Patton, motorcycles and guardian angels
Bill Burton spoke at length with Kelly Messerschmidt, the communications manager at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Here are some excerpts from their conversation:
Gen. George Patton:
I was in the Army for five years. Under General Patton. And General Patton slapped a lil old boy in the hospital in Sicily. Well he slapped two of them, there in the hospital. I was visiting there, one of our boys had been hurt, and me and another fellow, and the hospital was about 40x60; we were at the other end, but when he slapped that youngun’, you could hear it all the way where we were, heard it all across the hospital. [Why did he slap him?] That little ol boy said, ‘your blood and our guts.’ That’s how he got the name Blood and Guts Patton. I witnessed all that.
We made an invasion of North Africa Nov the 8th, 1942. And I was riding a motorcycle then, that year. This was my third and final motorcycle. I tore up two, woke up in the hospital two times. I rode this one three years.
Belgium and camaraderie:
One time, this was in Belgium, in a place, there’s an old boy, and a crew, and a Sherman tank pulled in about where I was. I asked him if I could sleep under his tank at night because out there you have no protection. He said, “Nah, I can’t let you do that because when they call me, I’ve got to go then.” I said, “Well, I’ll be right over here, against a wall, a rock wall, so don’t run over me.” They had some canned ham. “Boy,” he says, “you had any supper?” I said “no.” He made me a couple of ham sandwiches and some coffee, and boy that was good, good, good.”
A guardian angel:
This [soldier] was digging up a bomb. The ol’ lieutenant was sitting on a hood of a truck drinking wine. I stopped, he said, “You want some of this wine?” I said, “No sir, I don’t want none.” He says, “This one’s still ticking.” Boy … I said, “Man get the heck away from here, and do it now!” And I took off, and I got about 75-80 yards and that thing went off. It killed every one of them. I went back, when the debris quit falling. I went back; that’s where that guardian come in, that time.