By Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox newsFebruary 28, 2019
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Helen Patton stepped into Maj. Gen. Frank Muth's quarters Feb. 26, and stepped back in time.
The commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command and his wife, Lesley, welcomed the granddaughter of legendary World War II tank commander Gen. George S. Patton Jr., back into the house she had lived in for two years as a young girl.
At times, Helen's tour of the Muths' home and later at the General George Patton Museum, brought tears to her eyes as she recalled memories of her father's time as commander of the U.S. Army Armor School and deputy commander of Fort Knox as well as the many stories about her grandfather she has encountered since.
"I haven't been here since 1973," Helen said. "My final memory from here was sneaking off early after my father's retirement party at the officer's club, which is near the theater, walking past the Henry House and crying my eyes out the whole way back to our quarters on 5th Avenue to say goodbye to my best friend."
Her father, then Brig. Gen. George S. Patton III, had served a tour in the Korean War and three in the Vietnam War, earning several medals for valor in both, before eventually arriving to Fort Knox with the family.
"It was the longest I had ever lived in a place," she said. "That was a big, big chunk of my life, and incredibly formative."
Helen filled in several blanks of that period in Fort Knox history with personal recollections for historians and others who met her during the visit.
"Our piano sat right there and mom played it a lot," Helen told Muth as she pointed to a corner of the front living room. "Our television sat right there," she recalled in the back room. "I remember the wonderful shows we watched."
She pointed to a chair in the front room where she said actor George C. Scott sat and talked with the family about his role as Patton in his academy-award winning portrayal. Later in the tour of the house, Lesley led Helen through a bedroom into what was once her father's office.
"When I walked through the bedroom and into his office there was no door, it was as if I banged into a door," Helen said. "I thought, 'I can't go in there!' That was the little girl's instinct in me because that was my dad's office and that was no-no because he was always afraid we would shuffle his papers."
Helen said she and Hans Van Kessell, president of 101st Airborne Division Museum in Bastogne, Belgium, along with his two sons Dennis and Marcus, came to the United States to meet with 101st Airborne Division leaders at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. They are planning for the second annual "Game That Never Happened" football game, what they call the Remembrance Bowl - the first one was played in Bastogne by Screaming Eagle Soldiers June 2, 2018. This year's game will pit Soldiers from 82nd Airborne Division against a team from 101st.
While in Kentucky, Helen's group decided to stop by Fort Knox.
After a windshield tour of the post and lunch with the Muths, the group stopped by the museum to see all the items on Patton. Alice Hart, the museum's director, sat down with Helen and discussed a myriad of things about Patton, to include the several historical artifacts they received, historical mysteries surrounding Patton and ways Helen can assist the museum.
After an extensive tour of the museum, Helen said she is very pleased with how well they have preserved her grandfather's legacy.
"We're carrying a name and that name needs to be accessible to people because that name comes with a character who was not only larger than life, but who still serves," said Helen. "That is why the Patton museum is so important, because you're going to get to know my grandfather, warts and all.
"His legacy has the potential to be like a precision piece of steel," she concluded. "His legacy and the truth of his purpose on this planet continues, and that is about liberation."