Jean Gordon (Red Cross)
Jean Gordon (February 4, 1915 – January 8, 1946) was an American socialite and a Red Cross worker during World War II. A niece by marriage of General George S. Patton, some writers claim she had an ongoing affair with Patton, allegedly beginning years before the war and continuing behind the front lines of wartime Europe. Patton's scholarly biographers disagree. After her lover (a junior officer) returned to his wife, and shortly after Patton died, she committed suicide.
|Born||February 4, 1915|
|Died||January 8, 1946 (aged 30)|
|Occupation||American Red Cross Clubmobile Staff Assistant ("donut girl")|
Jean Gordon's mother, Louise Raynor Ayer, daughter of the textile industrialist Frederick Ayer and his first wife Cornelia Wheaton, was a half-sister of Patton's wife Beatrice. Her father Donald Gordon, a well-known Boston lawyer, died of leukemia when she was 8 years old. Gordon, described as "a quiet but witty girl, highly intelligent and beautiful," and "a vivacious and lovely brunette," was prominent in prewar Boston high society, being a member of women's organizations such as the Junior League and the Vincent Club. The same age as Patton's younger daughter Ruth Ellen and her best friend, she spent many of her vacations with the Pattons and was a bridesmaid in the weddings of both Patton girls.
World War IIEdit
After completing the Red Cross nurse's aide training course early in the war, Jean Gordon volunteered in several Boston hospitals, serving for a while as vice-chairman of the Boston Red Cross Volunteer Nurse's Aide Corps, before being sent to England in May 1944 as a Red Cross staff assistant. She contacted Patton early in July, and he visited her in London shortly before departing for Normandy. He later told General Everett Hughes, his close friend serving on Eisenhower's staff, that he wanted to keep her presence a secret. When Hughes wondered about their relationship, Patton, "more boastful than repentant," told him that Jean had "been mine for 12 years," which would mean that they had been involved from the time she was 17 years old and a frequent guest of Ruth Ellen. Gordon was assigned to the ARC Clubmobile group L attached to the Third Army headquarters as a "donut girl", a volunteer who served donuts, coffee, and cigarettes to front-line troops, as well as diverting them with music, dance, and chat. She would become Patton’s constant companion[Note 1][Note 2] and his hostess when he entertained guests at his headquarters.[Note 3] The two of them would converse animatedly with each other in fluent French, to the confusion of those around them. Patton made a practice of inviting the Red Cross girls to dine with his staff, especially when dignitaries, such as General Eisenhower, visited his headquarters, and they also had Patton to dinner several times. Once the war was over, the girls became even more a part of his entourage.
According to Everett Hughes, Patton had quarreled with Jean Gordon not long before Hughes visited his headquarters early in May 1945; perhaps, he thought, about what would become of her now. Soon, however, they had made up, and apparently renewed their liaison during Patton's leave in England a while later. In June, Patton returned to the United States for a month-long bond drive. After seeing him off, Hughes took the distraught Jean back to his apartment so she could "have a good cry." She returned to the United States in December 1945 on the M.S. Gripsholm.
Dispute over the relationship with PattonEdit
Patton repeatedly boasted of his sexual success with Gordon, but his biographers do not find it credible. Stanley Hirshson states that the relationship was casual. Dennis Showalter believes that Patton, under severe physical and psychological stress, made up claims of sexual conquest to prove his virility. Carlo D'Este agrees, saying, "His behavior suggests that in both 1936 [in Hawaii] and 1944–45, the presence of the young and attractive Jean was a means of assuaging the anxieties of a middle-aged man troubled over his virility and a fear of aging."
Jean Gordon's supervisor, Betty South, the captain of the ARC Clubmobile crew attached to the Third Army headquarters, claimed that although Gordon adored General Patton, it was strictly in a father–daughter relationship, while the man she truly loved was a young married captain who left her despondent when he went home to his wife.[Note 4] However, her version is colored by the fact that she was protective of both Patton's and Gordon's reputation. Ruth Ellen Patton has initially also staunchly denied the rumors of an affair,[Note 5] yet her posthumously published memoirs as well as her nephew Robert's work on the Pattons she collaborated on, reveal that the family considered Gordon and Patton to have been in a romantic relationship.[Note 6][Note 7][Note 8] In fact, according to the noted film and military historian Lawrence Suid, the fear that a movie might portray the extramarital affair was a major contributing factor to their ongoing opposition to any production. When Patton's family invited the military historian Martin Blumenson to edit Patton's papers, he handled the issue of the rumored affair with reticence. He concludes: "When Betty [South, after Patton's death] telephoned Jean to express her sorrow... Jean said, 'I think it is better this way for Uncle Georgie. There is no place for him any more, and he would have been unhappy with nothing to do.' Jean took her own life in New York early in January 1946, little more than two weeks after Patton died. Some thought she did so in despair over her uncle's demise. Others believed she was hopelessly in love with a young married officer. Whatever she had been to Patton before the war, during the conflict, and afterward, she helped to sustain and support him. Immediately after the war was over, when he... had no place to go in the army, he needed all the help he could get." The British Holocaust denier David Irving used General Hughes' wartime diary, which contains multiple references to Patton's intimate relationship with Gordon, to write about the affair in his 1981 book The War between the Generals. It had been available in the Library of Congress since 1958, but was not studied due to Hughes' illegible handwriting. However, since in 1980 Irving hired the handwriting expert Molly McClellan to decipher it and transcribe its 900 pages, most historians have used the diary as a source, while refraining from giving a definite verdict on the nature of the relationship.
Beatrice Patton clearly believed that Jean Gordon was intimately involved with her husband and wrote to him repeatedly to express her concerns, prompting his cavalier dismissals and a denial that he had even seen her. The evening before he left for his bond-raising tour, during a farewell dinner at the Ritz, Patton confessed to Everett Hughes that he was "scared to death of going back home to America;" and upon his return told Hughes: "Beatrice gave me hell. I'm glad to be in Europe!" Shortly after Patton died of injuries sustained in a car crash that had left him paralyzed, his wife arranged to meet Gordon at a Boston hotel where she confronted her over the supposed affair.[Note 9] In the early morning of January 8, 1946, only days after the confrontation with Beatrice and a little more than two weeks after Patton's death, Jean Gordon committed suicide, surrounded by General Patton's pictures, in the Upper East Side Manhattan apartment of a friend.[Note 10] In closing his account of the confrontation preceding Gordon's death, Patton's biographer Carlo D'Este writes: "Beatrice's jealousy of Jean Gordon was that of an older woman for a young and attractive mistress who has stolen her husband's interest... Jean told a friend that... with the war now over, perhaps Patton's death had been a blessing in disguise. [Robert Patton writes that she] 'had an understanding of him that was insightful and not frivolous, ample reason for his wife to deem her a serious rival. Beatrice, out of love, could forgive Georgie's indiscretion, but Jean she was determined to punish.'"
- Steward 1993, p. 92
- Irving 2010, p. 192 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- Patton Totten 2011, pp. 260-1 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFPatton_Totten2011 (help)
- Irving 2010, pp. 312-13, 346, 387-8, 404, 406-7 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- Washington Post 1946, p. 8
- Parade 1981, p. 10
- Patton Totten 2011, pp. 26–7 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFPatton_Totten2011 (help)
- Boston Herald 1923, p. 3
- Patton Totten 2011, p. 260 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFPatton_Totten2011 (help)
- Blumenson 1985, p. 137
- Boston Traveler 1946, pp. 1, 26
- Boston Herald 1946, p. 10
- Patton Totten 2011, p. 27 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFPatton_Totten2011 (help)
- Blumenson 1996, p. 854 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBlumenson1996 (help)
- Boston Herald 1941, p. 3
- Boston Traveler 1942, p. 23
- Boston Globe 1944, p. 15 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBoston_Globe1944 (help)
- Irving 2010, p. 185 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- D'Este 1996, p. 743 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFD'Este1996 (help)
- Korson 1945, p. 283
- Irving 2010, pp. 313, 346, 387–8, 406–7 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- Elson 2002, p. 309-10. sfn error: no target: CITEREFElson2002 (help)
- Boston Globe 1946, p. D7.
- Irving 2010, pp. 185, 312, 392 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- Jordan 2012, p. 477. sfn error: no target: CITEREFJordan2012 (help)
- Lande 2002, p. 175
- Blumenson 1996, p. 656 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBlumenson1996 (help)
- Blumenson 1996, p. 855 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBlumenson1996 (help)
- Irving 2010, pp. 406–7 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- D'Este 1996, pp. 744–5 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFD'Este1996 (help)
- Irving 2010, p. 407 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- Boston Traveler 1946, p. 1
- Stanley Hirshson, General Patton: A Soldier's Life (2003) p 535.
- Dennis E. Showalter, Patton And Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century (2006), pp=412–13.
- Carlo D'Este, Patton: A Genius for War (1995) p. 743.
- Parade 1981, p. 10.
- D'Este 1996, p. 925 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFD'Este1996 (help)
- Patton Totten 2011, pp. 260-1. sfn error: no target: CITEREFPatton_Totten2011 (help)
- Patton 2004, p. 288. sfn error: no target: CITEREFPatton2004 (help)
- Daily Beast 2014.
- Suid 2002, pp. 262, 602
- Blumenson 1996, p. 856 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBlumenson1996 (help)
- Irving 2010, pp. 185, 191-2, 404, 406-7, 412 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- Cooney & Heiss 2002, p. 3
- Irving 2010, pp. 417-18 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFIrving2010 (help)
- Blumenson 1985, p. 228,307
- D'Este 1996, pp. 743-5 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFD'Este1996 (help)
- Axelrod 2006, pp. 132, 191-2
- Blumenson 1996, pp. 529, 854–5 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBlumenson1996 (help)
- D'Este 1996, p. 744 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFD'Este1996 (help)
- D'Este 1996, pp. 806-7. sfn error: no target: CITEREFD'Este1996 (help)
- Washington Post 1946, p. 8.
- D'Este 1996, p. 807 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFD'Este1996 (help)
- "I was invited to a conference in Austria... It was a critique, and we sat with a whole bunch of colonels and generals... It was after the war in Europe was over, but we were still fighting in Japan... Afterward, we had a social. Patton’s niece... attended the cocktail party, and a young major took a fancy to her. Then it came time that the general wanted to leave. Well, when the aide tells you that the general is leaving and he’s got his niece with him, you let the niece leave. But this major kept talking, and Patton had to wait... The next day he was transferred to the Pacific."
- "Patton's favorite pet was his niece... a Red Cross girl. She was often in the general's company in rear echelon areas, but more often dished out doughnuts and java, inches from the front line."
- "[Patton] canceled his plans, and that night... threw a late-night party, where the hostess, Patton's 'niece' Jean Gordon, plied staff and generals with bourbon until they all got roaring drunk. 'Everybody was pretty high when I got there,' a confused [Lt. Gen. Manton] Eddy wrote in his diary. 'Frankly, I didn't know what was going on.'"
- "'Jean tried to drive the memory of him out of her mind, but she couldn't. She grew steadily more depressed and morose... [She] was a sensitive, responsive, high-strung young woman. The two men in her life who meant the most to her were gone. There seemed nothing or no one to live for. She borrowed a friend's apartment... turned on the gas, and turned off her life.'"
- "'The truth about Jean was that she fell in love overseas with a married officer... [Daddy] kept a watchful eye on Jean, as he would on any member of his family. But to say or imply that Daddy had been sleeping with Jean Gordon for 12 years and that she joined him to continue the affair - that's hogwash.'"
- Ruth Ellen was certain her father had an affair with Gordon in 1936 when she stopped in Hawaii to visit the Pattons on her way to tour the Far East, but suspected that it had started earlier. "Looking back on it all, I can see that [Jean] had started making a play for Georgie as far back as Bee's wedding (in June 1934). But at that time it was highly unlikely that I could have thought that my best friend, exactly my age, could ever see anything in my father, an old, old man - nearly into his fifties! There was gradually no doubt in our minds that she was after just one thing... [Georgie] made a damned fool of himself. I was stunned... I [got] her dates with all my beaux... but none of them dated her more than once. I finally asked a beau ... why this should be, and he said... because she acted as if she wasn't a bit interested." Patton's grandson Robert wrote that, "after Georgie and Jean returned from their trip [to buy horses for the army on the Big Island of Hawaii], neither Beatrice nor Ruth Ellen doubted they'd become intimate." (Patton, 2004, p. 271) According to D'Este (p. 806-7), after she learned of the relationship between her father and cousin in Europe, Ruth Ellen referred to Jean in her unpublished memoir My Father as I Knew Him as "the Faithless Friend."
- "Stories circulated through the family after Jean's death that she left a suicide note declaring: 'I will be with Uncle Georgie in heaven and have him all to myself before Beatrice arrives.'"
- Helen Patton, one of the General's grandchildren, confirmed such a stance: "'My grandfather was very sexual... [His affair with Jean Gordon] caused my grandmother an awful lot of pain. She played the stiff-upper-lipped wife, while Jean had the means and flexibility to become a nurse and accompany my grandfather.' A few years ago Patton met a French soldier who knew Gordon, and who confirmed the love and devotion she felt for her grandfather. 'Love was important to my grandfather’s ability to do his work. My grandmother’s love also held him up, and he was devoted to her. These were two women who loved him in completely different ways, and that’s OK.'"
- "[She] asked her brother, Fred, to arrange for a room at a Boston hotel, where she would like to meet with Jean Gordon... Beatrice, the last to arrive, entered the room quietly... [She] suddenly pointed her finger at Jean and recited the deadliest course known to Hawaiians: 'May the Great Worm gnaw your vitals and may your bones rot joint by little joint.' ...Jean's face suddenly turned 'from rose to pearl to gray.' The cold, hostile expression on Beatrice's face so appalled her brother that he fled from the room. 'Fred said that there was so much malevolence in the room that he jumped up and grabbed his hat and ran out, and only slowed down when he reached the street.'"
- "Police listed the death as suicide, but the woman left no notes to explain her action. She lay on the floor in a negligee. Pictures of General Patton were strewn about her. There were four jets open on a small gas range nearby." Boston Globe reported that "Miss Gordon was found at 1:45 A.M. seated in a dressing gown on a chair... while gas hissed from four open jets of the kitchen range." Some newspapers, such as the British Daily Mirror (Patton's Niece Kills Herself; Daily Mirror, Wed 9 Jan 1946, Page 8), in accordance with Associated Press simply noted that Jean Gordon had been grief-stricken since her uncle's death, while others, like Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune (Found Dead; Chicago Tribune, Wed 9 Jan 1946, Page 3), attributed her death to war nerves.
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- D'Este, Carlo D'Este (1995). Patton: A Genius for War (1996 ed.). Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0060927622. - Total pages: 977
- Irving, David John Cawdell (1981). The War between the Generals (2010 ed.). Focal Point Publications. ISBN 978-1-872197-28-9.
- Patton Totten, Ruth Ellen (2005). The Button Box: A Daughter's Loving Memoir of Mrs. George S. Patton (2011 ed.). University of Missouri Press. ISBN 978-0826219336. - Total pages: 400
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- Lande, D. A. (2002). I Was with Patton: First-Person Accounts of WWII in George S. Patton's Command (2002 ed.). Zenith Press. ISBN 978-0760310717. - Total pages: 304
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- Korson, George (1945). At His Side: The Story of the American Red Cross Overseas in World War II. Coward-McCann. ASIN B000NZOPSA. - Total pages: 322
- Washington Post (9 January 1946). "Gen. Patton's Niece Ends Life Surrounded by His Pictures". Washington Post. p. 8. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- Boston Globe (9 January 1946). "Miss Gordon's Suicide Laid to "War Nerves"; Niece of General Patton". Boston Globe. p. 9.
- Boston Herald (9 January 1946). "Jean Gordon, Gen. Patton's Niece, Suicide". Boston Herald. p. 10.
- Boston Traveler (8 January 1946). "Patton's Niece Victim of Gas in New York". Boston Traveler. pp. 1, 26.
- Parade (19 April 1981). "General Patton and His Niece". Parade. p. 10.
- Daily Beast (26 May 2014). "The Price of Being a Patton: Wrestling with the Legacy of America's Most Famous General". Daily Beast. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- Boston Herald (10 September 1941). "Volunteer Nurse's Aide Corps". Boston Herald. p. 3.
- Boston Traveler (14 October 1942). "Society". Boston Traveler. p. 23.
- Boston Herald (9 October 1923). "Deaths Gordon". Boston Herald. p. 3.
- Cooney, Charles F.; Heiss, Harry G. (2002). "Everett Strait Hughes Papers – A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress" (PDF). Retrieved September 7, 2017.