“I wish people wouldn’t make him so blood-and-gutsy,” Beatrice told Jane Eads of the Los Angeles Times in April 1943. She knew George Patton was “a man furiously fighting for his country,” a man who gave a cold soldier the coat off his back, who stopped his jeep by the side of the road to administer morphine, and who personally ensured that his men received a hot turkey dinner on Christmas Eve.
The name “Old Blood and Guts” first appeared in newspapers in August 1942, in a syndicated article titled “Old Blood and Guts Screams Orders So Loud He Scares Birds.” No explanation was given for the label, except that it was what soldiers called George Patton, in addition to “The Green Hornet” and “Bandito.” (The first was in reference to a tanker’s uniform he designed, and the second to a raid during the Mexican Punitive Expedition in 1916 that led to the killing of three Villistas.)
General George Patton was first called “Old Blood and Guts” in 1941 while training the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Benning. The name came about because of his fiery motivational speeches to his men, often filled with profanity and references to blood and guts. It was only during the war that some soldiers began referring to it as “his guts and our blood,” and the 1943 Slapping Incident ultimately gave a negative connotation to the name “Old Blood and Guts.”
I PREFER THE BOOK NOT TO BE CALLED, “BLOOD AND GUTS,” A NAME WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN USED BY ANY SOLDIER AND WAS A FIGMENT OF THE IMAGINATION OF SOME NEWSPAPER CORRESPONDENT. I AM ALWAYS EITHER REFERRED TO AS “THE OLD MAN,” OR “GEORGIE,” EXCEPT AS YOU POINT OUT BY MY GRANDSON.–George Patton to author William Mellor, February 20, 1945
Beatrice agreed the name wasn’t an entire misnomer, but it was somewhat limiting in its description of her husband; her “Georgie” was more than just “fire and purple profanity.” Because he never did anything to dispel its myth, “Old Blood and Guts” forever overshadowed the kind and sensitive man she knew him to be in private. As Sally Flint, widow of Colonel Paddy Flint, once said, “Underneath the rough-spoken, cold-blooded exterior, he was a gentle and kindly person who had to make himself tough to do the job he had. He wasn’t born that way.”
George S. Patton Jr. was as good an actor as George C. Scott. His war face was as much an accoutrement of being a successful commanding general as his immaculate uniform, and his family knew the pistols, the grimace, and the uniform were nothing more than pieces “of an effective military commander’s tool kit.”
THIS COLT FORTY-FIVE THAT I CARRY, DON’T YOU THINK I GET TIRED OF IT? IT’S DAMNED HEAVY. BUT I CAN NO MORE LEAVE IT OFF THAN WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN COULD HAVE LEFT OFF THAT WHITE TIE OF HIS.-General Patton, Saturday Evening Post June 23, 1945