Tag Archives: Letters

Snippet: The Pattons on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, as the cross-channel invasion of France was underway, all five members of the Patton family sat huddled around the radio.

The Pattons’ eldest daughter Bee listened in Washington, hoping “dad is on the way to get Johnny [her husband] out of prison camp,” while her sister and mother listened at the family home in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Ruth Ellen knew her husband was in Italy with the 69th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, but Beatrice hadn’t heard from George in weeks. His letter urging her not to “get excited when the whistle blows” because he wasn’t “in the opening kick off” wouldn’t arrive for weeks.

George (IV) listened at West Point, hoping his father was in on the fight because he knew it was “hell to be on the side lines” for him.

However, General Patton found himself sitting in a trailer on the British coast—he wouldn’t make it to France with the Third Army until about a month later—writing his son a heartfelt letter on the attributes of leadership.

Continue reading in Lady of the Army: The Life of Mrs. George S. Patton.

Letter and pictures courtesy of the Library of Congress – Patton Papers.

The Private Patton

Beatrice was one of the few people privy to both the public and the private Patton, two sides which were very hard to reconcile for outsiders. George spent his entire life hidden behind a mask defined by many as “Old Blood and Guts”, but with his wife he could be himself: hunting in the countryside and sailing the Pacific, engrossed by the vastness surrounding him; writing perceptive letters filled with the romance and beauty of everything he saw around him; sitting with her and reading well into the night; writing and reciting poetry, often for the woman he considered “my one love, my body and my life.”

Separated for months and sometimes years at a time, Beatrice Patton followed her husband by newspaper and letter through the Mexican Punitive Expedition, the Great War and the Second World War. Whether he was sitting in a tent in the Mexican desert, the home of the mayor of a French town, or a palace in Sicily, George Patton always made time to write his wife. He wrote so many letters even during the worst of the fighting that Beatrice wondered “how he manages to write me so often.” His letters were colorful and full of details… more details than most officers would feel comfortable sharing with their wives.

The Pattons at Fort Benning in 1942 – Courtesy of the Huntington Library

Writing Beatrice was the next best thing to having her by his side, even though the censors sometimes made it impossible for George to convey his true feelings. He not only missed her company when he was away from her, but he also missed her sage advice and keen judgment. He depended on her replies and was “disappointed when I don’t get one.” From the beginning of their courtship, she was adept at reading between the lines and knew exactly what to say to bolster his confidence. She never shied away from being totally honest with him, though, and immediately pointed out that he was always taking up too much space in his letters with “that old favorite subject (I).”

The Pattons’ espistolary relationship began in December 1902 when Beatrice sent the seventeen-year-old boy she met over the summer a tie pin of a fox’s head. Forty-three years later, on December 5, 1945, George ended his last letter with, “I may see you before you see this.” The thousands of letters he wrote his wife in between are now part of the George S. Patton Papers at the Library of Congress. Reading them is a bit of a one-sided conversation because most of Beatrice’s letters were either destroyed or kept private, but the collection offers a revealing glimpse into the private thoughts and personal life of General Patton and his wife.

Note on spelling: “For some reason my brain seems to be absolutely non receptive when words are conserned,” George wrote his father from West Point. He agonized over the problem, thinking himself stupid and lazy until he decided it took more imagination to spell a word “several different ways” than continuously spelling it the same way. Whether he suffered from dyslexia will never be known for sure, but it was up to Beatrice in the future to correct important letters and papers.

As to Kuhlborns self there is little to say except that owing to his immortal nature he lived through the foot-ball season and did not even brake a bone (worse luck) and that he is now devoting more time than he should to making a polo team; (for above all things he is desirus of an early and glorious death).”

January 10, 1903 – George’s first letter to Beatrice

I wish you were here all the season for some how I work harder when you are around. Should I fail to do some thing please cuss me out once in a while will you I must do some thing.

September 9, 1908

It is strange that I dont get your point of view on life. Realy all joking aside I don’t expect ever to be sixty not that it is old but simply that I would prefer to wear out from hard work before then. Nor do I care for a home and friends and peace and a regular order of life. I would like to fight up to the top and then go off the edge and rest in a better at least quieter place than earth.

February 21, 1909

There are few d—f— husbands who write twice a day to their wives even when their wives wear such low dresses as B [Jr.] says you do. Please keep it till I get home or get a lower one. George.

October 26, 1916

This is the last letter I shall write you from Mexico. I have learned a lot about my profession and a lot how much I love you. The first was necessary the second was not.

January 29, 1917

I want you to be the same age when I get back as when I left. Also die your hair for I don’t like gray hair at all.

February 8, 1918

When this war is over I am going to insist on using a single bed for both of us at the same time. There is perhaps more than one reason for this, but the only one which the censor and modisty will allow me to mention is that I am tired of being cold and especially of getting into a large and empty bed full of cold sheets. Hence you will have to go to bed first.

February 27, 1918

Well this is the second letter I have written you to day. I only wish it were not necessary and that I could hold you in my arms and squeeze you. I have almost forgotten how soft you are even with corsets on to say nothing of your softness in your wedding nighty. I love you so B.

March 19, 1918

It seems a heartless thing to say but I think that Ellie is happier than she would have been to have continued on with out your father. They were as nearly one as is possible to be — as nearly as one as we are. I do not think I would care much about keeping on if you were gone. Because if you were not around to admire what I did what the rest thought would make little difference.

April 11, 1918 – George writes Beatrice from France upon her mother’s death

If I tried to tell you how much I love you I would get writers cramp.

March 21, 1925

At polo I had an off day in the second period Walter ran into me, it was my fault, and hurt my leg quite a lot though not seriously. Then in the fourth period Bull fell and gave me quite a spill but again with no bad effects…Don’t worry about me as I am o.k. And simply tell you so as to keep my Promise.

August 19, 1927

I hope I did not leave you with the impression that I thought you were either a poor sailor or mother. I think you are perfect in these rolls as in all others. I will even “bend” so much asto sail with you in the Dantesk if you want me. I love you. George.

July 21, 1930

From my view point as “wedding guest” I want to say again what a realy great organizer I think you are. No show could have gone better and it was a very large show too. Also no mother of a bride ever looked better or cried less.

July 7, 1934

I doubt that I will be killed or even wounded but one can never tell. It is all a question of destiny… Well when you get this you will either be a widow or a radio fan, I trust the latter. In either case I love you.

July 5, 1943

I appreciate your loyalty and miss your aid, but your spirit is with me. I love you.

December 21, 1943

Just had a phone from Beedle to see him in the morning. I always get things like that on Sundays or New Years etc, so I am used to it. Apparently much umbrage has been taken to my last, wholy casual remarks, and I may be able to go sailing sooner than I had thought, but the Chesapeake in the spring is said to be lovley. If I have caused you added worry, I am sorry.

April 30, 1944

I know my defects but don’t know those of others and of course I have had great luck, never forgotten you as the greatest.

June 24 1944

Yesterday I drove in a peep in zero weather for about eight hours. When I came in I was so cold I got in a hot tub and to give a tropical aspect, turned on the sun lamp. And left it on for about 20 minutes. It was some 12 feet away, but is pretty potent. My eyes were already bad from the snow. I woke up at 1145 in great pane with my eyes running like a spigot. I got up and woke Col. Odom, the Dr. who lives with us – my personal physician? He put cold barasic compresses on for two hours, gave me a shot of morphine and a sleeping powder. I stayed in bed till noon in a dark room, and now the eyes are well. I am like a puppy, always sticking my nose into trouble. The night of the 28 at 0130 our time, which is 5:30 your time, I dreamed I was in a boat in a muddy creek and had just started to back down stream when you came running over the mud and called “Georgie” the way you do. Were you in any trouble?

January 31, 1945

Your telegram . . . and your modest estimate of me means more than the opinion of the rest of the world .

May 9, 1945

Your radio about asking for an official investigation . . . felt just like a look out of your brave loyal eyes.

September 29, 1945


  • James G. Harbord Papers, MS 1493, The New-York Historical Society
  • Blumenson, Martin. The Patton Papers: 1940-1945
  • Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, George S. Patton Papers.

General Patton’s Poetry “To Beatrice”

George Patton considered himself to “have a hell of a memory for poetry and war.” An astute student of military history, he could also conjure up a poem appropriate to any situation. Raised on the verses of Kipling and Homer, during times of war when he couldn’t sleep, George liked to pick up the pen and write poetry to cheer and inspire himself. Many a letter to Beatrice during the Mexican Punitive Expedition and WWI included a sheet of poetry, imploring her not to lose it as “they may be priceless some day.”

In 1919, Beatrice tested that premise and sent a compilation of her husband’s poems to a publisher. She prefaced the work with a disclaimer from the anonymous author: “These rhymes were written (over a period of years) for his own amusement by a man who having seen something of war is more impressed with the manly virtues it engenders than with the necessary and much exaggerated horrors attendant upon it. They are offered to the public in the hope that they may counteract to a degree the melancholy viewpoint so freely expatiated upon by most writers.”

George’s vivid imagery describing both the horrors and glories of war were not appreciated in 1919 and Beatrice’s proposal was rejected, but all that changed during WWII when General Patton gained fame and reporters clamored for any piece of information they could get on him. Beatrice took advantage of the opportunity and renewed her effort to publish George’s work, knowing how much it would mean to him. She couldn’t believe her luck when Woman’s Home Companion paid $50 in October 1943 to print “God of Battles,” followed by Cosmopolitan in early 1945, which published “Fear.”

Collier’s, however, declined to print “The Song of the Bayonet,” explaining to Beatrice that “nothing more should be printed that will revive the “Old Blood and Guts” legend.” Yet there was a more sensitive side to George which was reserved just for Beatrice.

"To Beatrice" 
(Written during the Mexican Punitive Expedition in October 1916.)

Oh! loveliest of women,
What ere I gain or do,
Is naught if in achieving,
I bring not joy to you.

I know I often grieve you,
All earthly folk are frail,
But if this grief I knowing wrought,
My life’s desire would fail.

The mandates of stern duty,
Oft takes us far apart,
But space is impotent to check,
The heart which calls to heart.
Perhaps by future hidden,
Some greatness waits in store,
If so, the hope your praise to gain,
Shall make my efforts more.

For victory apart from you,
Would be an empty gain,
A laurel crown you could not share,
Would be reward in vain.

You are my inspiration,
Light of my brain and soul,
Your guiding love by night or day,
Will keep my valor whole.

"To Your Picture" 
(Written "To a picture just received from Beatrice" in France on June 25, 1918.)

Your picture here before me shows too well,
The sweetness which I know is latent there,
The pleading torment of your laughing eyes,
The maddening rapture of your glorious hair.

Shown without color, flat, and without breath
Your subtle charm yet gives the picture life,
And makes the cardboard throb and thrill again
With those dear passions which are yours - my wife.

Though distance parts us with the heaving sea.
And Time essays to dull your face and form.
The last is impotent to blind my eyes.
And your dear self shines clear through the storm.

Though I have naught of you but thoughts to cheer
Your spirit aides me in the throbbing strife.
And aught I do I do for you alone;
You, my one love, my body and my life. 

"The Vision" 
(Written in Colonia Dublan, Mexico, in January 1917.)

Fiercely the squadron followed,
Trampling the withered grass,
And I heard the clatter as men went down,
And the hiss of the shots that pass.

And then one came before its sound,
I fell for an endless way,
Till a mighty calm engulfed me,
And I woke to a clearer day.

The dust no longer choked me;
The charge seethed far ahead.
A limp form lay beneath my mare;
Its face was mine and - - dead.

I looked at the thing which I had been; —
The blood oozed from its face —
At the sword I had known so well to use,
Now limp in death’s embrace.

I thought complacently of fame,
And how I had broken the foe;
But then I thought with gripping pain,
Of those I loved - - their woe.

As I mused the miles had vanished;
I stood in my childhood’s home,
While she I loved stood near me;
Yet knew not I had come.

I tried to speak and warn her,
But only my dogs could hear,
They sought to lick my viewless hands,
Then howling fled in fear.

I saw the smile upon her lips,
While the flowers bloomed beside;
I could not bear that she should hear,
That I had really died.

My thirst for glory faded then,
Before unselfish love;
I prayed to live for her - - not fame,
They say my stunned mare moved.

Her struggles caught a searcher’s eye;
They carried me away,
And when I woke days later,
T’was near my love I lay.

"Rubber Shoes" 
(Written in Champlieu, France, on November 26, 1917, after finding Beatrice's shoes hiding in the car he had shipped over from the US.)

While searching in my motor car
To get a can of grease
I came upon some rubber shoes
The shoes of Beatrice.

You who have never met her
Of course can hardly know
The train of deep emotions
Those rubbers set aglow.

For gazing on them brought to mind
The picture of her feet
And dainty legs in stockings trim
Duck walking up the street.

The memory of her cunningness
And of her crooked tooth
The tragic thought that far from her
I’d passed the half our youth.

So picking up the grease can
I sadly turned aside 
And jammed a hub cap full of goo
My woeful thoughts to hide.