About 25 years after George Patton Waters completed his service with the U.S. Navy, he settled in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
If his name seems familiar, it should. Waters is the grandson of U.S. Army General George S. Patton. His mother was the World War II commander’s oldest daughter.
“I chose the Navy because I didn’t want to go in as George Patton’s grandson… and I just thought the Navy had more to offer for a young guy coming out of college,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Waters lives in Mount Pleasant with his wife, a South Carolina native.
Despite the family’s terrestrial tradition, Waters stood by his decision to go to sea. Poor eyes prevented him from becoming a pilot.
“I got a lot of flak for going into the Navy,” he said. “I’m not going to deny it. . . I’m proud of it.”
Waters recalled being five years old when he first met his grandfather — the notorious general who he says would utter a prayer with one breath and string together the colorful vocabulary of a sailor with the next.
“I remember him,” he said. “I sat outside and when he came in I saluted, probably with the wrong hand, and he looked at me and said, ‘Who are you, you little S.O.B.?’ I said, ‘I’m your grandson.’ So, from then on, it went downhill.”
Waters said the profanity didn’t bother him.
“I liked it but we weren’t supposed to hear it,” he said.
From that inauspicious meeting, Waters said he learned the importance of his grandfather’s legacy for the Third Army.
“His legacy was his discipline. Leadership. Confidence,” he said. “The pride of his men to be ‘Patton’s Own.’ That they could do it and these men could do it and anybody could do it and you just have to be motivated. General Patton didn’t have a hard time getting people motivated. I remember as a grandchild his profanity and it was easily motivational.”
He said Patton symbolized the men who served with him.
“Remember him by the men that served under him who made the commitment and served. It wasn’t just Patton, it was the three or four-hundred-thousand people that served with him. That’s what I think Patton symbolizes to me is a hell of a lot of Americans that went to war from our country,” Waters said.
And the mothers who birthed and raised those Americans who went to war deserve just as much credit, Waters said. His own mother and grandmother were among them.
“Some came home and some didn’t . . . But their mothers really made the sacrifice to me. I think that’s one of the things Patton felt. The family sacrifice was the value.”
At the centennial celebration of U.S. Army Central and the Third Army at Shaw Air Force Base last week, living historian Dennis Hair told the story of Patton compassionately telling a Red Cross nurse she needed to go back to the states because her mother had died. When the woman insisted she stay in Europe to help with the war effort, Patton told her she could do more good for her country if she went home to comfort her father.
“That was the real Patton,” Hair said.
Hair portrays Patton as part of the Third Army Historical Society. Both Waters and Hair were special guests at the Third Army’s centennial celebration. Waters said he was proud to be a part of it and see his grandfathers’ legacy in the Third Army of today.
“The legacy was of the discipline and leadership and confidence,” he said. “Talking with these people who are Third Army up here, the younger people, it’s that confidence that General Patton brought to the Third Army.”
Waters said his GPS routed him on an interesting path from Mount Pleasant to Sumter that morning, giving him an opportunity to see places in South Carolina his Mount Pleasant-native wife had not yet shown him.
“We like South Carolina,” he said. “I like living here.”