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WW1 American Helmet from Patton's 344th Tank Battalion

This Helmet is great First World War helmet with Camo paint that's marked with a Spade symbol on the front.  George Patton was a Colonel in World War One and the first soldier appointed to the fledgling Tank Corps.  Patton built his tank units from the ground up...trained them personally and led them into battle.  Since the Americans had no tank of their own in 1918, they were given French Renaults.  The Spade on the front of this helmet comes from Patton's system for identifying tank platoons.  Here is an excerpt from "Patton A Genius For War" by Carlos D'Este:

Patton's Renaults did not begin arriving at Bourg until August 24 (1918), and had to be serviced and prepared for the forthcoming offensive.  With communications between tanks so tenuous, Patton designed an ingenious system of identifying each tank with markings in the form of playing-car suits:  spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs.  There were four platoon s in each tank company, and each platoon was identified by one of the four suits.  Each of the five tanks within a platoon was given both a suit and a number.  Thus, the fifth tank in the "hearts" platoon of C Company, 344th Tank Battalion, became known as the Five of Hearts."

A great deal has been written about Patton's exploits in World War Two, but its interesting to read about how Patton commanded his troops at Battalion level in the First World War.  He may have been born and raised in California but he was the Grandson of a Confederate Colonel from Virginia.  His grandmother moved here sick and impoverished family to California as pure survival following the Civil War.  Patton's Step-Grandfather was also a former Confederate Colonel.  His father, a VMI graduate was raised Patton along with his Aunt to be a great warrior.  In spite of severe dyslexia...a learning disability which was unknown a century ago, he somehow managed through sheer drive to get accepted to VMI, then transfer and graduate from West Point. He then joined the US Cavarly and was assigned to various outposts around the Unitied States.  In 1916, he talked his way on to General Pershing's staff and served the General on the hunt for Pancho Villa in the Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916.  A year later, he was again sent to France on Pershing's staff...one of the first Americans in France.  However Patton, was never suited to be a staff officer, and he jumped at the chance to command in combat...even if what he had to command was a new and unproven weapon called a "tank". 

You'll see lots of  WW2 Patton quotes but not many from WW1.  Here are some more Patton quotes from Carlos D'Este's book:

"If you are left alone in the midst of the enemy keep shooting. If your gun is diabled use your pistols and squash the enemy with your tracks...remember that you are the first American tanks. You must establish the fact that AMERICAN TANKS DO NOT SURRENDER....As long as one tank is able to move it must go forward. Its presence will save the lives of hundreds of infantry and kill many Germans....This is our BIG CHANCE; WHAT WE HAVE WORKED FOR...MAKE IT WORTHWHILE."

"go forward, go forward.  If your tank breaks down go forward with the Infantry.  There will be no excuse for your failure in this, and if I find any tank officer behind the front line of infantry, I will.....: "

"General R. (Rockenbach) gave me hell for going up but it had to be done.  At least I will not sint in a dug out and have my men out fighting."

One might think Patton was incapable of mistakes given his expoits on the battlefield but he was his own worst critic and was known to admit it:

"Sometimes I think I am not such a great commander after all.  Just a fighting animal.  Still I will improve in time. At least if one learns by mistakes I ought to be wise.  I have made all there are (to make)."

"One has a sort of involuntary fear of bullets but not a concrete fear of being hit." 

Do you get a sense of what Patton would be capable of 25 years later in WW2?  Many people do not know this but George C. Marshall, who was the First Army G-3 and planned most of the Muese-Argonne Offensive in 1918, kept a little black book of Army Officers he thought were capable of strong leadership.  In spite of his rough edges, Marshall took note of the young Colonel during the First World War.  As Army Chief of Staff to Franklin Roosevelt, in World War 2, Marshall and Eisenhower (who was also an early tanker and studied with Patton in the 20's) made sure Patton was promoted to General and given a command. 

This helmet is in very good condition.  The liner is complete with the chinstrap.  The paint is in great condition with a bit of light rust here and there.  There were hundreds of thousands who served under Patton in World War 2, but only a few hundred in World War One.  A great early American helmet from one of the very first US tankers!

Item# 0920




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