Patton: death of a soldier

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✓ General George S. Patton Jr. died as the result of quadriplegia sustained in a car crash in Germany in 1945. His x-ray films revealed a fractured C-3 vertebra and a posterior dislocation of C-4 on C-5. The likely cause of death was a pulmonary embolus. Details of his medical treatment are reviewed and compared with therapies that a patient with a similar injury would receive today.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: Richard L. Rovit, M.D., M.Sc., Department of Neurosurgery, Munger Pavilion, Third Floor, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York 10595. email:

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    Photographs depicting General George S. Patton Jr. with General Geoffrey Keyes in 1944 (upper, image courtesy of Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor, Fort Knox, Kentucky) and General Eisenhower in 1945 (lower, image reprinted with permission from Carlo D'Este).

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    Photograph of the limousine in which General Patton was fatally injured. Image courtesy of Patton Museum of Calvary and Armor, Fort Knox, Kentucky.

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    Photograph showing R. Glen Spurling in full military dress at an army ceremony between 1942 and 1946. He may have been receiving the Legion of Merit medal in 1945, and the other individual in the photo may be a Major Kirk. Image from the R. Glen Spurling, M.D., Papers, RG 182, courtesy of the Kornhauser Health Sciences Library, University of Louisville, Kentucky.

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    Photograph showing Brigadier Sir Hugh Cairns. Image courtesy of the Neurosurgery Department of Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals, Oxford, United Kingdom.

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    Photograph depicting George and Beatrice Patton, 1942. Image courtesy of the US Army.


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