War Diaries of George S. Patton
George Smith Patton was a soldier first and foremost. Born in California in 1885, he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1909. “I believe that I am only capable of being a soldier,” he wrote to his future father-in-law Frederick Ayer before graduating. Several days later, he confided to Beatrice Ayer whom he would marry in 1910: “it is in war alone that I am fitted to do any thing (sic) of importance.” Commissioned second lieutenant in the United States Army in 1909, he was a major general when the U.S. entered World War II. His military exploits during that war astounded the world.
Patton was an inveterate war diarist. It is telling that, except for a brief honeymoon diary in 1910 and fox-hunting diaries in the 1930s, he started diaries at the start of a new war, as if that was when he came to life. The earliest war diary, 1916, documents his participation in the Mexican Punitive Expedition, organized to capture Pancho Villa. His World War I diaries begin when he received orders on May 18, 1917, and close on March 16, 1919, with the note: "The end of a perfect war." The next major series of diaries begins after the U.S. entered World War II. The first entry is dated August 5, 1942, with Patton’s departure for London to participate in the planning of Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa. The series ends in December 1945, just after the war and shortly before Patton’s untimely death on December 21st.
The diaries are riveting. They record Patton’s daily activities and observations, likely as a tool to analyze events, unquestionably as an outlet to vent privately. They reveal his candor about himself and his frank and often critical assessments of others. They are also unfiltered. They can be profane, echoing the callousness of war. They also contain observations and perspectives that are sometimes disturbing.
Available for transcription are Patton’s original, handwritten diaries, as well as annotated typed transcripts. Suggestions for coping with Patton’s challenging handwriting in the original diaries are available in the Patton transcription aid in "Related Links."
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This campaign launched May 11, 2020 and completed Jan 22, 2021. Volunteer transcriptions now enable search and access for this collection at loc.gov.