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General Alexander McCarrell "Sandy" Patch (November 23, 1889 – November 21, 1945) was an officer in the United States Army, best known for his service in World War II. He commanded Army and Marine forces during the invasion of Guadalcanal, and the U.S. Seventh Army in the invasion of southern France (Operation Dragoon).
Patch was born on Fort Huachuca, a cavalry post in Arizona where his father commanded a detachment. He never considered any career other than the army, and received his appointment to West Point in 1909. He wanted to follow his father into the cavalry, but realizing that they were becoming obsolete, he was commissioned into the infantry in 1913.
Prior to World War I, he served in Texas and Arizona.
In World War I Patch served as an infantry officer and as an instructor in the Army's machine gun school. While commanding troops on the front line, from June 1917 until May 1919 he joined the 18th Infantry in France participating in the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihel [sic; Mihiel], and Meuse-Argonne Offensives.
His leadership came to the attention of George C. Marshall, then a member of Gen. John Pershing's staff. During the buildup before the United States' entry into World War II, Marshall was appointed Army Chief of Staff. Marshall promoted Patch to brigadier general, and sent him to Fort Bragg to supervise the training of new soldiers there, Assigned to the 47th Infantry at Fort Bragg, N.C., August 1940.
World War II
In 1942, Patch was sent to the Pacific to organize the reinforcement and defense of New Caledonia. He took command of a loose collection of units, and formed them into the Americal Division (a name adopted on Patch's suggestion after it was proposed by a soldier in the division.) This unit first saw action in the Guadalcanal campaign. Starting in October 1942 they were brought in to relieve the valiant and malaria-ridden 1st Marine Division.
In December 1942, Patch moved up to command of the XIV Corps, and he was given charge of the entire offensive on Guadalcanal. Patch personally led troops under his command on a dangerous offensive in the Battle of Mount Austen, the Galloping Horse, and the Sea Horse to capture several fortified hills and ridges from the Japanese forces. Under his leadership, by February 1943 the Japanese were driven from Guadalcanal.
Impressed by Patch's performance on Guadalcanal, General Marshall ordered him to Europe, where he took over command of the Seventh Army from General Mark Clark.
Under Patch, the Seventh Army landed in Southern France on August 15, 1944. Patch led the Army in a fast offensive up the Rhone Valley. On September 9, near Dijon, France, it met up with elements of Patton's US Third Army that had driven east from the beaches of Normandy.
Patch suffered personal tragedy when his son, Captain Alexander M. Patch III, was killed in action on October 22, 1944, while serving as an infantry company commander in the U.S. 79th Infantry Division.
Patch retained command of the Seventh Army until the end of the war, crossing into Germany, over the Rhine River, leading the Seventh's attack on the German Siegfried Line, and then into southern Germany.
Death and legacy
In August 1945, Patch returned to the U.S. to take command of the Fourth Army, but he was soon hospitalized with lung problems. He died of pneumonia on November 21 at Brooke General Hospital, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He is buried at West Point Cemetery.
Kurmärker Kaserne, in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany, was renamed Patch Barracks in his honor on July 4, 1952.
Patch Barracks is the home of Headquarters, United States European Command (HQ USEUCOM), the supreme US military command in Europe.
Patch Barracks also has an elementary and high school named after General Patch.
Patch was promoted to brigadier general on August 4, 1941, to major general on March 10, 1942, to lieutenant general on August 18, 1944 and to general on July 19, 1954, posthumously, under Pub.L. 83-508.