Today’s post comes from Christopher Abraham at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. He answers a question each week on Facebook. This week’s Ask an Archivist query comes from Pennsylvania.
“Did Eisenhower teach Patton how to drive a tank at Camp Colt in Gettysburg?” Anonymous
Captain George S. Patton knew how to drive a tank by the time Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of Camp Colt. In November 1917, Patton visited a French light tank training session in the forest of Compiegne where he drove a Renault tank and fired its gun. He was so interested in the machine that his instructors had to find a mechanic to answer his questions.
After taking a course at the army’s first tank school at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Eisenhower was ordered in November 1918 to report to Camp Meade, Maryland. There he joined the 65th Engineers and organized what would become the 301st Tank Battalion. In March he was told that the battalion would go to France and that he would be in command. To his disappointment, he was sent to Camp Colt in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he was placed in command of the Tank Corps. He was temporarily promoted to lieutenant colonel in October and was told he would leave for France in November to command an armored unit. The armistice was signed before he could embark.
Eisenhower traveled with First Transcontinental Motor Convoy as a Tank Corps observer in 1919 after closing Camp Colt. Eisenhower would meet Patton for the first time back at Camp Meade (later Fort Meade) that fall. He and Patton were responsible for creating the Infantry Tank School where they would serve as both students and instructors.
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