K Troop 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment

The Blackhorse In Vietnam 1966 - 1972

hosted by Bob Hersey

George Patton Eulogized At Funeral Service

The Patton Children Remember Their Famous Dad.

July 7, 2004
by Bob Hersey

I first met George Smith Patton when he commanded the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam. He took command in July of 1968. I had already been in country three months. I remember two meetings with the general, although, there were probably more. He was tall, like his father but unlike his father he carried a standard issue .45 caliber automatic pistol. When I left Vietnam and the regiment and Colonel Patton behind I had no way to know that 35 years later I would find myself, along with my wife Hellen, attending his funeral in a little Episcopal Church in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. So, here we are, July 7, 2004 saying a final farewell to my commander, someone who I didn’t really know well, except by those two meetings I mentioned and by his reputation.

I learned of the then Colonel and now retired Maj. General Patton’s death on the message board at 11thcavnam.com, the website of the 11th Armored Cavalry’s Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia. I had, for a long time, known that the general and I were practically neighbors. George Patton, Portsmouth, England 1980He, along with his wife Joanne, live 50 minutes south of us in Hamilton, Massachusetts, an area that marks the beginning of Cape Ann on the North Shore of Boston.

We left home at 8:00 A.M. expecting traffic delays but didn’t find any so we were among the first to arrive at St. John’s Episcopal Church, the church of the Patton family. The bell in the tower of the church was donated in memory of George’s father, Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. George’s parents were married there on May 26, 1910.

We went into the office and met the church secretary who gave us a little history of the church saying that it was over 100 years old. It’s small but perfectly suited for what was once a sparsely populated community and in some ways still remains so. As we walked up to the front entrance of the church we noticed that the hearse was parked nearby. We were greeted by the usher who handed us each a program. We took seats down the center isle, six rows from the front. The first few rows were reserved for family and the left isle seats for the honor guard, The Ancient and Honorable Order Of The Massachusetts Artillery, of which General Patton was a member.

Shortly before 10:00 the family was escorted into the church led by Joanne, George’s wife and the five Patton children, Robert, Helen, Benjamin, Mother Margaret Georgina, OSB and George S. Patton, Jr. The general’s body lie at the foot of the altar. His casket - a plain pine coffin made and offered by the nuns and extended family of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut from the wood grown on the Abbey land. The lid of the coffin had three emblems - a wooden cross, the insignias of the 2nd Armored Division and the 11th Armored Cavalry "Blackhorse" Regiment, units commanded by the general.

Along with the immediate family the first few rows and the choir loft behind the altar began to fill with Patton’s large family. When the funeral service began promptly at 10:00 the church was filled with some standing along the walls and in the back of the church. The large attendance was a fitting tribute to a man who was larger than life.

The Rev. Wendel W. Meyer, Rector began by welcoming everyone and telling us that this funeral service, "was not for George Patton but rather, was about George Patton. And, he was right. Robert, Helen, Mother Margaret and Benjamin along with his brother George all spoke of what life was like, "growing up Patton".

Robert spoke first and told us about his father three passions, hunting, fishing and sailing. Robert said that his father agreed with everyone that he "was not very good at any of them". He recalled his father’s hunting dog, a black lab named Pistol, who was terrified of gunfire and would run off every time the general shot at his prey but the general would not get rid of the dog. When Robert’s father wanted to go fishing he would call up his buddies and say, "let’s go whack at the water and see what turns up".

One time, Robert recounted, he, his father and others in the family were sailing in the Caribbean. Robert was down below when his father called him. "We’re going to dock. Take the wheel". "But dad", said Robert, "I haven't done this in a long time". "That’s Ok", said the general, "you’ll do fine". When Robert rammed the dock he said to his father, "See, I told you I wasn’t any good". The general replied, "that’s Ok, I knew one of us would ram the dock. Better you than me".

Robert went on to recount the last few days of his father’s life when the general was so sick with Parkinson’s disease. He spoke of the time when his son was sitting with the general by his bedside. "Is there anything I can do for you grandfather". "Yes", the general replied, "I just need you to be my friend".

Robert went on to share a very personal moment that spoke to his father’s capacity to forgive. One day, Robert’s wife and the general were in a heated argument over the phone. Robert’s wife slammed the phone down on the general. Thirty minutes later, a knock came to their door. There, to Robert’s wife’s surprise, were a dozen, long-stem yellow roses with a note of apology from her father-in-law. Robert went on to say that his father was quick to anger but quicker to forgive. He also said that his father often got on the wrong side of people. He described his father as, "an equal opportunity offender".

Helen Patton-Plusczyk, George’s daughter, spoke about her remembrances of Christmas and how each year, the five of them would put on a Christmas play. It so happens, that Christmas eve was her father’s birthday, having been born on December 24, 1923. She also remembers her father "going off to Vietnam". His duffel bag was filled to overflowing, the draw strings on the bag reined in its contents. She often associated the strings of the duffel bag with events in her father’s life that "reined him in", too.

Hellen and I met Benjamin at the August reunion of the 11th ACVVC in Washington, DC. He came to the podium with his older brother George. Benjamin recounted the friendship that his father had with Manfred Romel. Manfred said of the general, "he has a way of simplifying the complicated". Benjamin went on to speak for his brother George who spoke a heartfelt goodbye to his father. They received the only ovation of applause during the service.

Lastly, Mother Margaret spoke to the side of her father that enjoyed poetry. She quoted from one of her father’s favorite poets, Rudyard Kipling’s "If". "If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run - Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son"! Mother Margaret also read excerpts of General Douglas McArthur’s poem, "Build Me A Son". It is Mother Margaret’s religious order that made her father’s coffin.

The service ended an hour and half after it began. Before the dismissal, the rector, on behalf of the family, invited everyone to a luncheon reception at the family home of Green Meadows Farm. Hellen and I retrieved our car and followed a white Jeep through the gently rolling hills, winding narrow roads and gorgeous meadow lands that is the Beverly / Hamilton area.

When we arrived at Green Meadows at 650 Asbury Street there was already a line of cars parked along the road in front of the colonial building home to the Patton family.  The estate of the late Gen. Patton of WWII fame was divided between George and his sister, Ruth Ellen Patton Totten.  Ruth Ellen, now deceased, bought a retirement home nearby.  She lived there until her death in 1992.

We walked up the short walkway to the front door and waited behind several guests waiting to enter. The door was held open for us by a young man in a white, starched serving jacket. As we entered we were greeted by Mother Margaret. We introduced ourselves and she invited us in. In the parlor were Benjamin and his wife, Jennifer. We reminded Benjamin of our meeting in DC and he said to be sure to visit his father’s study and thumb through the general’s scrapbook and photo album given to him by the officers and men of the 11th ACR upon his departure from the regiment in April of 1969 but first we had to offer our sympathy to Joanne, the general’s wife. She was in the screened porch at the back of the house that led out into the back yard. Mrs. Patton graciously welcomed us into her home and after a brief story about her husband we exited out to the yard where a large white tent was set up.

We wet our whistle at one of the two bars that was set up and then proceeded to mingle among the guests. The day was perfect, sunny and warm without being too hot. One of the guests joked that the general ordered up the weather for the day. Trays of finger foods were carried about the tent and offered to us by the staff. As I was sipping my gin and tonic I noticed a Lt. Colonel in uniform with a Blackhorse lapel pin. I was wearing one as well so I stopped him and asked when he was in the regiment. He was Charlie Watkin’s Col. Patton’s helicopter pilot. It was a delight to meet him and his wife. Charlie spoke about the times that Col. Patton was shot down, "four or five times", he thought.

We also met John Morrison, a family friend of the last 12 years. John is a military history buff, particularly WWII. He was a wellspring of information about the Patton family. He said that a friend or relative of his was making a Blackhorse plaque and asked if he would make another so that he could present it to the general, which he did, three years ago.  He said that the general held the plaque tightly and his eyes gleamed with pride.

As the afternoon went on people began to leave and so we decided to leave but first, we went into the general’s study to look at the albums that Benjamin asked us to see when we first arrived. There is no mistaking whose house this is. There is Patton memorabilia everywhere, especially the study. It was too much to absorb in just the few moments that we had. The general and his father’s likeness are everywhere in paintings and photographs. We looked at the album of the general’s service in Vietnam when Benjamin came in and showed us the older and more personal family album. The wedding photos of his parents, his siblings growing up and those famous and not so famous who came by Green Meadow Farm to visit.

Off of the study is the general’s office. We entered to find his desk facing into the room and away from the window. Again, totally Patton everywhere. A small office but suitable for his needs. We didn’t linger long because a few of the family were there and we didn’t want to intrude on their privacy.

It was now 3:00 P.M. and time to leave. We said our good-byes to the children and found Joanne at the front door assisting a guest in a wheelchair who was leaving. We gave her a sympathy card and thanked her for her and her family’s hospitality. She graciously asked me if I would give her hug and I happily obliged. Such a delightful and beautiful woman. We are better for having met her and for sharing this day with her in her grief.

Let me close by sharing with you three quotes that appear on the back of the funeral service program.

"Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. And never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won" . . . . . USMA Cadet Prayer.

"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch . . . If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run . . . Rudyard Kipling

"Keep an equal strain on your moving parts! . . . . Major General George S. Patton


General Patton's remains are interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA in Section 34, Lot 784.


Bob Hersey served with K Troop, 11th ARC in Vietnam 1968 -'69  under the command of Col. George S. Patton.  He resides in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with his wife Hellen.  Bob is webmaster of KTroop.com.


Gen. Patton's Hearse

St. John's Episcopal Church

At The Altar

General Patton's Home

Green Meadows Farm

Overlooking The Meadow

The Reception

George S. Patton, Jr

The General's Cannon

Bookcase In His Study

The General's Decorations

The Sign He Had In Vietnam

The General's Scrapbook

Funeral Program - Front Cover

Funeral Program - P.1

Funeral Program - P.2

Funeral Program - Back Cover

Hamilton / Wenham Chronicle General Patton's Hometown Newspaper (Reprint)

Other Links To This Story
Photos Of Gen. Patton's Internment - Arlington National Cemetery by John Van Nus.
Washington Post
For More on the death of General Patton Go To The 11th ACVVC website.

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