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Two Famous World War II Generals
From Los Angeles County

Generals George S Patton Jr and James H Doolitte Arrive in Los Angeles, 1945

Gen. George Patton, Jr. (left) and Lt. Gen. James Doolittle arrive in Los Angeles from Europe for a home state welcome back. Patton's Third Army was occupying a portion of a surrendered Germany and Doolittle headed to the Pacific to lead his Eighth Air Force against Japan. AP Photo from the collection of The National World War II Museum.

George S. Patton, Jr.
General, U.S. Army

Generals Bradley, Eisenhower and Patton Meet in Bastogne, 1944

General George S. Patton, Jr. (left) meets with Generals Omar N. Bradley (right) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (center) in Bastogne, 1944. U.S. Army Photo in National Archives.

George S. Patton, Jr. commanded the U.S. Seventh Army in Africa and Italy and U.S. Third Army in France and Germany in America's war against Nazi Germany, from 1942 through 1945. He was famously known for his aggressive, relentless, fast-moving battlefield tactics. Although his nickname, "Old Blood and Guts," was thought to suggest that he sacrificed troops to take more territory, he was actually highly successful at exploiting terrrain and other factors to become one of the war's most successful generals at capturing large amounts of territory with the least casualties.

Patton was born in 1885 in what is now San Marino (his birth home remains there as a private residence). His maternal grandfather was Benjamin “Don Benito” Davis Wilson, an early settler in Mexican Los Angeles who became one of the largest landowners in the Los Angeles area and the second elected U.S. mayor of Los Angeles. Patton’s family ended up owning Rancho San Pasqual, a land tract that encompassed modern-day Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, San Marino and San Gabriel. Patton’s father, George S. Patton, served as Pasadena’s first City Attorney and later as Los Angeles County’s 19th District Attorney (1886-1887). Patton, Jr., was schooled at home until age eleven, after which he attended Stephen Clark’s School for Boys in Pasadena. Counting a lineage of soldiers, on his father’s side, extending back to the American Revolution, Patton never saw any other career for himself other than in the military. In 1904, he initiated his post-secondary education at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Virginia, where his father and grandfather had attended. One year later, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated from there in 1909 and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

On December 8, 1945, not long after the end of the war, Patton died from injuries from an automobile accident. In accordance with his request that he be buried alongside his men, he is buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Luxembourg, where some Third Army war casualties are also buried.

James "Jimmy" H. Doolittle
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army Air Forces

James Doolittle, Marc Mitscher, USS Hornet, 1942

Then Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle (front center left) with U.S.S. Hornet Captain Marc A. Mitscher pose on the ship's deck, surrounded by a 500-pound bomb and Doolittle's aircrew members, prior to the bombing raid on Japan. Photo from Naval History and Heritage Command.

After suffering military disasters at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and in the Philippines, American morale was at a low at the beginning of its war with the Empire of Japan. The U.S. military was eager to find a way to strike back. In early 1942, newly-promoted U.S. Army Air Forces Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle volunteered to put together a highly secret mission that would be America’s first air attack on the Japanese homeland. Doolittle assembled 80 aircrew members in Florida who trained to launch B-25 bombers from a short and narrow runway. The plan was to launch from the deck of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific. The bombers would proceed to strike military targets in major Japanese cities, then fly to safety in friendly parts of China. The daring bombing mission, known as the “Doolittle Raid,” was carried out in April 1942, launching 16 B-25 bombers from the deck of the carrier U.S.S. Hornet. The aircraft dropped bombs on five major cities in Japan, although only inflicting negligible damage. The effect on American morale, however, was enormous. Doolittle and his crews became overnight national heroes. Of the 80 airmen involved in the raid, 69 safely returned home, including Doolittle himself. Three were killed and eight captured by the Japanese (four survived captivity). Only one aircraft survived destruction. For leading the raid, Doolittle received the Medal of Honor. He went on to be quickly promoted and eventually in command of the U.S. Eighth Air Force in Europe and in the Pacific for the remainder of the war.

Doolittle was born in 1896 in Alameda, California. His father, Frank Doolittle, moved his wife and son to the gold fields of Alaska in 1900, hoping to strike it rich. There, the young Doolittle learned to survive in the tough environment, learning dogsledding, tinkering with tools and fighting in the street. In 1908, his mother, Rosa, separated from Doolittle’s father and returned with her 11-year-old street-wise son to California, settling in Los Angeles. Young Doolittle went on to attend Manual Arts High School and, later, Los Angeles City College. His tough experience from Alaska led him to become an accomplished competitive boxer. While in high school, Doolittle attended the 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet at Dominguez Field. That experience ignited a passion for aviation, ultimately leading him into his career in military aviation.