December 21, 1945 – General Patton dies following car accident

On December 8, 1945, revered U.S. General George S. Patton, received an invitation from his chief of staff, Major General Hobart Gay, to go pheasant hunting off-base, near his German post. Patton, riding next to his preferred chauffeur, Private H.L. Woodring, saw the dog belonging to their hunting advisor was riding in an open top Jeep behind them. Believing the dog to be cold, Patton asked his driver to pull over and bring the dog into their car. In doing so, Patton moved to the rear of the vehicle, and allowed the dog to ride upfront. It was a simple act of kindness toward an animal that would prove fatal. 

Not long after their pit stop, Patton observed burned hulks of automobiles on the side of the road. To this he said, “How awful war is. Think of the waste.” Moments later, Patton’s Cadillac collided with an American Army truck at a relatively low speed. While other occupants suffered minor injuries, Patton hit his head on the divider glass causing a compression fracture of his vertebra, which resulted in paralysis. 

Patton during a stateside parade in 1945

In the hospital, Patton could communicate verbally with medical staff and his wife, who flew over from the States. Doctors hoped for a partial recovery, but Patton did not believe he’d live happily, if at all. Upon learning he’d never ride a horse again or lead any sort of normal life, he commented, “This is a hell of a way to die.” After nearly two weeks in the hospital, Patton passed away on this day in 1945. His death resulted from complications with his injuries and congestive heart failure.

Patton’s final resting place is in Luxembourg American Cemetery in Luxembourg. This came to be per his request to “be buried with his men.” There he is surrounded by casualties of war, many from the Third Army, of which he commanded in France and Germany following D-Day.

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