A Controversial General
One incident from 1943, in which he slapped sick soldiers, almost cost Patton his career. It paled in comparison to another incident in 1945, hurriedly swept under the rug, in which Patton got hundreds of GIs killed, wounded, or captured, because of nepotism. Patton’s best-known controversy occurred during the 1943 Sicilian Campaign. On a hospital visit, he came across a PTSD-suffering soldier who was also burning up with malarial fever. Seeing no visible wounds on the soldier, Patton became enraged, accused the unfortunate man of cowardice, slapped him around, and threatened to shoot him. He repeated the disgraceful performance a few days later in another hospital, and physically assaulted another PTSD-suffering GI.
When the scandal broke, it nearly got Patton cashiered from the US Army. Fortunately, General Dwight D. Eisenhower protected Patton and gave him a chance to command another army in France. Patton did not learn the lesson about abuse of power. In 1945, he had a worse, but lesser-known scandal, in which he got hundreds of GIs killed, wounded, or captured. It happened in March, 1945, when Patton ordered Task Force Baum, comprised of 314 men, 16 tanks, and dozens of other vehicles, to penetrate 50 miles behind German lines. Their mission: to liberate Hammelburg POW camp, which housed Patton’s son-in-law, John K. Waters.