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George Patton Watters checks out a painting of his famous grandfather, Gen. George S. Patton, at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Tuesday.

George Patton Watters checks out a painting of his famous grandfather, Gen. George S. Patton, at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Tuesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — It’s been six decades since Gen. George S. Patton Jr. sat behind the desk stored in the entrance to the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Grafenwöhr.

When his grandson, George Patton Waters, stepped behind the desk during a visit to the Camp Normandy facility on Tuesday, it appeared that the great man was back from the dead.

Waters, 67, is the spitting image of his famous granddad. It became obvious when he handed NCO Academy commandant Command Sgt. Maj. Hu Rhodes a reproduction of an oil painting of Patton that he keeps at his North Carolina home.

But while Waters has the "Old Blood and Guts" aquiline gaze, white hair and balding pate, he doesn’t carry pearl-handled revolvers or spit four-letter words.

The business-suit-wearing civilian is quietly spoken and humble about his roots.

"I’m not General Patton. I served in the Navy. I went to Vietnam and after five years I decided I didn’t want to stay in. I have a real estate operation in Louisiana these days," Waters said.

He came to Grafenwöhr to thank troops for their good work, he said.

Waters wasn’t sure if Gen. Patton ever came to the training area but recalled that his grandfather captured 83,000 square miles of enemy territory in Europe during World War II.

Waters also stopped by the Grafenwöhr Library in the afternoon to check out a pair of Gen. Patton’s boots, a field jacket and other personal items that he loaned the library.

Waters was 5 when his grandfather died Dec. 21, 1945, from injuries suffered in a vehicle crash earlier that month in Germany.

"I called him ‘Old Patton,’ " recalled Waters, who remembered sitting on the great general’s knee and watching soldiers snap to attention when the pair toured a hospital in Washington, D.C.

"We didn’t talk a lot about the war. I sat in his lap and got slapped by him. I didn’t know what he did for a living," he said.

What would Gen. Patton be doing if he were in today’s military?

"If he were alive today we wouldn’t be where we are. In 1945, he was a liberator. He was not interested in the political world. We have to have some politicians in there now. General Patton was not a politician. It was his way or don’t bother to try," he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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