Photo by Frank Prager
Robert Bailey with his wife, Genevieve. Bailey served under Gen. George S. Patton during World War II.
Gen. George S. Patton commanded the Third Army during World War II during some of the most dramatic battles in the history of our country. From the invasion of Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge, Patton’s leadership was a major component in guiding the United States to victory over the Axis powers.
Many of the stories about Patton and the actions he led were told directly to Alton resident Dave Bailey by his own father, who served under Patton and was a firsthand witness to the general’s leadership. Robert Stephen Bailey was in the U.S. Army from June 1942 until November 1944, serving in the 780th Ordnance Company of the 80th Infantry Division under Patton.
One story Dave Bailey remembers his father telling repeatedly was that Patton wore two pistols — one black-handled and one white-handled.
“All of the movies and media always reported he carried two white pearl-handled pistols, but my dad saw for himself that one of them was black,” Bailey says.
Robert Bailey told his son you could have heard a pin drop the day it was announced to the troops they were being assigned to Patton.
“My dad said everyone had heard of Blood and Guts Patton and they knew what fighting in his army meant,” he recalls.
Bailey’s father rose to the rank of staff sergeant and earned the Bronze Star Medal for his meritorious service during the war. The citation states Bailey “worked tirelessly under adverse weather and combat conditions” and that “his efficiency, resourcefulness and devotion to duty reflect credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.”
Bailey says his father talked about seeing German buzz bombs going over and being strafed by a German Messerschmitt. He was involved in the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp and participated in the Battle of the Bulge.
“My dad told how he was ordered to drive 100 miles to get to the Battle of the Bulge,” Bailey says. “He said because of the urgency of the battle, it was the first time he had ever been allowed to turn his jeep’s headlights on during the war.”
Robert Bailey was born and raised in Alton. He and his wife, Genevieve, were married for 64 years before she passed away in 2003. They raised two sons, Dave and his brother, Jim. Robert Bailey passed away in 2013.
Stories of legendary heroes and mold-breaking champions loom larger-than-life when communicated firsthand by those who witnessed and participated in the history they forged. Dave Bailey has a treasure chest of stories and events told to him directly by his father, who lived George Patton’s history with him.