Alexander Patch

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Alexander Patch
Alexander Patch portrait.jpg
Birth name Alexander McCarrell Patch
Nickname(s) "Sandy" Patch
Born (1889-11-23)November 23, 1889
Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Died November 21, 1945(1945-11-21) (aged 55)
Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Place of burial West Point Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1913–1945
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held Americal Division
XIV Corps
IV Corps
Seventh Army
Fourth Army
Battles/wars

World War I
World War II

Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal

General Alexander McCarrell "Sandy" Patch (23 November 1889 – 21 November 1945) was an officer in the United States Army, best known for his service in World War II. He commanded U.S. Army and United States Marine Corps forces during the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the Seventh Army in France and Germany. He died a few months after the end of the war.

Early career[edit]

Patch was born on Fort Huachuca, a military post in Arizona where his father commanded a detachment. He never considered any career other than the army, and received his appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1909. He wanted to follow his father into the cavalry, but realizing that it was becoming obsolete, he instead chose the infantry, and was commissioned in 1913.

During World War I, Patch served as an infantry officer and as an instructor in the Army '​s machine gun school. While he was commanding troops on the front line in France, his leadership came to the attention of George Marshall, then a member of General John J. Pershing's staff.

Marshall was appointed Army Chief of Staff in 1939, just before World War II. He promoted Patch to brigadier general, and sent him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to supervise the training of new soldiers there.

World War II[edit]

Pacific Theater[edit]

Patch was promoted to major general on 10 March 1942. In that year, he was sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations to organize the reinforcement and defense of New Caledonia. He took command of a loose collection of units, and formed them into the Americal Division (a contraction of "American, New Caledonian Division" adopted as the division '​s name on Patch '​s suggestion after it was proposed by a soldier in the division.)

The Americal Division first saw action in the Guadalcanal campaign in October 1942, when it relieved the valiant but malaria-ridden 1st Marine Division there. In December 1942, Patch moved up to command of the XIV Corps, and he was given charge of the entire offensive on Guadalcanal. Patch personally led troops under his command on a dangerous offensive in the Battle of Mount Austen, the Galloping Horse, and the Sea Horse to capture several fortified hills and ridges from Japanese forces. Under his leadership, by February 1943 the Japanese were driven from Guadalcanal.

European Theater[edit]

Impressed by Patch '​s performance on Guadalcanal, General Marshall ordered him to the European Theater of Operations, where he took over command of the Seventh Army from General Mark Clark. Under Patch, the Seventh Army landed in southern France in Operation Dragoon on 15 August 1944. Patch – who was promoted to lieutenant general on 18 August 1944 – then led the Seventh Army in a fast offensive up the Rhône valley. On 9 September 1944, near Dijon, France, it met up with the Third Army, which had driven east from Normandy. Patch suffered personal tragedy when his son, Captain Alexander M. Patch III, was killed in action on 22 October 1944 while serving as an infantry company commander in the 79th Infantry Division.

Patch stayed in command of the Seventh Army through the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, leading the Seventh Army through the Siegfried Line, over the Rhine, and then into southern Germany.

In the spring of 1945, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower offered Patch a B-25 Mitchell and pilot for his personal use. Patch turned down the offer because he wished to remain in touch with his subordinate commanders during fast-moving operations and preferred a smaller plane that could land on unimproved fields and pastures. Patch narrowly escaped injury or death on 18 April 1945, while flying from Kitzingen to Öhringen in Germany during the Battle of Nuremberg. His [Stinson L-5 Sentinel]] liaison aircraft Sea Level was intercepted by a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, but the pilot, Technical Sergeant Robert Stretton, maneuvered the L-5 so skillfully that it escaped and landed safely at Öhringen. Stretton later received the Distinguished Flying Cross for the flight.[1]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Ribbon bar with the list of General Alexander M. Patch´s decorations:

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Army Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters Navy Distinguished Service Medal Bronze Star Mexican Border Service Medal
2nd Row World War I Victory Medal with three battle clasps American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ two service stars
3rd Row European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal w/ three service stars World War II Victory Medal Companion of the Order of the Bath (United Kingdom) Commander of the Légion d'honneur (France)
4th Row Croix de guerre with palm (France) Order of Leopold II, Grand Cross (Belgium) Croix de guerre with palm (Belgium) Order of Abdon Calderón (Ecuador)

Death and legacy[edit]

In August 1945, Patch returned to the United States to take command of the Fourth Army, but he was soon hospitalized with lung problems. He died of pneumonia on 21 November 1945 at Brooke General Hospital at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He is buried at West Point Cemetery on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Kurmärker Kaserne, in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany, was renamed Patch Barracks in his honor on July 4, 1952. Patch Barracks is the home of Headquarters, United States European Command (HQ USEUCOM), the supreme American military command in Europe. Patch Barracks also has an elementary and high school named after General Patch. The United States Navy transport USNS General Alexander M. Patch (T-AP-122) was also named for General Patch. Boulevard Patch going from the main road to Pampelone Plage in Ramatuelle France is named for General Patch.

Patch was promoted posthumously to general on 19 July 1954 under Pub.L. 83–508.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Weirather, pp. 18-19.

References[edit]

  • Charles Pfannes and Victor Salamone. The Great Commanders of World War II, Volume III: The Americans. 
  • Weirather, Larry. "Saving General Patch." Aviation History, May 2012, pp. 18–19.
  • William K. Wyant (1991). Sandy Patch - A Biography of Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch. Praeger. ISBN 0-275-93454-3. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Mark Wayne Clark
Commanding General of the Seventh United States Army
March 2, 1944 to June 1945
Succeeded by
Wade H. Haislip