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Patch, Alexander McCarrell, Jr. (1889-1945)


Photograph of Alexander Patch

National Archives

Alexander Patch was an army brat who attended Lehigh University for a year before attending West Point (class of 1913.)  He participated in the Punitive Expedition in Mexico and saw front-line service in the First World War, directing the Army Machine Gun School and participating in the battles of Aisne-Marne, Saint-Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. He rose slowly through the ranks after the war, spending an extraordinary 12 years as a professor of military science and tactics at Staunton Military Academy in Virginia between 1921 and 1936, interrupted only by study at the Command and General Staff School in 1925 and the Army War College in 1932.  As a member of the Infantry Board, Patch helped develop the triangular division table of organization and was a brigadier general in command of the Infantry Replacement Center at the start of the war. 

In January 1942 Patch was sent to New Caledonia to organize the defenses.  He took the initiative to organize the Americal Division from independent regiments, left over by the triangularization of the 26 and 33 Divisions, that had been rushed to the island for its defense, then trained the division to a high degree of readiness. He was promoted to major general on 10 March 1942. In October 1942 he was sent with his division to Guadalcanal where the division distinguished itself in combat during the final months of the campaign there.  In February of 1943 Patch returned to the United States and spent the remainder of the war in command of large formations in Europe. He died abruptly in November 1945 while directing a study of postwar defense reorganization.

Patch was a superb trainer of troops and was known for his energy and drive, coupled with a deep concern for his soldiers. His concern for the victims of war was unusual for a military leader.  However, he was also a strict disciplinarian with a ferocious temper.  His weak lungs limited his effectiveness, and his alcoholism, aggravated by the loss of a son in the European war, may have contributed to his early death. His taciturn manner and difficulty expressing himself meant that he often made a poor first impression, though his dry sense of humor helped win colleagues over.

Service record

1889-11-23    

Born at Fort Huachuca
1913
Second Lieutenant     
Graduates from West Point, standing 75 in a class of 93. Assigned to 13 Regiment.
1925

Graduates with distinction from the Command and General Staff School
1932

Graduates from Army War College
1942-1
Brigadier general
Commander, Americal Division
1942-3-10
Major general

1943-1-2

Commander, XIV Corps
1943-4

Commander, IV Corps
1944-1

Commander, 7 Army
1944-8-7
Lieutenant general

1945-7-23

Commander, 4 Army
1945-11-21

Dies

References

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Generals.de (accessed 2007-11-17)

Perret (1991)

Taaffe (2011)


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