History | 14 July 2016Young George Patton in Combat Share article facebook twitter google pinterest He’s known as a famous US General from World War II, but what happened before? M4 Sherman Tanks shares George Patton’s early combat years. On September 12, 1918, Lt. Col. George S. Patton Jr. planned and led American troops and tanks in the US Army’s first documented wartime armored action. Accompanied by French tank units, elements of the US 304th Tank Brigade advanced in support of the 1st and 42nd Infantry Divisions during the fighting at St. Mihiel. During the day’s action, Patton reportedly met Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur on the battlefield, led his tanks across a bridge that had potentially been mined by the Germans, and placed himself directly in harm’s way for most of the time his unit was engaged. Rather than remaining safely in the rear to direct the advance, Patton preferred to lead from the front and was firmly reprimanded for actually outdistancing his advancing tanks and being out of communication with higher levels of command for an extended period. Patton’s display of bravado presaged his later exploits and endeared him to his men. He also absorbed valuable lessons, including the fact that tanks advancing across muddy ground consume fuel at a higher rate than those traversing dry terrain. Interestingly, prior to the action the far-sighted Patton had personally developed a towed sled that was designed to carry fuel to tanks in forward areas. Two weeks later, Patton and his armor were again in action. On September 26, he led his command in the Meuse-Argonne sector. Remembering the earlier rebuke, Patton devised a system of homing pigeons and runners that could convey messages to his superior officers, keeping them informed of the progress of the advance and allowing him to remain close to the action. The fighting in support of the 28th and 35th Infantry Divisions was intense and prolonged. As he directed tanks and troops forward, Patton again found himself outdistancing his command. This time he was only about forty yards from German machine gun positions. A bullet slammed into his leg, and his orderly pulled him to the safety of a shell hole. Although he nearly lost his life in the process, the young officer continued to direct his tanks forward, and twenty-five German machine gun positions were destroyed. However, Patton’s brigade was a spent force, suffering nearly ninety percent casualties in two weeks of combat and losing virtually all of its tanks. While recuperating from his wound in a field hospital, Patton learned that he had been promoted to full colonel. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor. When World War I ended, Patton was one of only a few US Army officers with combat experience in tanks. The knowledge gained served him well a quarter-century later during World War II. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: Seventy-five years ago the most quintessentially American tank was built: the M4 Sherman, which featured heavily in the Allies’ World War II victory and later in films such as “Fury,” starring Brad Pitt. Seventy-five years after it first rumbled into service, the M4 Sherman remains the most quintessentially American tank ever conceived. What the E-unit locomotive is to railroading, what the Corvette is to sports cars, the Sherman tank is to armored military vehicles—a classic example of American ingenuity and design answering a pressing need or desire. M4 Sherman Tanks is the definitive illustrated history of the Sherman tank, covering the entire scope of its development, manufacture, service, armaments, turrets, tracks, drivetrains, and its many variants. The book begins with the M4’s evolution from the M3 and M2 tanks and continues through the rapid production of more than fifty-three thousand units in 1942 and 1943 and the tank’s further service among more than fifty nations after World War II. Photos from the battlefield and the factory floor, exteriors and interiors of Shermans, and war-related ephemera fill the pages. Insightful text examines how the M4’s mechanical reliability and ease of maintenance made it a success, as well as how sheer numbers helped it outgun technologically superior German counterparts. The story doesn’t end there but continues to include the postwar conflicts in which M4s were employed, including the Korean War, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, and the Arab-Israeli Wars. The M4 Sherman tank is an institution in American–indeed, international–military lore, as synonymous with US military prowess as the P-51 fighter or the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. This is the complete and authoritative tribute to that legend. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.