By Becca Owsley, Fort Knox News Contributing WriterApril 7, 2017
Years after competing in the inaugural Olympic Modern Pentathlon, Gen. George Patton was posthumously inducted into the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne Hall of Fame.
When he competed Patton was a 26-year-old lieutenant and finished fifth in the event that was held in 1912 in Stockholm.
The induction was Feb. 23 at the opening ceremony for the
2017 World Cup 1 pentathlon competition in Los Angeles.
"Patton participated in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games during a time when athletes did not compete for participation, but rather were sought out and invited to take part in the games," Amber Hills, collections manager at the General George Patton Museum of Leadership said. "The training programs were then left up to the individual athletes to devise in preparation."
Patton, she said, was the first U.S. Army officer to participate in the Modern Pentathlon. He joined the team in May and only had a few months to train for the games in July.
"Patton adopted a strict training regimen in order to push himself, specifically in running and swimming which were his two weakest events," Hills said. "Patton trained like he fought, mercilessly and with little regard for personal safety."
This trait followed Patton throughout his life, she said, adding it "framed the cognitive strategies of his military career."
According to Hills, the pentathlon consisted of a pistol competition, fencing, 300-meter swimming event, steeple-chase and the 4,000-meter cross-country run.
"Patton pushed himself to the point of physical exhaustion, needing assistance out of the pool after placing sixth in the swim event, as well as collapsing in a dead faint after crossing the finish line in the run, having staggered the last 50 meters to take third place," she said.
While historians have not focused on the impact the games had on his life, Hills believes it had a big impact.
"Patton's leadership style greatly reflects the motivation, determination and the achievements of his Olympic experience," she said.
His involvement in the fencing portion shaped his training of the cavalry, she said.
"Impressed with Patton's fencing skills, despite his limited experience, Patton was invited to study fencing under a master swordsman in France after the Olympic Games," she said. "This experience and training then formed the foundations for the Swordsmanship Badge training and certification program that Patton created alongside designing the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber that was adopted by the Army."
Col. J.J. Love of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command accepted the honor on Patton's behalf.
"It's a great honor to receive this for Gen. Patton," Love said in a press release. "He was one of the pioneers of Soldier-athletes, competing in the first modern Olympic games in 1912 and paving the way for the support that we have now for the Army, not only in modern pentathlon, but the rest of the Olympics."
Army Olympians and Soldiers who serve around the world will continue to help support the Olympic movement, he said.
Hills said one of the goals of the Patton Museum is to emphasize the humanity of Patton.
"His involvement in the 1912 Olympics is a testament to his strong-will and drive to succeed," she said. "Patton belongs in the Hall of Fame not because he is an idol to be placed on a pedestal, but because Patton struggled throughout his life, as evidenced in his Olympic performance, and because he is like you and me able to overcome adversity all the same."