Patton died of injuries from a road accident in 1945, he was buried in Hamm, Luxembourg and not in his country, America. It was alleged that he wished to be near the men, who died in battle under his command during the most vicious conflicts of the Second World War. High rank army commanders along with delegates from all the free nations of the developed world attended the funeral of this remarkable soldier.

Analysis of Joseph Campbell’s Model of the Hero’s Journey

George Patton’s life can be framed according to the calculations of Joseph Campbell’s hallmarks of a hero’s life. Indeed, many characteristics in Patton’s life directly match the different steps of Campbell’s study. George Patton was born into a wealthy family that cherished the outdoors and regularly exposed their son to harsh elements to toughen him. From his time as an obscure citizen, Patton always seemed to ‘survive’ odd accidents that made him develop stamina. For example, at West Point, he broke both his arms and had to switch to other sports that were less demanding than track events. The accidents are the polarity in his ordinary world.

The call to adventure, the second section of Joseph Campbell’s theory, came in Patton’s life with the advent of the two World Wars, in which his outstanding qualities were given a platform. The external pressures to participate in saving the world from a mad man, who seemed determined to annihilate a sizeable fraction of the world’s population was the impetus for joining military action. It is possible that Paton enjoyed the exhilaration and aggressiveness of war and so he had internal forces that compelled him to join the army. Patton may have experienced the normal human misgivings of participating in a war, but they are not recorded. He would not have been human if he did not experience a bit of hesitation in joining the army. The possibility of death is a reality, present in the battle. It is probable, however, that he hid such feelings and portrayed an outwardly confident nature.

In the First and Second World Wars, Patton met with generals and soldiers who, no doubt, encouraged his bravery and told fascinating stories about their successes. These individuals were his seasoned mentors, who encourage the hero in Joseph Campbell’s assessment. Patton had long since crossed the threshold by the time the Second World War came to being. His training by his parents just helped to prepare him to cope with the difficulties, existing in the outside world, such as harsh climatic elements. In a way, he was ahead of other soldiers because of this training.

The tests and encounters with enemies make up Campbell’s sixth step seem somehow inconsistent in Patton’s story. It seems that he was inflicting the tests on his supervisors and not the other way round. He was a trial on any general, who was not as competent or dedicated as he was, in the task of leading the army or fighting, as the hapless General Pershing found out when Patton was given his position. Patton faced many ordeals, which could be described as Campbell’s eighth step (Selzer and Faigley 161). His life was always in danger and did not make the practice sending his men to fight the battles, while he remained in a warm tent. His bravery was seen as an unfair boon of Mother Nature that many soldiers would have desired but were not blessed to receive. In the darkest battles, Patton and the men, who remained alive after the fire stopped, came out as heroes and would enjoy stalwart reputations beyond their deaths.

The numerous awards and reputation of indestructibility was Patton’s reward. He exhibited the trend, described in Campbell’s tenth point, to disagree with the authorities in important matters. It would seem that the effects of being in wars for too long stayed with the brave Patton. He refused to acknowledge the Soviet Union’s importance to the war effort, thereby garnering the displeasure of his superiors. Even though his popularity at home and abroad was not affected by this, the mass media also took sides in the issue and often chastised his narrow-mindedness. Patton’s fame and reputation gave him a respect that allowed others to accept his projections even in the matters that were not concerned with the war. He did not enjoy it to the utmost, as he died soon after the end of the war.

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