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Patton Newspaper article DSC

Lt.Col. Patton earns the Distinguish Service Cross

Patton had established his CP in the 35th Division sector but the visibility due to heavy fog and battle conditions made it impossible for him to issue commands so he moved forward on foot. He moved toward where he could hear his tanks. The 35th division attack was beginning to falter.  Patton arrived on the scene with a scene of confusion and the 35th division solders were in a state of disorganization. Patton sent runners to bring elements of Compton’s 345th up top assist. One of these men was his orderly Pfc Joseph P. Angelo. Patton considered going himself but he saw the infantrymen gathering were beginning to panic.

Martin Blumenson in his superb book, the Patton Papers, gives one of the best accounts of this day and Lt. Col Patton. He took the many accounts written for Patton’s recommendation for the Distinguish Service Cross and used them to tell a definitive and accurate account of what too place.

326 Battlion September 26 1918 near Boureuilles color with logo

“Patton left his CP and walked northward in the wake of the tanks operating on the eastern side of the Aire River. He and his party followed the tank tracks visible on the edge of the Clermont-Neuvilly-Boureuilles-Varennes road leading toward Cheppy. About halfway between Boureuilles and Varennes, they passed some French tanks, then Compton's support tanks.

Beyond a narrow-gauge railroad cut and near a crossroads just short of Cheppy, the group halted and sat down. Patton sent a message by pigeon, no doubt reporting his location.

Very little was happening in that vicinity. Infantry and tanks were out of sight. Shells were falling, Knowles later said, "to our front some con­siderable distance [away] probably at least one kilometer." It was desultory firing and difficult to judge how far off and exactly where it was because of the atmospheric conditions.

A handful of tanks came along, stopped for a few minutes to chat, then went on. After they had passed, some shells dropped nearby. Then machine gun bullets came close. Patton ordered everyone to take cover in the railroad cut. Once in the relative safety of that protection, Patton posted Corporal John G. Heming, who would later be commissioned, on his right front, and Private First Class Joseph T. Angelo, his orderly, on the right front, and private first class Joseph T Angelo, his orderly on is
left front. They were to give the alarm if the enemy attempted to advance on or to cut off the small command group.

Several disorganized groups of infantrymen, walking and running to the rear, came through. Patton stopped them and questioned them. The solders  said they were separated from their units and commanders because of the fog and the machine gun fire. Patton told them to join his group. The shallow and short railroad cut soon became crowded.

As the enemy fire increased in volume and the machine guns began to shoot in short meaningful bursts, Patton led his now considerable number· of men, perhaps as many as 100, back about 100 yards to the reverse slope o: a small hill. Patton ordered everyone to spread out and lie down. The troops had just done so when machine gun fire began to sweep the area, seemingly from every direction .

About 125 yards to the rear and at the base of the slope, Patton noticed several of Compton's tanks. He sent Knowles down the hill with a messengers ordering them to come forward at once. Knowles discovered what was holding them up. Two enormous trenches, very deep and very wide, formerly held by the Germans, blocked progress. A French Schneider trying to cross them was bogged down and barring the only suitable crossing · place. Some French tankers had started to dig away the banks with shov­els, but when shells and bullets landed nearby, they abandoned  their work and sat in the trench for protection.

Knowles passed on Patton's message to the American tankers, then continued to the rear to find Compton. He located Captain Williams and delivered Patton's order, then discovered Compton and repeated the in­struction.

On the reverse slope of the hill, as time passed, Patton wondered why the tanks were not coming forward. He sent Lieutenant Edwards down the hill to get some action. He also dispatched Sergeant Edgar W. Fansler to find Compton and tell him to get moving.

Like Knowles, Edwards saw what was wrong. While Fansler proceeded to the rear in search of Compton, Edwards talked to the French crew and got no reaction. He walked to the group of five American tanks nearby and talked with Captain Math L. English, who was in command.

Growing increasingly angry because the tanks were still not moving, Patton started down the slope himself. He immediately saw that the infantrymen he had collected were preparing to abandon the hill in panic. If he left, they would flee. So he stopped. He called Angelo and sent him back to get the tanks moved up.

Angelo made little impression on the tankers, and when a volley of shells came in, he prudently jumped into a trench for shelter.

At this point Patton came down the hill himself. He immediately organized a concerted effort to get the tanks across the trenches. He set the French to work. He went over to the American tanks, which were being splattered with machine gun fire, removed the shovels and picks strapped to the tank sides, got the tankers out of their machines, handed them the tools, and put them to work tearing down the sides of the trenches.

All this time, enemy fire was sweeping the area, both artillery shells and machine gun bullets. A hostile plane flew over from time to time to direct the enemy gunners. Some of the men who were digging were hit.

Patton and English, despite repeated requests from Edwards and others to step into the trenches, remained in exposed positions on the parapet directing the work. Several times Patton shouted, "To Hell with them -they-can't hit me."

When passages had been dug across the ditches, Patton and English chained several tanks together to get better traction in the mud. Then the two officers, still disdaining the shelter of the trenches, and now joined by Angelo, gave hand signals to help the drivers get across. Miraculously, they were not struck by the enemy fire.

Patton explained the successful crossing as "due to the coolness of the drivers who maneuvered with their doors open" at considerable personal risk.

As soon as English's five tanks were over the obstacles- the Schneider was hopelessly stuck- Patton sent them forward up the hill. Then gath­ering the men at the trenches together, he led them up the slope.

When the last of English's tanks crossed the crest of the knoll, Patton ordered all the men to spread out and follow him. Waving his large walk­ing stick, which looked like a cane, over his head, he shouted, "Let's go get them, who's with me," and walked forward.

Enthusiastically, about 100 men jumped to their feet and started to follow Patton. Some of Patton's command group wanted to join their colonel, but they were unarmed. Sergeant William V. Curran was carrying a telephone and some wire, Sergeants L. T. Garlow and Lorenzo F. Ward were loaded down with pigeon baskets. Sergeant Harry M. Stokes was in a shell hole bandaging a wounded infantryman's leg.

Patton's force swept over the crest of the hill. They went no more than 50 or 75 yards when the incoming machine gun fire became terrific. Everyone, including Patton, flung himself on the ground and let the wave of bullets wash over the hillside.

It was probably at this moment that Patton had his vision.
GSP, Jr., "My Father," 1927
Once in the Argonne just before I was wounded I felt a great desire to run, I was trembling with fear when suddenly I thought of my progenitors and seemed to see them in a cloud over the German lines looking at me. I became calm at once and saying aloud "It is time for another Patton to die" called for volunteers and went forward to what I honestly believed to be certain death. Six men went with me; five were killed and I was wounded so I was not much in error.

When the noise of the firing abated, Patton picked himself up. Waving his stick and shouting "Let's go, let's go," he marched forward.

This time only six men accompanied him. Among them was Angelo. As they walked ahead in a miniature charge of the light brigade, Angelo noticed that the others were dropping to the ground as they were struck by enemy fire. Finally just he and Patton were left. "I told him they were all hit but us."
We are alone," Angelo said.
"Come on anyway," Patton said.
Why? What did he hope to accomplish?”

…” No more than a few seconds passed when he felt the jolt of a bullet strike his leg. He took a few steps, struggled to maintain his equilibrium, kept going on nerve alone for several yards, and fell.
Lt.Col Patton's photograpghs of where he was shot by enemy fire Sept 26 1918

When Col. Patton was able he went back to where he was wounded and took photographs of the battlefield.   These are from a personal scape book of Patton’s recollection in WWI located at the Library of Congress

It was probably around 11: 30 A.M. The place was a few hundred yards short of the village of Cheppy.

More time went by. Sergeant Schemnitz, obviously looking for the colonel, came along. Angelo hailed him, and Schemnitz hurried over. Patton told him to carry the word back that he was wounded, that Major Brett was to take command of the brigade, and that no one was to come to carry Patton back because he would attract enemy fire.

Schemnitz ran back with these instructions. As he crossed the crest of the hill to the reverse slope, where Knowles, Edwards, and the runners were waiting, he shouted the news in great excitement - the colonel was wounded, Major Brett was in command, and nobody was to go near the colonel until the fire died down. He rushed off to find a stretcher.

Garlow released a pigeon with a message that Patton was wounded.
At the shell hole, a few more tanks passed nearby. Patton again sent Angelo to attract the tankers' attention and tell them where to go. Comp­ton was in one of those tanks, and, following Angelo's directions, placed a few well-aimed shells and silenced a machine gun that had been harassing the two men in the hole. The tanks then continued on their way.

A medical aid soldier named John L. Close, who was working with the infantry, wandered through the field. He stopped, looked at Patton's wound, and changed the bandage. Patton thanked him courteously, and Close went on.

After about an hour or so - it was difficult to estimate the passage of time -the work of all the tanks in the area eliminated the machine gun fire. About 25 German machine gun nests were believed destroyed. The hostile artillery shelling became erratic as the gunners seemed to be rang­ing on the tanks up ahead.

Only then did Schemnitz, accompanied by Sergeant First Class Ely and Corporal Heming, return to the shell hole with a stretcher. These three men and Angelo placed Patton on the litter and carried him back to the reverse slope of the hill.

Joe Angelo color

Angelo helped him into a small shell hole in the middle of an open field, cut his trousers, and bandaged his wound, which was bleeding freely. It was difficult and dangerous work, for there was little protection in that slight depression a shell had scooped out of the earth. Every time Patton or Angelo moved and exposed himself, German soldiers in a rail­road cut about 40 yards away fired at them.

After a while that seemed like eternity, some tanks came by. They had crossed the trenches at the bottom of the slope, climbed the hill, and were following Captain English". The appearance of the tanks prompted a defined in the level of intensity of the enemy fire - no machine gunner in  his right mind was going to expose his position to the tank guns. In that lull, Patton sent Angelo out to tell the tankers where the enemy gunners were located. Informed by Angelo of lucrative targets, the tankers de­parted.

More time went by. Sergeant Schemnitz, obviously looking for the colonel, came along. Angelo hailed him, and Schemnitz hurried over. Patton told him to carry the word back that he was wounded, that Major ,Brett was to take command of the brigade, and that no one was to come to ;carry Patton back because he would attract enemy fire.

Schemnitz ran back with these instructions. As he crossed the crest of the hill to the reverse slope, where Knowles, Edwards, and tht runners were waiting, he shouted the news in great excitement - the colonel was wounded, Major Brett was in command, and nobody was to go near the colonel until the fire died down. He rushed off to find a stretcher.

Garlow released a pigeon with a message that Patton was wounded.
At the shell hole, a few more tanks passed nearby. Patton again sent Angelo to attract the tankers' attention and tell them where to go. Comp­ton was in one of those tanks, and, following Angelo's directions, placed a few well-aimed shells and silenced a machine gun that had been harassing the two men in the hole. The tanks then continued on their way.

A medical aid soldier named John L. Close, who was working with the infantry, wandered through the field. He stopped, looked at Patton's wound, and changed the bandage. Patton thanked him courteously, and Close went on.

After about an hour or so - it was difficult to estimate the passage of time -the work of all the tanks in the area eliminated the machine gun fire. About 25 German machine gun nests were believed destroyed. The hostile artillery shelling became erratic as the gunners seemed to be rang­ing on the tanks up ahead.

Only then did Schemnitz, accompanied by Sergeant First Class Ely and Corporal Heming, return to the shell hole with a stretcher. These three men and Angelo placed Patton on the litter and carried him back to the reverse slope of the hill.

Edwards went off toward the front in search of Brett, whom he found at 2 PM

Fansler relieved Angelo on one corner of the stretcher, and these five men took Patton three kilometers to the rear and delivered him to ambulance company.

While the others returned to their duties, Angelo stayed with Patton. Before Patton would go to a hospital, he insisted on being taken to the 35th Division headquarters so he could report conditions on the front.

An ambulance drove him and Angelo there, and an officer came out and talked with Patton. Then he allowed himself to be moved to Evacua­tion Hospital Number 11. Angelo took his pistol and his money for safe­keeping.

Lt.Col Patton's photograpghs of where he was shot by enemy fire Sept 26 1918 page2

Patton was very concerned that all of his soldiers received the awards for valor they so richly. He and Major Sereno Britt reviewed all the evidence  and took pictures. As a result of their work after the battles were over, there were 35 Distinguished Services Crosses and two Congressional Medal of Honors recipients awarded to the soldiers of the 1st Tank Brigade.

Joesph T Angelo Newspaper article 1977 about Patton and DSC reduced size

The stories of men in battle would be told over and over as the men of the 1st Tank Brigade gradually grew older. In 1977, some 59 years after that faithful day on September 26, 1918, now 81 year old Joseph T. Angelo recalls once more. His memory was a little fogy but was as proud as ever to have served in tanks during World War One under Col. Patton.

DSC Orginal Reports Patton Museum files

Some years later Major General George S. Patton IV donated his fathers WWI original reports and recommendation of the DSC. This is a fascinating lock on what the actual documents looked like. They are incomplete and at the time of the viewing it was prohibited to take the documents out of the mylat folders they were in.

 

BACK TO : The First Tanks in the US Army : The Tank Command of
George S. Patton Jr. in World War I 1917-1918