General George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership

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This was stop #2 on the route to Louisville, and it opportunity to visit Fort Knox.  Who doesn’t want to visit Fort Knox, right?  Well, sadly, there is no public viewing of the famed United States Bullion Depository, famed, but unproven...

In any case, if you happen to be passing through Fort Knox, Kentucky, then the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor is the #1 Thing to Do as listed on TripAdvisor.* ** 

* It’s no longer a cavalry and armor museum.  Most of the big guns were transferred to Fort Benning, in GA sometime in 2011.   It’s now focused on personal belongings of Patton and a theme of leadership, apparently due to the focus in mission of the respective Forts.  

** It’s ranked #1 because it is the only thing to do in Fort Knox, which is otherwise a restricted base.  Based on the drive through town, there won’t be anything new for years to come.  Eat, get gas, go.  Or, stay a bit and get a tattoo.  That’s something to do.

After you park, you’re greeted as if you were going to steal the gold.  Fencing.  Formidable gates...


This opens to a nice park area, and


But before you go in, there’s these tanks out front...


Regrettably, there is a sign that says “Do Not Climb on Tanks.”  What fun is that?  If it’s about safety, why are you pointing a gun at a building?  What are you teaching the kids?  Ironically, there’s a tank a few miles down the road where kids were climbing all over it.


The Museum is free, but donations are requested.  You’re greeted by a carved statue of Patton and then enter a spacious exhibit.  Initially, it’s about leadership.  Selected quotes:

“I have it, but I’ll be damned if I can define it.” – on Leadership

“... a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.”

“Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men.”

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

Perhaps the most challenging quote featured didn’t come from Patton but rather General Harold K. Johnson:

“Armed forces exist to maintain, to restore, or to create an environment of order or a climate of stability within which government under law can function effectively.”

I haven’t viewed the U.S. military that way (Wiki being more in line), but I suppose that thinking could lead to a coup once the Constitution is finally laid to waste outright or in practice by our “under law” representatives.

On with the show:

The details on the 1938 Cadillac Limo staff car below was that it was presented to Patton in 1945 after seizing it from Gestapo members.  It was made in Detroit and shipped to a dealer in France.  Go figure.


Notes from the below: 

“Pistol, .22 caliber - George owned his own pistol at the age of five.”

“M1903 Pump Action Rifle, .22 caliber– A steady position, aiming, breath control and trigger squeeze – George learned the four fundamentals of marksmanship with this rifle, purchased by his father.”

“Slingshot – George hurled rocks at cans and small animals with this slingshot that he whittled from a stick with his own pocketknife.”

“1870 French Sword Bayonet – A store in Los Angeles was having a sale of 1870 French sword bayonets and I asked for one.  I remember lying on the grass when we got home admiring it.  Later I attacked the cactus with it and got [the bayonet] well stuck.”


Patton’s medals – sadly, there were no descriptions.


Below: “Worn by Patton while competing in the 1912 Olympics... He finished in sixth place during the swimming event.”


A watch worn by Patton during WWI.  Some brands last...


Crucifix and “Fumsup” Good Luck Charm – worn by Patton during the Punitive Expedition, WWI and WWII.  Patton’s wife Beatrice gave him the set.  The good luck charm was popular in the Victorian era and given to soldiers for encouragement during WWI.  “Fumsup” = Thumbs Up.


The spoils of war:

German Armet-Pattern helmet, ca. 1585 (left)

Indian helmet, ca 1400. (middle)

No note on the crossbow.  All were “collected by Patton while in Europe, 1945.”


There are ample quotes from Patton and other generals that surround the 7 “Army Values” – LDRSHIP – being Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage – as well as other leadership traits.

Despite this, any related lessons in the museum are very thin.  There’s little of the experience that either shaped the ideals or clear examples where they shone.  It’s also possible, given the greater combat experience of males in U.S. conflicts, that most everything speaks to “men.”  Hopefully visitors will understand it’s not a sexism issue. Still, it does provide a succinct understanding of Patton’s life.

The museum continues to work on additional exhibits, essentially full scale dioramas.

The end:

“On the cold and clear morning of December 9, 1945, General Patton and his Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Hobart Gay, followed their Sunday ritual of pheasant hunting, a custom of theirs since the war in Europe ended.

Private First Class Horace Woodring, Patton’s driver, stopped at a checkpoint to allow a hunting dog to get in the Cadillac and warm up.  The group neared a US Army depot and halted at a set of railroad tracks to let a train pass.  After crossing the tracks, Woodring noticed two 2.5 ton trucks coming towards them.  Without signaling, the driver of the first truck turned left into the depot, cutting off the Cadillac.  Woodring slammed on the brakes but could not avoid a collision.

Although not traveling very fast, the impact threw Patton forward.  He hit his head on the car’s center divider, gashing his forehead.  Patton’s neck broke instantly and he slumped back into Gay’s lap, unable to feel or move anything below his neck.

Tragically, Patton had orders to go home on leave the next day.  He died twelve days later from a blood clot that entered his lungs.”

All in all, an interesting stop, but less so than when they had the big guns, I’d imagine.

1 comment :

  1. I am envious. Despite his failings, he was truly a man the US needed at the time. Perhaps too, he was one of the first victims of political correctness. No matter, his death in a car accident helps illustrate the randomness of life.