Local Solider’s Truck Crashed Patton’s Car

How was Camden, NJ related to General George S. Patton’s Death?

It’s common knowledge that General George S. Patton died as a result of injuries received in a car accident in Germany a few months after the end of World War II. What is less well-known is that the driver of the other vehicle was from Camden NJ! — Ed.

Camden Courier-Post – December 12, 1945


Joy of Parents at Return of Another Son Dampened by Report

General Improves, Rests Comfortably.

The Frank Thompsons, of 3095 Highland avenue celebrated the homecoming of one son from the Army last night, but their thoughts were with their younger son, Robert L.

During their party for T/5 Francis, who had just returned home after 30 months in Africa and Italy, their mounting fears that Robert was the driver of the truck that collided with General Patton’s automobile in Germany Sunday were confirmed. A Courier-Post reporter informed them a United Press despatch [sic] had named the driver of the truck as T/5 Robert L. Thompson, 20, of 3095 Highland avenue, Camden.

No official notification of this fact, or word from their son, has been received by the Thompsons.

Condition Improved

Meanwhile Patton’s condition was reported grave today after failing to make any gains during the night in the Heidelberg hospital. Specialists from two continents are fighting to save his life. Mrs. Patton, who flew from the United States to his bedside, said.

“I’ve seen Georgie in these scrapes before and he always came out of it all right.”

Doctors in a late bulletin said he was “resting comfortably.”

An NBC correspondent reported from Nuernberg [sic] last night Patton, previously paralyzed from the neck down, was now “paralyzed from the hips down.” The broadcast said doctors stated Patton had a chance to recover but their predictions “are subject to change.”

Mother Had Premonition

Despite the fact that her premonition that her son was the driver of the truck appears to be true, Mrs. Thompson, who has been under a physician’s care since hearing of the accident, joined last night in the dinner to honor the return of her son, Francis, 23, former captain of Woodrow Wilson High school’s soccer team.

Robert, who wrote to his parents on Nov. 20 as a private first class with the Signal Corps of the First Armored Division, is 20 and was drafted from Camden Vocational school at the age of 18. He was described as a “careful driver” by his father, a freight conductor for the Pennsylvania Railroad. In his most recent letter, he told how he was driving two-and-a-half ton truck carrying supplies near Mannheim, where the collision occurred.

Sunday night, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson heard a news broadcast in which Patton’s accident was revealed, but not the name of the truck driver involved. Mrs. Thompson immediately turned to her husband and said:

“Frank, I have a feeling that our Robert was driving that truck that hit General Patton’s car.” Whereupon she sat down and wrote Robert a letter that she hoped he wasn’t the driver.

Had 44 Points in August

Young Thompson, according to his mother, has been overseas almost all the time since his induction in February, 1944. He trained at Camp Walters, Tex., and while at Camp Butner, N.C., volunteered for service as a replacement in Europe. He was personal driver for Lt. Col. Harold Schultz, a chaplain, who rode in a jeep. Ironically, he had 44 points in August, just one short of qualifying him for return to this country.

After the first broadcast concluded, Mrs. Thompson, unnerved by her premonition, called several friends and asked them to listen in on the radio to check on any mention of the driver’s identity.

“We sat by the radio practically all night,” the father said. “Although many reports came over, and none contained the name of the truck driver, we became frantic and I soon though [sic] my wife’s premonition was right.”

Sobs at Hearing Report

When an announcer finally closed a broadcast with “…the driver of the truck that struck General Patton’s car is T/5 Robert L. Thompson,” Mrs . Thompson sobbed.

“I knew it, I knew it,” she repeated. “I knew it was Robert. Oh, what will they do with my poor boy?”

The shadow of the accident hung heavily over the Highland avenue home last night after the Thompsons returned with Francis from Fort Monmouth. They were driven to meet their honorably discharged son by Mrs. Thompson’s Brother, S/Sgt. John Ortlepp, of Mt. Ephraim.

N.J. Man Aided Patton

In an INS dispatch, Sgt. Armando DeCrescenzo, of George Road, Cliffside Park, described the scene of General Patton’s accident.

After receiving word of the accident, DeCrescenzo and three other soldiers rushed to the scene and gave treatment to the general. The four men then lifted Patton out of the wrecked car and nplaed him on a stretcher.

“General Patton bled quite a bit,” DeCrescenzo said. “I leaned over and said: ‘How do you feel, sir?’

“He grinned and replied: ‘I don’t feel very much.’ Then he added: ‘If someone doesn’t hold my neck up, I will die.’ He sure was spunky — it sure was ‘Old Blood and Guts’.”

“When the ambulance sped off to the 130th station hospital in Heidelberg, we tried to figure out how the general had been hurt. Judging from the bloodstains and the position in which we found Patton, we concluded that he must first have bounced up and hit the cross-beam in the roof of the car, then falling forward and crashed his head through the heavy glass window between the front and rear seats of the car.”

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