AFTA-First Patton Museum Page

Front of the first Patton Museum c. 1960s

The roots of the Patton Museum started sometime in 1945 when planning began to create an armor museum for the Armored Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  On September 19, 1945 the Armored School requested captured enemy vehicles to be shipped to Fort Knox to be used in the armor museum to train soldiers. On April 30, 1948 the Armor Center designated an 18,900 sq. ft. surplus World War II warehouse/indoor small arms range, building 1810 on Old Ironsides Avenue, as the facility in which the Armored Museum of the Armored School would be established.

The source of the vehicles used in the original Armor Museum is unclear. One story is that during World War II, General Patton had ordered his staff to collect examples of enemy vehicles and weapons and have them sent back to the Armor School at Fort Knox so that students could see what they would be dealing with when they got into combat. It is unknown how much of this equipment was personally chosen by Patton, though there is one photo of him at a collection point where a Panther G and what could be one of the PzKpfw III F's that became part of the collection can be seen in the background (See Panther G.) Also at this time, Colonel Robert Garrett was charged with collecting German vehicles and material to be shipped back to Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG) in Maryland for tests and assessments.

Inside the first Patton Museum c. 1960s

Railroad manifests in the museum archives show that much of the foreign equipment arrived at Fort Knox from APG in December, 1946. It is presumed that since APG was the testing facility of captured equipment, everything that was collected in Europe was sent there first. It is also unknown if any of the equipment that may have been selected by Third Army staff was set aside and not used in testing at APG.

When the bulk of foreign vehicles and equipment arrived at Fort Knox, much of it was in poor shape. Wheeled vehicles were missing their wheels and some of the tracked vehicles had their track removed and in the case of the Panther G, the outer road wheels were also removed. It may be that railroad width restrictions necessitated their removal. Along with captured vehicles and weapons, several pieces of U.S. equipment were added to the collection. Much of it had either been used in training on post or were monument vehicles.

A German SdKfz 234/4 armored car, missing its wheels, upon arriving at Fort Knox from APG in 1946.

On May 30, 1949, the Armored Museum of the Armor School was dedicated to General Patton. The general's widow, Beatrice Patton, attended the dedication ceremony. On May 3, 1963 the Center for Military History formally recognized the Patton Museum as an official museum.

Inside the first Patton Museum c. 1960s showing newer additions.

Over time, more items were added to the museum, either captured later in other conflicts or given by friendly nations. The vehicles and weapons were used in the instruction of the students at the Armor School and have always remained part of the curriculum over the years.

A German Hummel on display outside the museum in 1965.