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TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER ONE: The Victory Parade……….……………………………….……….….3
CHAPTER TWO: Lake Vineyard……………………………………………….…….….5
CHAPTER THREE: The Struggle To Read..…………………………………………..…7
CHAPTER FOUR: The Military Academy………………………………………………9
CHAPTER FIVE: Failure At West Point.……………………………………………….11
CHAPTER SIX: Success At Last………………………..………………………...……12
CHAPTER SEVEN: The Military Hero..….…………………………………………….13
THE VICTORY PARADE The crowds formed a wall along the road for more than 25 miles. Even though the war went on in many parts of the world, the American people knew a huge victory had been won. It was June 7, 1945, and the United States and its allies finally put a stop to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany’s war in Europe.
As the parade cut through the streets, people strained to see the man in the lead car. Thousands of men, women and children clapped and cheered as he passed. Dressed in a military uniform and helmet, the four-star general was one of the most famous men in the country – even the world. As leader of the Third Army, with over 500,000 soldiers under his command, General George S. Patton had led his troops in some of the worst fighting of the war.
The general stood up in the car as it moved slowly through the crowd. Cameras flashed from every side. Reporters called for his attention. Children waved small American flags. Roaring out his name, the crowd gave him a triumphant greeting.
The great military leader had both a good and bad reputation. Some people thought of him as the greatest military hero of the century. Others considered him cold-blooded and brutal. Everyone agreed that he had led one of the most important military campaigns in the history of the United States. Nazi Germany had finally given up one month earlier.
It had not been an easy victory. Major battles had raged across Europe for several years, taking the lives of millions of men, women and children. After years of preparation, General George Patton had led battles across the continent. Landing first in the deserts of North Africa, Patton had defeated the best of the German soldiers, only to continue his march through southern Italy. From there, the famous leader took his troops across France, until the final battles in Germany. Europe was finally liberated from the control of Nazi Germany.
After many years of war, the solider was tired. He had gone more than two years without seeing his family, but the excitement of the crowd thrilled him. It made him feel proud of his accomplishment. Everyone in the country was celebrating his military victory, and everyone hoped that the world war soon would end.
As the air force jets cut across the sky, the general looked out into the crowds. He could see rows of people lining the streets for miles. Arriving near the center of Boston, tens of thousands of people crowding the streets, the military hero knew that the price of victory had been a long and hard fought battle.
Almost 60-years-old, the soldier had seen the worst of war over the past 35 years. He had seen many of his friends die, but the military leader had never given into defeat. General George Patton knew, too, ever since he was a young boy, that he had struggled all of his life to gain his final victory.
The people in the parade saw a great leader, someone who never had problems. The world saw General George Patton as a symbol of strength and determination. No one other than his family and a few friends knew of the hard work and sacrifice the military leader had made.
General George Patton had grown up with a number of challenges and obstacles, and like his battles in other parts of the world, he had tackled his problems one by one, eventually overcoming them.
On the street that day in Boston, few would have thought the General had fought any battles before the world wars. As a fitting conclusion to his great career, General George Patton knew the world war was not the ultimate challenge in his life. The road to victory was paved with many personal battles in his childhood that had made him a strong and determined man.
LAKE VINEYARD After the Civil War in the 1860s, people from around the country started to migrate toward the Western states. They were looking for opportunities and open land. After the destruction of the war, some people wanted to begin a new life. Leaving behind the state of Virginia, the Pattons were one of the families who went to California in search of a new beginning.
By the time George Patton was born in 1885, his family had become well known and respected around the area of Los Angeles and southern California. His grandfather and father were prominent citizens, active in local politics. They owned a large ranch outside of town, where they raised cattle and grew grapes. They called their home Lake Vineyard.
The Pattons were a very proud family. Pattons had served in the military for generations. Many of the men had been leaders in other wars. George’s own father had attended the Virginia Military Academy. For the Pattons, military service was a traditional and important part of a man’s life.
As a boy living in the country, George grew up far away from the typical problems of the day. While other kids had to work or go to school, George was free to do as he pleased. He liked to hunt and fish. Along with his sister, he played outside all day, learning to ride a horse at an early age. Sometimes they liked to pretend they were famous soldiers from other times and re-create certain battles.
George’s early years were very sheltered. Pampered by his aunt, who acted as his nanny and teacher, he rarely had to deal with any difficult situations. His aunt was protective of her nephew. Because he learned to talk at a late age, she worried that some people would think George was mentally slow. He also took longer than most kids did to learn certain things. Under her protection, George was a happy child. He was rarely punished or scolded. Whenever something went wrong or was difficult, the young boy relied on his aunt for help.
In charge of his education, George’s aunt read to her nephew and niece. With them sitting by her side, she would read aloud from some of the famous and important books. Some days she would read from religious or historical books. Other days George and his sister would listen to their aunt read the tales from well-known novels or historical literature. George’s favorite stories were about the great wars and battles in history.
When his aunt had to return to the East Coast, George’s father took over their education. Reading every evening to his children, he would discuss the famous military heroes, like Alexander the Great or Napoleon, and read the stories about their victories. At an early age, George decided he wanted to be a soldier, and this made his father very happy.
The isolated life at Lake Vineyard came to a stop when George reached his twelfth birthday. His mother and father decided it was time for him to go to school. In fact, George was a little behind other kids his age. Leaving the ranch, George and his father headed for a school in the nearby town of Pasadena. As the horse-drawn coach moved on, George’s house became smaller in the distance. Everything he knew as a child and all that he had depended on were now part of his past. George had to face the future on his own. He would have to deal with his own problems and conflicts without the help of his parents or aunt.
George was scared. He also was excited by the challenge. He knew his life was about to change. The worst part was that he felt like he was breaking with his family. He was on his own now. Outside of the beautiful world of Lake Vineyard, George could not even guess what struggles he would face.
THE STRUGGLE TO READ George did not know how to read or write at the age of 12. All of the other children at the school laughed at him on the first days, especially when the teacher called him to the blackboard. When the teacher read out a simple word, George only froze, unable to write the first letters of the word. He just stood there, holding the chalk and feeling dumb, while trying his best to see the word in his head.
The reaction from the other students hurt George very deeply. He felt stupid. The kids would make fun of him when he tried to read aloud or slowly write his letters. The words jumped up in front of him like a splash of mud, and he squinted to make some sense of them. Even with special help, he found that learning was very hard, especially spelling and writing.
Like many other kids, George accepted the label of being called “stupid.” He did not know what else to do. He mistakenly believed that if he could not read, he must be stupid. He did not understand why he was having so many problems. Even after studying a lot, if he could not spell or write well, then he figured it was his fault. This left the young boy feeling very insecure and worried. He was always afraid of what the other kids thought. He felt like he had to impress them.
George tried to make up for his problems in the classroom by being one of the best in sports and other activities. Still, inside his own mind, his progress went very slowly.
As the years moved on, George began to do a little better with his schoolwork. His favorite subject was history, especially military history. For the young boy, this was not a boring subject, but the stories of real people who had struggled and overcome difficult problems. George liked to see how people around the world often had similar problems and situations. From their experiences, he learned how they did not give up, but worked hard to succeed.
One of George’s worst subjects was English, especially spelling and grammar. He just could not get the words right. This confused him. It also made him wish that he could avoid the problem. As he quickly came to learn, the ability to read and write was connected to almost everything he wanted to do.
Some people today believe George was challenged by “dyslexia.” This genetic disorder makes it difficult for people to understand word symbols and word order. Not only do the words look jumbled, but also the reader has a problem judging their position. Because George never took any special test or got any help, it is still not clear if he struggled with dyslexia, although several other members of his family had this same challenge.
Throughout his life, George would work hard to read and write, leaving behind a huge collection of letters, articles and books. Despite the possible challenge of dyslexia, he continued to study, with history as his guide. As with any other great leaders, he saw that obstacles were to be overcome, not handed over to defeat.
As a boy, George quickly saw that everyone learned in his or her own way. All people were different in how they did things. This was true for reading too. Concentrating on individual words, learning their form and meaning, George began to build his vocabulary. He realized that if he could say the words, then he could read and write them. It was just a matter of putting his thoughts onto the paper.
There was one other challenge for George. He had to learn to believe in himself. He knew he was not stupid. He was good at many things. It would be a matter of time before reading and writing came as easily to him as riding a horse.
Aware that he had to try harder than others did, George pushed himself to move on. He knew he had no other choice, and in the face of embarrassment and frustration, he refused to give in.
THE MILITARY ACADEMY Like his father, George wanted to go to the military academy. Without a doubt, he had decided that he wanted to follow a career in the Army. There was something great about the military to George. He loved the risk and danger of war. He saw military leaders as brave and important people, who had decided key events throughout history. George wanted to be like them.
Instead of enlisting in the military as a private, George wanted to be an officer. He want to be a leader, and West Point, the famous military academy in New York that had produced the best military leaders in the history of the United States, was the most prestigious place for him to attend.
Suddenly, the young student realized that even great soldiers needed to read and write well. In order to gain acceptance by West Point, all students had to take a very tough exam on subjects from English to math to science.
George and his father knew his grades were too poor for him to take the West Point exam. To make things even more difficult, only one cadet was appointed each term by the senator of every state. The competition was tough, and the winner would have to show the best reading, writing and mental skills.
Through family connections, George’s father tried to build as much support for his son as possible. He asked many famous men to write letters praising George. Still, the same old problem remained. Despite his father’s well-known and powerful contacts, George would have to take the exam and compete against other students who wanted to pursue a military career.
Finally, George decided to try a second approach in gaining acceptance at West Point. According to the rules, if he attended another military academy and did well in his classes, then he could transfer to West Point without taking the exam. This seemed like George’s only option, and it was not an easy one. Even this way, he would still have to win the appointment of the senator from California.
Saying good-bye to his family, George headed for the Virginia Military Academy, where his father and grandfather had gone years before. He was very excited at the opportunity of entering the world of the military. Joining other boys from all over the United States, George went to the Virginia Military Academy with the thought of doing well his first year and then asking for an appointment to West Point.
The first days of the military academy were very hard for George. As part of the school tradition, the first-year students had to read a special pledge. Standing in front of all of the other boys, everyone eager to impress the crowd, George suddenly froze with the pledge in his hand. He did not know what was happening to him. He only knew that he was terribly nervous. He tried to read the first words, but everything was in a whirl of confusion. Unable to read the pledge aloud and completely embarrassed, with the other boys laughing at him, George had to sit down.
The first-year student did not let the disappointment defeat him. He studied hard all year, giving special attention to his classes in English, math, Latin and history. His spelling continued to be a problem. In one of his letters, he wrote to his parents, “I don’t know what makes me spell so badly.”
This problem ate at George’s enthusiasm. Sometimes, feeling as if he would never be able to do well, he became frustrated and did not study. He even became lazy, wishing that his studies would just disappear. Then George would realize that his dream of becoming a military officer could never happen unless he worked hard.
By the end of the year, his hard work had paid off. George Patton had successfully passed all of his classes, and to his great joy, he received a telegram from the senator of California informing him of his appointment to West Point.
Now in the military life, George thought his career had been launched and his academic problems had been solved. He did not realize that the most difficult times of his life were still ahead.
FAILURE AT WEST POINT George loved West Point, but the military life did not immediately take him on as a leader. Although he did well in the physical and military exercises, such as fencing, and receiving many honors for his good behavior, obedience and leadership, George continued to be held back by his learning problems. Throughout his first year at West Point, he was under pressure to do well in all of his classes. The battle was risky. If he failed to pass his courses, he would be knocked out of the famous military school.
The first few months were especially hard. When the English teacher learned that George was having problems, he pushed him even more, asking George to answer difficult questions in front of the class. Every month a report was handed out, telling where each student ranked in his classes. Out of 153 classmates, George was ranked 139th in English. The pressure added up for the young cadet. It seemed to him like his family was depending on him to do well. At times, George felt sad, even ashamed, at his poor performance. Seeing his classmates do so much better, his dreams of becoming a great leader seemed too far away.
George pushed on. His insecurity about his classes often made him try to make it up on the playing field or in the military exercises. Despite his energy and enthusiasm, things just seemed to go wrong for George. One time when he was ahead in the hurdles during a track meet, he misjudged the distance and tripped and fell, injuring himself. No matter how hard he tried, George felt as if he was always falling behind his classmates. As the end of the year came closer, George worked as hard as he could to pass his classes. He was having trouble with French and math. With much concern and fear, George waited for his scores to be posted at the end of the year.
He had failed math. His first year had been lost. Although not kicked out of school, he had to start from the beginning, adding another year to his studies.
Shocked and ashamed, young George returned to his home in California for the summer. It was difficult to face his family and friends. What would they think? Would they laugh at him? He began to wonder if he would ever succeed. George’s learning problems seemed to be too great to overcome. He saw his dream of becoming a military officer slipping away.
SUCCESS AT LAST George returned to West Point ready to move on. Although it bothered him to be a “plebe” or first-year student again, he suddenly became more convinced of his purpose. He wanted to become a military officer and a leader. His hard work over the next years showed his seriousness and determination. George Patton had made up his mind not to be defeated.
George studied harder than he had before. He made sure he was always the first in military performance, especially in his dress and behavior. By the end of his second year, George had passed all of his classes, receiving the honor of being named cadet sergeant major. He became more active in the academy, receiving few demerits or bad marks. Although other students had divided opinions over his serious and strict behavior, they all agreed that he was one of the most ambitious students at the military academy. George did whatever was necessary to climb up the ladder of military rank. George, himself, had his eye on becoming one of the leaders, hoping to pick up the title of “adjutant” or top assistant. The hard work paid off. The next year he received his new ranking.
The new role at the school gave George needed self-confidence. He began to feel like someone important and moved around the school in a serious and controlled manner. He received respect from everyone, but not much friendship. Some of his classmates thought he was almost fanatical in his ways of checking on the performance of others. For George Patton, this was just the beginning of his career as a soldier and as a military leader who expected the most from everyone. As someone who had struggled to overcome so many problems, George now accepted little in the way of excuses or problems from the other cadets.
Although he never became the best student, graduating 46th in a class of 103, George succeeded in the first phase of his dream of becoming a military leader. In 1909, he received special recognition for his performance as an expert rifleman. George also won awards in track and field.
This was a great moment for George. He may have fallen at the hurdles years before, but now he had risen and gone on to finish the race. Leaving the military academy as a commissioned second lieutenant, having graduated from the most famous military school in America, George Patton knew that nothing could stop him now.
THE MILITARY HERO Over the next 35 years, the Army stationed George Patton at military bases and conflicts around the world. Always eager to be where the action was taking place, George never turned down a chance to take part in a war or military conflict. He loved the attention he received from commanding troops and sought out every chance to shine. In George Patton’s mind, the greatest honor and sacrifice of a man’s life was military service during a war.
Patton’s career was always on the move. In 1916, he was stationed on the Mexican border, where he was ordered to track down Pancho Villa, the infamous Mexican revolutionary. Taking many risks, Patton led a group of soldiers into Mexico in search of Pancho Villa’s headquarters. By the end of the campaign, Patton was known around the country for his efforts in shooting down one of Villa’s main captains, while being one of the first people to use a motorized car in combat. He also made key tactical suggestions on using various weapons in battle.
Promoted to captain, Patton was selected as one of the assistants under General George Pershing when the United States entered World War I in 1917. By the end of the war in Europe, Patton had been promoted to colonel, winning a number of awards for his service in combat.
The conflicts did not end with World War I. By the 1930s, Adolf Hitler had taken power in Germany, leading his country on a campaign of war and terror. Nazi Germany invaded nearby countries first and then launched an all-out war on the rest of Europe.
The United States could no longer stand aside. Millions of innocent people were being terrorized by the occupation and advance of Hitler’s armies. When Germany’s ally, Japan, attacked the American naval base at Pearly Harbor in 1941, the United States entered the war officially.
George Patton became a general and an international figure when the United States was drawn into World War II in the 1940s. As leader of one of the largest armed forces in history, he was known for his fearlessness and leadership, often riding in the front of an attack. Others studied his strategies and tactics. Always daring, the general had as many critics as admirers. Some people questioned his ambitious role as a military leader. He could be mean to his troops, as well, and this was known around the world.
The general’s first assignment was in North Africa. The northern countries were key areas to control, especially along the important sea routes. For the first time in the war, General Patton led his troops in the defeat of a Nazi Germany attack. The United States and its allies took control of the northern shores of Europe.
Patton did not stop. Given a new assignment, he led the Allies in the invasion of Sicily, Italy. He won control of the region in only 38 days. The Germans were retreating, but they still occupied much of central Europe. The Allied leaders wanted General Patton to help lead the force in France.
Looking back on all the historic battles he had studied, Patton tried new tactics and strategies. The Germans would not give up, taking many lives with them in the process. Leading his division of tanks and soldiers like no other general in American history, Patton finally broke the enemy lines and helped to defeat the Nazi armies on German soil. The Germans finally gave up, ending years of war and suffering.
General George S. Patton, as leader of the Third Army, earned his famous reputation. By leading the allied troops in the final defeat of Nazi Germany, Patton’s name was talked about in every American household. Like those he had read about, he, too, had become an historical figure, respected around the world.
For the young boy who had dreamed of the great historical battles, only to experience so many setbacks, George Patton had finally achieved his great victory.
Refusing to let his problems with reading and spelling defeat him, the great general won the great battles throughout his life by working hard and not giving up. That, he learned, was often the difference between victory and defeat, both in war and in life.
General George S. Patton could have given up many times in his life, but he always fought hard to do his best, even if he stumbled and fell or people laughed at him. He knew that everybody has problems they must learn to overcome, and that by defeating those problems we grow stronger. General Patton also learned that the only way to lose for sure was to quit, giving up when the going got tough. By working hard to defeat his problem with dyslexia, his enemies of reading and writing became his allies, because he was able to conquer them by refusing to allow them to defeat him.