YUMA, Ariz. - This week is military week on News 11. Today we take a look at the life of General George Patton leading up to his decision to bring the Army's newest test facility to the desert southwest.
“Patton was an interesting guy, he believed in destiny and he knew probably from a very young age that his destiny was for him to join the Army,” William Heidner, museum curator at YPG said.
The man who believed in destiny came from a long line of forefathers who also served in the military.
“So he had it in his mind that he was going to serve his country in a similar way,” Heidner said.
Patton went to the Virginia Military Institute and West Point Military Academy. Between the two schools he struggled academically due to what some people believe was a learning disability.
“Between VMI and West Point he did three freshmen years and back then your freshman year you were being hazed constantly so just to see the perseverance of how he was not going to quit at what he saw was destiny … to me that was just an indicator of his pluck his determination,” Heidner said.
By 1916 Patton became a member of General Pershing's staff. Two years later he went to Europe with Pershing as we deployed our soldiers for World War I.
“Pershing picked him to find a place where they could train tanks.Tanks were a new invention so Patton established the Armor Training Center in Europe for the army,” he said.
Patton was then asked to lead the troops and their tanks into battle. After much success, by the end of the war, Patton was considered to be one of the main armor experts in the American Army.
“The Army sent General Patton out to determine an area that was good both for Desert training and for training large armored forces. He selected an area that was from Yuma in the south all the way to Nevada in the north,” he said.
They opened the Desert Training Center in March 1942. Shortly after, Patton was called out to lead the troops in the attack in north Africa in June of 1942.
Another world war was upon us and General Patton was forced to leave after only being in the desert southwest for four months.
“Patton was actually pulled out of here early, he never really had all the people he was supposed to have," Heidner said. "He should’ve had about 45,000 people at the time he left, but he had only 300 trucks, 200 light tanks and about and about 10,000 men,” he said.
Then after two years, the training center expanded to the Arizona side with the addition of Camp Laguna to help train war fighters for battle in north Africa.
Even though Patton's time was cut short, it was very impactful. Commanders following Patton all followed his way.
“And that way was that it was going to be very harsh, it was going to be very Spartan, no-frills, they were just out here to train and get ready to go to war,” Heidner said.
Tomorrow on News 11's military week we'll hear from a Vietnam veteran on how YPG was used during that time.
We are also having a military week contest for military families. Enter to win a family four pass to the Animals in Action tour at the San Diego Zoo. Click here for more information!