Edina resident and 30-year veteran Colonel Donald G. Patton channeled his devotion for service and passion for history in a way that would reach people young and old. For 33 years, the WWII History Round Table has preserved the factual history of World War II through historians, veterans and travel opportunities for its members.
“Bringing in prominent historians from everywhere raises the visibility and prominence of what we do,” Patton says. “I like people. I like the veterans. I like the stories.”
Formerly held at Fort Snelling, the roundtable now meets on the second Tuesday of each month (September-May) at the Minnesota Historical Society. The events draw anywhere from 250 to 300 people of all ages.
After graduating from Texas A&M as a Distinguished Military Graduate, where he was assigned to command positions for nearly 13 years in two battalion commands, Patton went on to receive his MBA at the University of Minnesota where he unexpectedly re-fostered his love for history.
His interest in history began in the sixth grade with his teacher, a WWII veteran, who emphasized the importance of global awareness. Since then, Patton always had an interest in history, but decided to gear his life toward the STEM field. Upon attending university, he was struck by what he described as a “legendary professor” Harold Deutsch PhD.
“[Deutsch] was a remarkable speaker, motivator, one of those teachers who just had a way of connecting with students,” Patton says.
Deutsch’s emphasis on this period in history imparted his first-hand experience with research, analysis and understanding of human dynamics of Nazi Germany during WWII.
Upon retiring in 1972, Deutsch then joined the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, where Patton also attended and served, and worked to develop broader perspectives of war and policy making before joining Patton to create the roundtable in 1987.
Translating stimulating experiences in educational, yet interactive ways, Deutsch and Patton knew that there were many people beyond themselves who could share their first-hand expertise with others.
“When we started, there were so many prominent citizens of the community that did marvelous things in World War II,” Patton says. “All I had to do was find them.”
Whenever Patton was unable to find a speaker for the roundtable, Deutsch would step in and lecture on the scheduled topic.
Patton strives to keep things fresh with themes pertaining to anniversaries, a year-end (optional) trip and monthly recognitions such as International Women’s Month in March. A part of planning comes from his outreach with other organizations such as the Jewish Council, The Minneapolis St. Paul Committee of Foreign Relations, the Wings of the North and the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League.
Now 80 years old, Patton has received the Meritorious Service Medal five times, the Minnesota Superior Civilian Service Award by the Adjunct General of Minnesota and was recognized in 2016 as one of 25 outstanding Minnesota Veterans by the Minnesota Humanities Center for Leadership and Community Contributions.
WWII History Roundtable Schedule
November 12, 2019: Difficulties of Coalition Warfare
December 10 ,2019: Relief of the Bulge- The 7th Armor Division Counterattack-75th Anniversary
January 14, 2020: Evolution of the Russian Army
February 11, 2020: Return to Philippines- The Battle of Manila
March 24, 2020: The chief of Staff for Eisenhower
April 9, 2020: The First Tank Battles of WWII- Defense of the Philippines
May 12, 2020: Remembering the 75th anniversary of V-E Day