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Two generals fill parlor with memories, stories of George Patton

Eugene Phillips sat on a settee he and Nadine bought soon after they married in 1941. Steve Arnold sat on a small bench. You could almost reach out and touch the respect each man had for the other as they talked.
Both of them are retired Army generals. Both of them fought in wars. Both of them feel a special tie to another general, George Smith Patton, the man who performed miracles in battle during World War II.
Brig. Gen. Phillips fought in that war and served with Patton. Lt. Gen. Arnold commanded Third U.S. Army, Patton’s outfit, in the 1990s.
They were together for a video shoot for the Northeast Georgia History Center, an institution in Gainesville, Ga., that is planning a salute in September to those who have served this country over the years, military and civilian people alike.  
The small parlor of Phillips’ home in Royston, Ga., was a bit warm — it was 96 degrees outside and not much cooler inside with the video lights — but the soldiers didn’t seem to mind. Men who have been shot at on the battlefield don’t worry about a little heat. Besides, Phillips was telling Patton stories.
“During the North African campaign, as we were winding it up…,” he was saying, “Patton was disappointed because Field Marshal Rommel had been ordered back to Germany. He was sick; he had some strange bug. Gen. Patton was downhearted. ‘I wanted to fight him, one on one,’ he said. ‘But, General,’ someone said, ‘you will be fighting his plans.’ ‘Ah,’ Patton stroked his chin, ‘you’re right.’ He walked away feeling much better.”
And then there was the time Patton was having lunch with President Roosevelt, and Phillips, a young lieutenant, commanded the platoon that was the honor guard.
“I was a little nervous,” Phillips said, “because a Secret Service (man) held a machine gun that was pointing to my midriff. And I hoped it was on safety.”
Arnold said he “always felt the presence of Gen. Patton” when he commanded Third Army. Today, he serves on the board of the Gen. George Patton Museum in Ft. Knox, Ky. And when he and other board members visited the Belgian town of Bastogne last summer, he was “impressed that the people of Belgium and northern France and the Luxembourg region still see him (Patton) as the liberator, see him as the salvation to their way of life.”
Steve Arnold, who retired to Big Canoe in North Georgia, presented Phillips with a Third Army coin and a letter opener made in the shape of a sword that Patton designed, the kind of sword Phillips carried when he served in a cavalry unit. Arnold had fought his share of wars — two tours in Vietnam, then Desert Storm and Somalia, then under civilian contract in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations—but now he wanted to do something for someone who was there with Gen. Patton.
But just sitting in that tiny, hot parlor and telling Patton stories again probably would have been enough for Gene Phillips.

Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.