And the Bandido
Thomas Calabrese — John Joseph Pershing (September 13, 1860 – July 15, 1948) was born in Laclede, Missouri, the oldest of five children. He attended a school in town for precocious students of prominent citizens and after completing high school in 1878, he became a teacher of local African American children. He later applied to the United States Military Academy in 1882 and graduated in 1886 and was commissioned a second lieutenant.
He was assigned to Troop L of the 6th U.S. Cavalry stationed at Fort Bayard, in the New Mexico Territory and participated in several Indian campaigns. It was during this time period that he became close friends with Lt. Julius Penn and Lt. Richard Paddock. Pershing’s sister Grace married Paddock in 1894 and in 1895 Pershing assumed command of the troop of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, one of the original Buffalo Soldier regiments composed of African American soldiers.
In 1898 Grace and Richard Paddock gave birth to a son that they named John Diamond Paddock. They gave him that middle name because of his sparkling blue eyes. John grew up to be a strong young man with a great admiration for his Uncle Jack and joined the Army in 1914 at the age of 16 years of old. General Pershing used his influence to get him assigned to his unit so he could mentor him.
On May 5th, 1916 several hundred Mexican raiders attacked the geographically isolated towns of Glenn Springs and Boquillas in the Big Bend region of Texas. At Glenn Springs the Mexicans overwhelmed a squad of nine 14th Cavalry troopers guarding the town, set fire to the building, then rode on to Boquillas where they killed a boy, looted the town and took two captives. Local law enforcement pursued the Mexicans 100 miles into the state of Coahuila to free the captives and regain the stolen property
At 2:30 AM on March 9,,1916, several hundred troops under the command of Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa crossed the border separating the United States and Mexico and attacked the small Army garrison at Columbus, New Mexico.
By this time John Diamond Paddock had already been in the Army two years and proven himself to be an able trooper and combat veteran who earned the respect and trust of his uncle and the men that he served with. Since they had different last names, the other troops never knew that General Pershing and Corporal Paddock were related and they preferred to keep it that way. Every so often, General Pershing would call Corporal Paddock to his command center and they would speak privately about family and personal issues, but in public Corporal Paddock was treated the same as any other soldier. General Pershing saw the potential in Jack of Diamonds, the nickname that many called his nephew and offered him the opportunity, “I’ve talked to your superiors and they say you have leadership potential. I can recommend you to West Point if you want.”
“I appreciate that, sir, but for the time being I’d prefer to stay in the enlisted ranks, I still have a lot to learn,” Corporal Paddock replied.
“You’ll let me know when you change your mind,” General Pershing offered.
“You mean if, don’t you sir?”
“There will come a time when you’ll want more responsibility,” General Pershing winked.
On May 12th, Corporal Paddock accompanied Major George T. Langhorne, a by the book officer with no combat experience and two units of the 8th Cavalry on a routine patrol. They left Fort Bliss and rode to the border where they met up with a group of Texas Rangers commanded by the rambunctious Captain William Lee Wright who had killed more outlaws and marauding Indians than he cared to count. He knew Corporal Paddock from a previous joint operation against the Apaches.
“It’s good to see you again, Jack of Diamonds.” Captain Wright spit out a wad of chewing tobacco that landed on the right boot of the young soldier.”
“If it isn’t Captain Wright Makes Right,” Corporal Paddock joked.
The two men exchanged handshakes, “You in charge of this here shindig?” Captain Wright asked.
“That would be me, I’m Major Langhorne.”
“Let’s ride, Major.” Captain Wright took off at a gallop followed by his Rangers.
Major Langhorne rode up alongside Corporal Paddock, “I hope he knows who’s in charge.”
“I’m pretty sure he does now, sir.” Corporal Paddock replied.
They rode to the outskirts of El Pino, Mexico and arrived just before sunrise. “We’ll leave the horses here and go in on foot,” Captain Wright said.
“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” Major Langhorne responded fearfully.
“I reckon if you got a better one, then go on and spit it out,” Captain Wright grumbled.
Major Langhorne did not have a valid alternative, but was desperate to maintain his persona of authority, “Give me a little time.”
“Time is one thing we don’t have. You and your men stay here with the horses and work on your plan while I’ll take my Rangers into town.”
Major Langhorne snapped back, “If something goes wrong, I’m holding you responsible!”
“You can hold anything you want!” Captain Wright yelled back.
As the Rangers rode off, Corporal Paddock approached Major Langhorne, “Permission to go with the Rangers?”
“Why should I allow that?”
“Because if Captain Wright does something wrong, I’ll be there to witness it,” Corporal Paddock replied.
“And if you get yourself killed?”
“Then I would be wrong for asking,” Corporal Paddock said.
“I expect a full report!”
Corporal Paddock ran to catch up with the Rangers, “You don’t mind if I tag along?”
Captain Wright smiled, “Hell no, if we’re going to play this hand; we might as well have a Jack of Diamonds in the deck.”
The Rangers and Corporal Paddock easily overwhelmed the few guards and freed the hostages. After interrogating a wounded Villa raider, they found that more hostages were being held in the town of Castillon. Captain Wright offered Corporal Paddock the option, “Do you want to go back with the hostages?”
Captain Wright called to one of his men, “Hey Buck, take Festus with you and bring the hostages back to the Major. Tell him that we’re heading to Castillon. Bring our horses with you, we’ll use the Mexicans, they won’t be needing them.”
“Yes sir,” Buck replied.
With Captain Wright and Corporal Paddock in the lead, they rode to Castillon and engaged in a heavier battle killing five of Villa’s Raiders. Buck and Festus arrived with the Ranger horses with a young army officer SecondLieutenant George Patton, a Pershing aide and the only one in the unit that knew Corporal Paddock was the nephew of General Pershing. He had 15 men with him and three Doge touring cars. Lt. Patton walked over to the Jack of Diamonds and whispered, “Your uncle thought I might be of more use than Langhorne.”
“That’s for sure, I’ll have to thank him when and if I get back,” Corporal Paddock said.
The soldiers and Rangers’ next destination was Rubio, Chihuahua where Julio Cardenas’ San Miguelito Ranch was located. Cardenas was an important leader in Pancho Villa’s organization and responsible for numerous raids into the United States.
Captain Wright turned to Lt. Patton, “How do you want to handle this, soldier boy?”
George Patton did not hesitate, “We’ll go in first, give us 15 minutes then follow us.”
“What’s the point of doing that?”
“I don’t want you killing them before I do,” George Patton smiled.
“I like your style, Lieutenant” Captain Wright, “so we’ll wait our turn.”
The soldiers climbed in the three Dodge touring cars with their weapons pointed outboard and raced toward the main house. Corporal Paddock and Lt. Patton charged into the house and killed Cardenas and two other men in what turned out to be America’s first motorized military action. After the short gunfight, Patton had the three dead Mexican bandits strapped to the hood of the cars and began driving back to Pershing’s headquarters.
“Why is it that I have the feeling that you really enjoy this?” Corporal Paddock asked.
“I don’t know, Corporal.” Lt. Patton snickered as he carved three notches in the handles of the twin Colt Peacemakers that he carried, representing the men that he killed that day.
Corporal Paddock commented, “I shot those men too.”
Lt. Patton grinned playfully, “Your uncle told me to remind you that rank has its privileges. You might have shot them, but it was my bullets that killed them.”
“Permission to speak freely, sir” Corporal Paddock asked.
“You’re mean enough to eat off the same plate with a rattler,” Corporal Paddock quipped.
“Only if he promises not to eat my share.”
When General Pershing saw the dead Mexicans on the hoods of the cars, he gave Lt. Patton a nickname, “Good job, Bandido!” Only his closest friends would ever call Patton this from this point forward. Brigadier General Pershing was later ordered by Woodrow Wilson to go into Mexico and bring Villa and those responsible for the attacks back to America to face justice for the attack on the garrison. The American expedition was comprised of 4,800 men from the 7th, 10th 13th Cavalry, 6th Field Artillery, 6th and 16th Infantry Regiments and medical personnel. They entered Mexico on the 15th of March 1916 in two columns and continued their pursuit of Villa for the next two months.
The last and most costly engagement of the Mexican Expedition was fought on June 21, 1916 when 3 officers and 87 men of Troops C and K of the 10th Cavalry were sent to patrol the area along the Mexican Central Railway. The Americans encountered a force of 300 Mexican soldiers who were sympathetic to Villa and were soundly defeated at the Battle of Carrizal. Captain Charles T. Boyd, 1st Lt. Henry R. Adair, and ten enlisted men were killed and eleven more were wounded and taken prisoner. The sole surviving officer, Captain Lewis S. Morey, was rescued four days later by a relief squadron of the 11th Cavalry. When General Pershing learned of the battle he was furious and asked for permission to attack the Mexican army garrison of Chihuahua City but President Wilson refused, knowing that it would certainly start a war. Pershing called the two men that he trusted most, his nephew and Lieutenant George Patton, “I’ve been ordered back across the border by the President and I will comply with those directives and this will prevent me from getting justice for our fallen brothers. You have done a good job while we’ve been in Mexico so I’m rewarding both of you with extended furloughs. So once I’m gone, I won’t have any responsibility on what happens here. I will also have no interest in knowing what you two gentlemen do after I’m back in the United States. Am I making myself clear?”
“Yes sir,” Lt Patton replied.
“No responsibility, no knowledge and no interest, you can’t be any clearer than that, sir” Corporal Paddock responded.
General John ‘Black Jack’ Pershing led the American force back into New Mexico signifying the official end to the military expedition. The Jack of Diamonds and the Bandido headed from New Mexico to Texas to meet with Captain Wright. The two soldiers and the Rangers loaded up three horse drawn wagons with ammunition and explosives and headed toward the largest stronghold of Pancho Villa at Tomochic, Mexico. As soon as the Americans entered the village, the Mexicans opened fire from the surrounding hills. Fighting side by side with the Texas Rangers, the two soldiers made it through the night against Villa’s raiders and when the sun came up, thirty of the Mexicans were dead and two Rangers had perished in the battle.
Corporal Paddock saw the advantages of being an officer and accepted a commission to 1st Lieutenant upon his return from Mexico. When World War I broke out, the Jack of Diamonds and the Bandido accompanied General Pershing and the American Expeditionary Force to Europe to fight Germany.
Lt. Patton wanted combat and knew he couldn’t find it as a staff officer to Pershing. To see action he had to either lead infantry or train to become a tank officer. He chose the latter, thinking it the quickest way to combat and further promotion. He wrote to Pershing, reminding him that he was “the only American who has ever made an attack in a motor vehicle (referring to the motorized assault that he had led in Mexico).
General Pershing called Captain Paddock to his command center, “I’m going to approve the ‘Bandido’s request to lead a mechanized unit, but only on one condition…if you take command of an infantry company and you work together.”
“You know that Georgie is kind of a nut,” Jack of Diamonds responded.
“He’s more than kind of a nut, he’s crazier than a Kiowa paint mare, but he’s a hell of combat soldier,” General Pershing smiled.
“That’s for sure.”
“I can give him an order and he’ll follow it most of the time, but I need someone that he respects to keep him in line when I’m not around,” General Pershing commented.
Bandido’s efficiency as a tank commander won him a promotion to lieutenant colonel, but he was worried the war would end before he had a chance to lead his tankers in combat and voiced his frustrations to the Jack of Diamonds who had been promoted to Major, “I need to be able to lead my tanks in combat.”
“Lighten up Georgie, this war isn’t working on your schedule,” Major Paddock retorted.
The Bandido’s chance came at Saint Mihiel on 12 September 1918 and unsurprisingly, he didn’t stay at his command post, but roamed the field under fire, directing attacks and encouraging his tankers forward. The Jack of Diamonds was right there by his side.
General John Pershing heard about the recklessness of his two officers and called his nephew to the command center, “I told you to keep the Bandido under control and now I heard that you’re acting as crazy as him.”
“Sorry sir, I reckon I got swept up in the moment,” Jack of Diamonds apologized.
“Don’t let it happen again!” General Pershing ordered.
During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, both officers immediately reverted to their ‘hell bent for leather’ behavior. The Bandido followed his tanks into combat and the Jack of Diamonds lead a unit to rescue a group of pinned down infantry and both men were wounded in the battle. The Bandido was shot through the leg and the Jack of Diamonds sustained shrapnel wounds to his back. While recovering in a field hospital together, the Bandido wrote his wife, Beatrice on 12 October 1918 ‘Peace looks possible, but I hope that I would have a few more fights. They are awfully thrilling, like steeple chasing only more so.’
The Jack of Diamonds looked up and saw his uncle, General John ‘Black Jack’ Pershing storming through the ward and could tell that he was not happy, “Buckle up Bandido, this is going to be a rough one.”
After a thorough dressing down for their disobedience of a direct order, the two men received battlefield promotions and silver stars for their bravery.
After World War I ended, Lieutenant Colonel ‘Jack of Diamonds’ Paddock left the Army and joined the Texas Rangers and married one of the female hostages that he had rescued during the Mexican expedition. Over the next two decades, he chased outlaws and gangsters all over the state of Texas while Colonel ‘Bandido’ Patton stayed in the Army and became an outspoken advocate for tanks. He wrote extensively and carried out experiments to improve radio communications between tanks and helped invent the co-axial tank mount for cannons and machine guns. Patton also held a variety of staff jobs in Hawaii and Washington D.C. after graduating the Command and General Staff School in 1924. He completed his military schooling as a distinguished graduate of the Army War College in 1932.
When World War II broke out, the Jack of Diamonds Paddock re-enlisted in the Army. He was given command of an elite Ranger battalion and fought across the Mediterranean with the Seventh Army and the Third Army in France and Germany with his friend and comrade in arms. The Jack of Diamonds and the Bandido remained close friends until General George Patton’s suspicious death on December 21, 1945 in Heidelberg, Germany.