George Patton revolutionizes warfare while struggling with his inner demons during times of peace.
Axelrod (Patton on Leadership, 2001, etc.) kicks off editor General Wesley Clark’s “Great Generals Series” with a compact but insightful volume on one of the most controversial military leaders in American history, a man who, in his own mind, was born and bred to be a warrior. Descended from a long line of military men on his father’s side, Patton decided at a young age to make war his business. Accolades and controversy followed him in equal measure from the moment he arrived at West Point in 1904. For every brilliant tactical maneuver he conceived and executed, he managed to alienate those around him, whether by cheating on his wife, offending his fellow officers or being too hard on his men. It was Patton’s shocking abuse of a shell-shocked private—and proclivity for putting his foot in his mouth—that sidelined him for nearly a year during World War II, a period of time during which Patton’s lightning strikes might have inflicted heavy damage and, perhaps, shortened the war. Patton was a walking contradiction: a pious man who cursed like a sailor, a man who knew peace through war and warred with himself in times of peace and a man who projected confidence while enduring excruciating bouts of self-doubt. For the most part, Axelrod holds nothing back in painting the portrait of a man who was something of anathema to a democratic society leery of having a large standing army: a professional warrior whose sole goal in life was to be in the thick of battle and emerge covered in glory. At times, Axelrod stretches in trying to justify some of Patton’s more glaring faults, but this can perhaps be attributed to the nature of the series. Still, this is a concise yet in-depth look at a fascinating man whose myth, in many ways, outshines the facts.
Like Patton at his best: polished, precise and persuasive.