PATTON: The Man Behind the Legend, 1885-1945 by Martin Blumenson

PATTON: The Man Behind the Legend, 1885-1945

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Historian Blumenson, author of several previous books on Patton, this time has put together a basically uncritical, largely admiring biography of the WW II general. Patton's warts are here. As second corporal at West Point, he was in charge of first-year cadets: ""Extremely severe, he reported more infractions of the regulations than anyone else."" Chasing Villa in Mexico with Pershing, Patton captured a man who was a potential source of information: ""Perhaps Patton and his men tortured the [man] as they questioned him, and perhaps the [man] revealed some information."" The context, with quotes from Patron's diary about the incident, makes clear it is probable that Patton tortured the prisoner. Blumenson's use of the studiedly neutral ""perhaps"" jumps off the page. The recounting of the two infamous incidents in which Patton slapped disabled soldiers similarly avoids any kind of critical judgment about the man--not the general--who did the slapping and why. And Patton was just as macho and insensitive with women as with men: years after the fact, he apologized to his wife in a letter for being rough and hurting her on their wedding night. No comment from Blumenson. A major flaw here is that Blumenson makes no effort to seek an underlying cause for these incidents of one-on-one violence, which, if nothing else, reveal a bully ready and willing to pick on people who couldn't fight back. Patton's soldiering is better handled. The result is a two-dimensional portrait that will satisfy military history buffs, but not students of biography. The writing is flat and passionless, marred by such jarring stylistic devices as the author eternally referring to Patton's parents as ""Papa"" and ""Mama."" A second flaw for a work of biography is that it is completely unsourced: not one citation, reference or footnote. Blumenson is a historian with a number of books behind him and has distinguished credentials. This time out, unfortunately, he has slighted the requirements for serious biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow