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Hometown Hero: Earl Staats

Sturgeon Bay man joins Army at 16. Becomes personal chauffer to General George Patton. Does personal mission for him.


STURGEON BAY (WFRV) Earl Staats always set high goals for himself. From working in a shipyard at 14-years-old to joining the military.

"When I was 16, I went to the courthouse and I jumped in the truck with the guys," Staats said.

Staats couldn't wait for graduation to fight in World War Two. So, he joined a line of other recruits boarding a bus from Sturgeon Bay to Milwaukee in 1943. But upon arrival an officer noticed Staats's name was not on the recruit list and contacted Earl's mother.

"My mother asked her--"What are you calling from Milwaukee?" And so my mother hung up on her. She wouldn't even talk with her. She was so mad at me," Staats recalled.

So Earl was quickly on his way to basic training in Florida and off to Germany thirteen weeks later. He was assigned to the Third Army and was among the men picked up personally by General George Patton. Staats's mechanical skills didn't go unnoticed by Patton, who complained that some tanks moved too slow.

"And I adjusted it over half-an-inch. "Boy,"he said."That baby really hauls now," Staats chuckled as he recalled his efforts.

Nearly two-years later, Staats was ordered to report to Patton, immediately.

"I said--"What did I do now?" He said--"You didn't do nothing. He (Patton) wants you to drive him through Germany." I said--"I don't know this country." "Boy," he said. "You'll learn," said Staats.

Staats drove General Patton all over Germany. In turn, Staats was allowed to visit his brother in Munich using Patton's car, complete with four-star plates. But Patton also used Staats's proficiency in German, and the resources of a captured S-S officer for a special mission: free Patton's son in law from a POW camp.

"So I went up there and the guy came to the gate. Here I was in a '39 Buick with German license in a SS uniform. I looked just like one of the SS troopers. He let him come. And I said I'll be back in a few minutes," Staats said.

When the war ended, Patton got a new driver. But Staats was nearby at the time of the auto accident that would take Patton's life. Staats served as a pallbearer and still recalls the Patton that was nothing like the man portrayed by Hollywood.

"He was really an honest man. And he really took care of his men good," he said.

Local 5's Terry Kovarik has the story

* This Hometown Hero originally aired January 24, 2014.  On February 18, 2014, Earl Staats passed away at his home.  The story was rerun on February 21, 2014, coinciding with visitation services and as a memorial to one of many veterans who served the United States of America in uniform.
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