September 11, 2015 | Posted in 1st Doggies
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had has dog “Falla”, President Richard Nixon had “Checkers” and First Lady Barbara Bush had her canine pal Millie. But perhaps the most unusual historical pairing was between one of the greatest combat commanders of all time, nicknamed “Old Blood and Guts”, General George Patton, and his almost constant companion, a white bull terrier named Willie.
The tough-as-nails general would soften considerably around Willie, calling him his best friend, and Willie returned the love, being highly protective and loyal to Patton.
The pair were brought together when Patton was stationed in England in 1944. He’d had a soft spot for bull terriers since growing up with them as a young man in Southern California.
Willie (then named Punch) first belonged to a soldier who was killed. Patton heard of this and acquired the dog, re-naming him Willie for William the Conqueror.
The dog was young (about 15 months) when he arrived and still did puppy things such as chewing furniture or stealing Patton’s belt and pistol. Amazingly, the general tolerated this.
The pair became nearly inseparable. Willie sat in on top secret meetings with other generals, stood near Patton during speeches and of course went on private walks with his human.
Patton even threw him a welcome party/belated birthday party, since Willie arrived after his first birthday. Close staff members were invited and Willie sat at the table enjoying dinner and a cake.
Patton revealed his love for canines by asking an officer a thought-provoking question once: “What does God spell backwards?”
So in tune were the pair that when Patton was relieved of his high-ranking post as Commanding General of the Third Army by General Dwight Eisenhower over some highly insensitive comments made by Patton during a speech, Willie sensed the demotion and slouched, going into a temporary depression.
In December, 1945, Patton planned to return to the United States on a one-month leave. Before departing Europe, however, he left for a hunting trip. A forlorn Willie was surprisingly left behind. They would not see one another again.
Patton’s Cadillac was hit by a U.S. Army truck and Patton’s neck was broken during the accident. He lingered in the hospital for days before passing away on December 21.
Again, Willie sensed the gravity of the situation, becoming lethargic. When Patton’s belongings were packed up and awaiting shipment to Patton’s Massachusetts home, Willie laid next to them, guarding them for his general.
Willie, too, was sent to Massachusetts to live out his years with Patton’s widow Beatrice. Beatrice passed in 1953 and Willie passed shortly thereafter. The beloved bull terrier was buried on the grounds of the Patton home.
The Patton Memorial Museum outside Palm Springs, California is devoted to Patton. It sits on the site of what was once his Desert Training Center, where he trained soldiers to prepare for battle in extreme heat before they were sent to North Africa. Memorabilia including uniforms, jeeps (one bearing a license plate reading Willie), and many other items fill the museum. The touching photo of Willie grieving as he sits with Patton’s belongings following the general’s death hangs in a special place of honor.
Fittingly, a large statue at the entrance to the museum features Patton with Willie at his side, greeting all who visit. They are immortalized together to this day.