John Patterson, second from left in the third row of the photograph above, left home at age seventeen to join the army.  He says he was restless to get away from Phenix City, just as earlier in his life he dreamed of escaping the rural village of Goldville where he was born.   There was no money for him to attend college. The year was 1939. After being admitted to the peacetime army and assigned to an artillery unit, he went to Officer Candidate School and, after America entered World War II, to London for further orders.  It was there, he says, he was ‘Shanghaied” into joining the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

After he lobbied successfully for reassignment to combat, Patterson's artillery unit fought off a German Panzer attack in the Tunisian desert, then participated in the invasion of Sicily and after that made a beach landing near Salerno in Italy. After entering Rome, which had been declared an open city, Patterson was part of a force that made a beach landing on the coast of France. In the spring of 1945 they crossed the Rhine into Germany and were heading south into Austria when word came that the Germans had surrendered. Patterson tells us the news was met by the members of his unit with a tinge of sadness.

After the German surrender Patterson volunteered to train a new artillery unit which was to take part in the invasion of Japan. At a base in Germany where his unit was training, their commanding officer General George C. Patton made a visit and Patterson was tasked to put on an artillery demonstration for this most demanding of generals.