NAVAL COMMANDER LOCKS HORNS WITH GEN. PATTON

THE HUMAN RACE

 

WORLD WAR II MEMORIES OF GEN.’BLOOD-AND-GUTS’ PATTON

 

     Naval Commander Lloyd J. Ellis wasn’t about to let “Old Blood and Guts” intimidate him. As Gen. George S. Patton boarded

the troop carrier, anchored off the coast of Southern Italy, Ellis

stepped forward and snapped a salute.

     Only then did he notice that Patton had a pit bull terrier on a leash. “Hey, sir! You can’t bring that dog aboard this ship. Dogs are nothing but bad luck!” barked the husky young officer.

     “Is that so?” growled the legendary general pleasantly.

     “No animals allowed aboard this ship, sir! That’s the rule.”

     “Let’s you and I go to your office and we’ll talk about that… rule,” said Patton.

     Ellis was 78-years-old and living in a convalescent home when he told me this story in 1989.

     Of course, the confrontation with Patton took place aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, a troop carrier. It was in the midst of World War II and marked the beginning of what Ellis described as a shipboard friendship with the famous general, transporting him and hid Third Army troops across the Mediterranean.

     Twice, recalled Ellis, he brought Patton into two major battles in Southern France. As he stood barring Patton and his bull dog from boarding the ship, he recalled these words of old Blood and Guts: “Let me tell you something, mister Admiral. A smart man will sometimes change his mind. But a fool never will.  What are you????”

     “I gave in,” said Ellis. Let him keep the damn dog, but made him promisethat he wouldn’t let it eat in the dining room. That was a laugh. He fed his dog scraps at his table.

     “It was quite a sight. Patton marching around the deck with those pearl-handled Colts with that dog at his heels. I think he called him Willie. It was the ugliest pooch I’ve ever seen. A steward would follow them around, cleaning up its messes.”

     Ellis said he developed a “close friendship and respect” for Patton. On land and aboard two troop carriers, he transported the general and his GI’s into two invasions in Southern France. He also helped evacuate Patton’s troops from Southern Italy.

     “We did get into a lot of quarrels. But he always chose to ride on our ship. I guess that was because he liked to argue. We did a little bit of drinking, too. He drank nothing but Scotch — White Horse — out of the bottle.”

     Ellis recalled teasing Patton about his pistols. “Aboard ship, he usually wore a campaign cap, infantry boots, with them guns on his hips. One time I told him something like, ‘I figure the only reason a man would carry two pistols is that he’s scared!’      “He didn’t appreciate that. He told me, ‘If you’re so fucking brave, how come you didn’t join the Army?'”

     Having seen so many of his shipmates die, and having lost a younger brother in the war, Ellis a times was embittered about the mounting Allied death tolls.

     When he brought the subject up, he quoted Patton saying, “Don’t tell me any stories about death. I’ve seen too much of it!”

     Another time Ellis laughed when Patton told him that he wanted to personally shoot Hitler. “He said, ‘Don’t you laugh! That son of a bitch gave me trouble in North Africa, Sicily, and all over Italy. I’m personally going to shoot his ass — in Berlin.”

     Aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, Ellis and Patton were present when a dog,smuggled aboard by Patton’s troops, gave birth to three pups — a male and two females.

     “The next morning at breakfast, he named the male Thomas, and the females, W. and Hyde after the name of our ship. When we landed the troops in Naples, they [infantrymen] took them ashore.

     In Toulon, a seaport city in Southern France, Ellis claimed he brought Patton and an Army lieutenant to brothel. “It was above a bar. There were two armed Germans hiding in a closet. The lieutenant wounded both of them. I don’t want to say anymore.

     “After they hauled them away, Patton called me a sap and said they could have killed us. Then he joked: ‘It wouldn’t have mattered if they shot you. But I’m not ready to die.”

     Ellis described Patton as “an intelligent man, He cared about his troops. He was hard headed with a good sense of humor. Told a lot of jokes — the kind you’d never tell in a Baptist Church. He had this thing about being the ancestor of ancient warriors. I never took him seriously about that.

     The last time Ellis recalled being with Patton was aboard the Hyde. “We shook hands. I told him that I was going to try and get

a pass to Berlin; that I wanted to go to Hitler’s funeral. He thought I was serious. But I was just ribbing him.”

     General Patton, whose military career under his “mentor” John J. Pershing fighting Poncho Villa in 1916, died in Germany on December 21, 1945. Ironically, the cause of death wasn’t from a bullet or bomb. He suffered fatal injuries in an automobile accident.

     The reason I met the retired Naval and Maritime commander Ellis was when the then-mayor Katy Geissert) of Torrance, California, told me about an old serviceman in a convalescent home who had his American flag stolen. She said it had been autographed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. So I never saw the flag. And I’ve always wondered about the creditability of Comdr. Ellis’s story. Yet, during several long interviews, the old salt convinced me that truth was his weapon. And I loved every hour of it.

     I know you’re no longer with us, Lloyd, but it’s Veteran’s Day,  commander. Wherever you are, keep talking about those war experiences. Hope you  got your American flag returned.

 

         — Boots LeBaron

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