Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Book Review (#5 of 2009)

Was As I knew It: Gen. George S. Patton.
This was another of my $1 garage sale audio books. While Patton didn't exactly write an autobiography, this book is entirely made up of his journal entries, memoirs, letters home, and copies of orders given. As such, it's all in the first person and reads like a personal history of WWII.

Since much of it deals with commands given, areas taken, tactics used, and suggestions for future Army organization, it is pretty boring for a non-soldier to read. But sprinkled throughout are Patton's philosophies, personal stories, jokes, and historical reflections that make it worthwhile.

Much of the beginning of the book, the North Africa campaign, isn't about fighting but rather about the people he met and visited. Patton had an incredibly detailed knowledge of ancient history. He knew more about the sites he visited during the war than the tour guides he encountered. The last book he mentions reading before landing in North Africa is the Koran. He reads the Norman Invasion as he prepares to take the Third Army across Europe.

The last chapter deals with personal stories from war, including serving under General Pershing while chasing Poncho Villa into Mexico. He illustrates what he learned, and how various decisions shaped him as an officer. I'm guessing some of this book has been made into a leadership guide for corporate CEOs. "Never take counsel of your fears" is a recurring Patton maxim.

I was curious how the stories matched up with the famous Patton film. Not very well. Patton's dialogue with the Third Army Chaplain about devising a prayer for good weather is about the only part that matches up almost word-for-word.

The movie makes much of him slapping a battle fatigued soldier, suggesting it was controversial in the States and led him to almost be sacked. Patton only mentions such an incident in the last chapter, and never suggests any repercussions from it.

The man probably never intended for his journals to be published as they were, but they're historically great. Patton was a very intelligent man in many ways. Very little of his foul-mouthed reputation comes out in the book, but he mentions a few times where he (always to achieve a specific purpose) cursed people out.

Overall, I give it 2.5 stars.

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