A noted historian studies one of the 20th century's most fascinating figures. Utilizing untapped archival materials in the U.S. and England, Hirshson ...Show synopsisA noted historian studies one of the 20th century's most fascinating figures. Utilizing untapped archival materials in the U.S. and England, Hirshson reveals General George S. Patton as a complex soldier capable of brilliant maneuvers but also of inspiring atrocities with his fiery speeches. photo insert. 8 maps.Hide synopsis
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Stanley P. Hirshson?s General Patton is a very well written, revealing and very satisfying look at the American military icon, General George S. Patton, Jr.
Perhaps like many who are interested in this book, my prime connection to the general is the film Patton, staring George C. Scott. The book therefore offered a much greater look at Patton, revealing many interesting items about the man, the general, the legend. Thankfully, more than half of the book is devoted to Patton?s role in World War II, which looms large in the Patton legend.
Beginning with an examination of Patton?s forebears (the only boring chapter in the book), Hirshson lays out Patton?s life to the end in Germany. I was surprised to learn that some biographers claimed Patton was dyslexic because he was a horrible speller. Hirshson contends that Patton?s poor spelling was a result of not seeing a printed page until he was 12, and that Patton did not show any other traits of dyslexia.
Hirshson documents Patton?s experiences in Mexico, pursuing Pancho Villa as part of General Pershing?s force. Again, this is something I did not know: Patton had a very close relationship with General Pershing, something he used to full advantage in World War I. In France, Patton was initially part of Pershing?s staff, then realized he needed to make a name for himself. Eventually, a new military invention, the tank, would give Patton that chance.
The best part of the book is Hirshson?s use of Patton?s personal diary. Patton was very frank in his personal writings and the passages Hirshson uses are direct and highly applicable.
Almost as a sidebar, Hirshson also presents a history of how the tank became part of U.S. Army doctrine. Patton was not, as many would expect, involved with tanks from his initial exposure during World War I all the way up until and through World War II. He actually returned to the cavalry (the horse cavalry) for many years between the wars. It wasn?t until July of 1940 that Patton would command an armored unit (the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division, Ft. Benning).
What is interesting about this history of armor in the Army is the sharply differing views of Army commanders on how armored should be used. The debate really lasts until 1944. Surprisingly, many Allied commanders did not expect the Allies could manage a ?blitzkrieg? of their own after invading France. They thought the invading forces would have to resort to World War I methods. Patton?s drive across France ended that debate.
Perhaps most revealing was Patton?s low opinions of Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery. Ike is seen as a poor commander, just a pro-British administrator. Monty is seen as a timid, hesitating bungler. These are not just sour grapes: Patton?s opinions are supported by statements by other generals, Ike on Monty and General Alan Brooke on Ike.
There are some other surprising, even alarming, points raised in the book (such as Patton the rich socialite), but I don?t want to spoil the surprise.
Hirshson?s book is very easy to read. He avoids overblown language and focuses on the key threads of Patton?s life. I only have two real criticisms of the book.
First, and this applies primarily to World War II, I found it hard to keep up with all the generals and other soliders Hirshson mentions. I think a ?Who?s Who? list would have been very helpful.
Second, Hirshson probably should have included a few more maps. There are 10, but three or four more would have been great. For example, as Patton?s Third Army nears Germany, Metz, Nancy, and the Saar River area of Germany are prominently mentioned. There are, however, no maps focusing on this area.
I think Hirshson should have also used one or two more maps in detailing movements during the Battle of the Bulge.
I enthusiastically endorse Hirshson?s General Patton. It?s a fascinating look at a fascinating man. I have to agree with Hirshson?s conclusion that ?Patton was a better tactician than strategist.? It should be a valued addition to anyone interested in World War II and General Patton.
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