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First Name: Charles

Last Name: Kuhl

Birthplace: Mishawaka, IN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Herman

Date of Birth: 06 November 1915

Date of Death: 31 January 1971

Rank: Private

Years Served:
Charles Herman Kuhl

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Charles Herman Kuhl
Private, U.S. Army

Charles Herman Kuhl was born on 6 November 1915 in Mishawaka, IN, the son of casket maker Herman F. Kuhl.

Kuhl worked as a carpet layer in South Bend, IN, prior to World War II. During the war, Kuhl had served as a Private for 8 months in Company L, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, when he was admitted to the 3rd Battalion, 26th Infantry aid station for reported combat exhaustion.

At the aid station, Kuhl was initially diagnosed with "exhaustion," and his medical chart said "psychoneurosis anxiety state, moderately severe (soldier has been twice before in hospital within ten days. He can't take it at the front, evidently. He is repeatedly returned.)" Kuhl was transferred from the aid station to the Army's 15th Evacuation Hospital near Nicosia for further evaluation.

On a tour of the 15th Evacuation Hospital, Patton encountered Kuhl, who was sitting slouched on a stool midway through a tent ward filled with injured soldiers. Years later, Kuhl would recall that when General Patton entered the hospital tent, "all the soldiers jumped to attention except me. I was suffering from battle fatigue and just didn't know what to do." When Patton asked Kuhl where he was hurt, Kuhl shrugged and replied that he was 'nervous' rather than wounded, adding "I guess I can't take it."

Patton slapped Kuhl across the chin with his gloves, then grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to the tent entrance, shoving him out of the tent with a final kick to Kuhl's backside. Yelling "Don't admit this son-of-a-bitch," Patton demanded that Kuhl be sent back to the front at once, adding "You hear me, you gutless bastard? You're going back to the front."

Following the incident, Kuhl was found to have both chronic dysentery and malaria. Patton's actions may have been motivated in part by a report given him by Gen. Clarence R. Huebner, the Commander of the 1st Infantry Division to which Kuhl belonged. Prior to visiting the 15th Evacuation Hospital, Patton had asked Huebner how things were going. Huebner replied, "The front lines seem to be thinning out. There seems to be a very large number of "malingerers" at the hospitals, feigning illness in order to avoid combat duty."

Word of Patton's actions soon spread to several Allied commanders in Sicily, who took no action in the matter. Initially, the incident was not reported by any of the news reporters in the theater. However, a group of war correspondents eventually decided that General Dwight D. Eisenhower should be informed of the incident. They compiled a report on the Kuhl slapping and sent it to General Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's Chief of Staff. When General Eisenhower learned of the matter, he ordered Patton to make amends, after which Patton formally apologized to the soldier "and to all those present at the time." The news reporters who had sent their report to Bedell Smith demanded that Patton be fired in exchange for killing the story, a demand which Eisenhower refused. Contrary to popular impression, Eisenhower never seriously considered removed Patton from duty in the ETO: "If this thing ever gets out, they'll be howling for Patton's scalp, and that will be the end of Georgie's service in this war. I simply cannot let that happen. Patton is indispensable to the war effort - one of the guarantors of our victory."

Kuhl wrote his parents about the incident, but asked them to "just forget about it." Kuhl's parents later stated that they had avoided mention of the matter "because they did not wish to make trouble for General Patton." Eventually the story of Kuhl's slapping was broken in the U.S. by muckraking newspaper columnist Drew Pearson on his 21 November 1943 radio program. Pearson's version of the incident bore little relation to the actual event, and falsely claimed that General Patton would "not be used in important combat anymore." Allied Headquarters denied that Patton had received either an official reprimand or a relief from combat duty, but confirmed that Patton had slapped a soldier with his gloves. Demands for Patton to be recalled and sent home soon came from Congress as well as in newspaper articles and editorials across the country. However, public opinion was largely favorable to Patton, and Kuhl's father Herman even wrote his own congressman, stating that he forgave Patton for the incident and requesting that he not be disciplined. While Patton was later reassigned, he was not relieved and would continue to serve in the European Theater, where he would later command the famous U.S. Third Army, which under his leadership advanced further and faster than any army in military history.

Kuhl was discharged from the Army as a Private. Following the war, he returned to the Mishawaka area and obtained a job as a floor sweeper for Bendix Corporation in South Bend, IN.

Patton's encounter with Kuhl was later depicted in the 1970 film Patton, where the slapped soldier was played by Tim Considine. After the film was released, Kuhl was interviewed on the incident by news reporters. Kuhl related that "After [Patton] left, they took me in and admitted me in the hospital, and found out I had malaria," Kuhl noted, adding that when Patton apologized personally (at Patton's headquarters) "He said he didn't know that I was as sick as I was." Kuhl added that "I think at the time it happened, he was pretty well worn out himself."

Death and Burial

Charles Herman Kuhl died on 31 January 1971 in Mishawaka, IN, of a heart attack at age 55. He is buried at Fairview Cemetery in Mishawaka, IN.

Honoree ID: 2725   Created by: MHOH




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