Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Patton: The Pursuit of Destiny


The name conjures up George C. Scott's rendition of the brawling braggart whose fame became infamy when he slapped and scolded a wounded soldier in Italy.  A man who was loud, brash, uncouth and even a bit sadistic. 
But, is this the true Patton? 
According to a new biography, co-authored by Agostino vonHassell and Ed Breslin, the answer would have to be "no"!  Patton was much more complex: a mixed bag of fears, hopes, joys, triumphs, intellect and pure drive.  Patton: The Pursuit of Destiny, published by Thomas Nelson (as part of their new series The Generals, edited by Stephen Mansfield), is a short, but fascinating relating of this general's life.  The authors describe a man who was larger than life, a man with a family history of "bravery under fire" who consistently fought his own fears of cowardice; a man who was tender and sensitive in letters to his wife and yet was a hard-talking, hard task-master with all those trusted to his guidance. 

Patton's family can date their military involvement back through the Civil War ... all the men in recent memory (well 150 years or so) were military heroes and George (born in 1885) wanted to uphold that tradition.  Unfortunately, raised in the early days of the 20th century out on a ranch in southern California with lackadaisical schooling, Patton's academics were severely lacking and he was initally refused entrance to WestPoint, a shock to the boy who wanted to follow in his family's military tradition.  Patton, using family connections and his classic chutzpah, won a slot at VMI in order to spend a year getting up to speed in the necessary academic background which he was missing.  After surviving not only his schooling but also the hazing of being a newbie, Patton left VMI with academic honors (all through hard-work as his learning disabilities would haunt him throughout his life) while also winning a coveted slot into WestPoint. 

The determination and drive evidenced in his early twenties carried him throughout his life:

  • an honor student in academics as well as military prowess at WestPoint and beyond

  • a voracious (almost fanatical) self-read student of military history

  • a self-taught German and French linguist (so he could read military history books in their original)

  • a daring military strategist who was more often succesful than not
Patton's life is fascinating and this book does a great job of bringing out this multi-faceted man's true nature.  By setting the stage of Patton's early life -- that is, before WW2 -- the reader understands Patton and his actions ... some of which have been misconstrued by contemporaries who misjudged or blatantly lied about this man.  The authors do a great job of spending the bulk of the book discussing Patton's life up till WW2, saving that final chapter of the General's life for the final couple of chapters of the book.  

Patton certainly wasn't perfect -- and the authors bring some of this out -- but, Patton was all NOT the schmuck as some would have it.

I highly recommend this book for high school students and higher -- it's important to read about these man of the modern age who showed commitment, resolve and determination to do the good (even though at times slipping from their pedestals). 

This book was obtained as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program; the above review is my honest reaction to this book.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, Mary. My husband is a fan of Patton, and I was just wondering what to to get this proverbial man-who-has-everything for his birthday. Decided! ;)