By Marty Rosen
On Christmas Eve in 1945, General George S. Patton was buried, at the request of his wife, under a plain white cross in Luxembourg alongside some 6,000 soldiers who had served with him during his Third Army’s crucial drive through France and the Battle of the Bulge a year earlier.
On the day of Patton’s funeral, all the Allied nations honored him, but it was his troops – the men who had nicknamed him “Old Blood and Guts” – who best expressed Patton’s spirit. They presented an evergreen wreath with a three-word inscription: “To Our Leader.”
Patton’s genius for leadership is legendary, with historians ranking him among the greatest motivators in military history. And now, the full depth of Patton’s impact (and leadership in all its dimensions, in fact) can be explored in the newly rededicated, technology-rich General George Patton Museum of Leadership at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Previously known as the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor, the museum reopened in June 2013 after a three-year, $5 million dollar overhaul.
A High-Tech Marvel
And the new facility is a marvel! On a recent visit, I found a moving, thought-provoking mix of exhibits and high technology that will inspire and enlighten anyone with an interest in American history, or leadership in general.
Many exhibits tell the story of Patton from his childhood to his death. His 1938 Cadillac staff car is on display, as is the saber he designed for the U.S. Cavalry in 1913, when the young Lieutenant Patton was a fencing instructor and became the first U.S. Army officer to hold the title “Master of the Sword.”
A few years later, Patton would become one of America’s first experts in mechanized and tank warfare, and the museum won’t disappoint those with a taste for big iron. There are massive tanks (some of the behemoths weigh in at 60 tons or so) as well as an 8-inch howitzer, the Army’s big gun of the 20th century. Other weaponry on display includes light artillery, automatic weapons and handguns from every era.
For some, those exhibits will be pleasure enough. But they’re placed in a rich context that explores the nature of leadership in all forms. Patton’s leadership philosophy – his colorful way with words, his dashing style, his emphasis on leading from the front – gets lots of attention..
But there are other lessons to be learned as well – from the Battle of Chapultepec in the Mexican-American War and the dramatic evacuation of 100,000 U.N. and U.S. forces from Hungnam North Korea in 1950, to the War in Vietnam, the role of first responders in the 9/11 attacks and from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
These are stories of decision-making, courage and sacrifice in challenging times.
Augmented Reality Experience
Powerful as the physical galleries are, they’re just a part of the experience. The General George Patton Museum of Leadership is a leader among American museums in the use of cutting-edge “Augmented Reality” technology to enrich the narrative.
Folks who carry a smartphone or tablet should visit their app store or the museum website to download the Patton augmented reality app. Throughout the museum, you can scan special markers that enable you to view photo galleries and video footage selected from the museum archives to show Patton (and others) in action. More interactive opportunities are being deployed, including some that give visitors the opportunity to test themselves against strategic decisions that have faced leaders of the past.
The experience extends outside the museum’s walls, as well.
On the grounds, visitors can walk the stately, tree-lined Armor Unit Memorial Park, a garden of stone monuments that pays quiet tribute to the many armored units that fought over the last century. Outside, you’ll also find an array of tanks and artillery, and a full-scale restored World War II Army barracks.
The General George Patton Museum of Leadership is free and open to the public Tuesday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Saturdays and federal holidays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Closed on Jan. 1, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day and December 23, 2013-January 2, 2014.)
For more information, call 502-624-3812 or visit www.generalpatton.org.
Other Things to See & Do
Nearby Fort Knox offers a rich menu of “Morale, Welfare and Recreational” activities, such as swimming, golf, concerts, bowling, author appearances and dining facilities that are open to all, including the civilian public. For event information, check out www.knoxmwr.com. (Note a valid driver’s license or other identification is required for adult visitors.)
Eating on the base offers a sense of adventure, and an opportunity to get a look at the grounds of historic Fort Knox, although photography is prohibited. To check out dining options – including a coffee shop, Lee’s China Bistro, the Saber & Quill and others – visit http://www.knoxmwr.com/.
Located between 31W and Fort Knox, Saunders Springs Nature Preserve is a mixed hardwood forest with trails (including handicapped-accessible trails), picnic areas and 19th century log cabins. And just a few miles away, history buffs can spend a fascinating hour or two at Fort Duffield, the largest earthworks fortress in Kentucky which also offers hiking and mountain bike trails.
The area also offers a mix of both national and locally-owned hotels and motels. For more information on accommodations – and all there is to see and do in the Radcliff/Fort Knox area – call or visit www.radclifftourism.org!
If You Go:
- Radcliff/Fort Knox Travel and Tourism Commission, 270-352-1204, 800-334-7540, www.radclifftourism.org
- Fort Knox, 502-624-4985, www.knox.army.mil
- Fort Duffield, 502-992-4574, www.fortduffield.com
- Saunders Springs Nature Preserve, 270-351-1875, http://www.radclifftourism.org/saunderssprings.shtml
- Colton’s Steakhouse & Grill, 270-319-4939, www.coltonssteakhouse.com
- Deutsche Ecke Bakery & Café, 270-352-5055
- Song’s Restaurant (Korean), 270-351-8080
- Woo Hoo It’s Greek Food, 270-319-4808