Even before the motion picture bearing his name, General Patton's reputation as a controversial, unorthodox, flamboyant military commander was well entrenched in the public consciousness, particularly among those old enough to recall World War II headlines. To those who hero-worshipped him as a battlefield genius, Patton was ""Old Blood and Guts,"" the man who did the job with his tanks until Ike put the screws on him; to those who detested him, he was egomaniacal ""Gorgeous Georgie,"" a grandstander who remorselessly sacrificed his men for self-aggrandizement. ""Everything that everyone has ever said about George S. Patton, Jr.,"" writes Martin Blumenson, a military historian and professor at the Naval War College at Newport (R.I.), ""is probably true. . . . He was brutal yet sensitive. He was gregarious and a loner. Enthusiastic and buoyant, he suffered from inner anguish."" In what is a superb job of editing and annotating, Blumenson has culled through Patton's personal papers -- over 50 file cases of letters, journals, schoolboy compositions, memoranda, speeches, articles in an effort to discover the secret of the inner man: ""What changed the youthful warrior into the hard-eyed general? What made him so fiercely ambitious? What was that awful insecurity? From where did it come?"" Perhaps the most educible documents here are the many letters Patton addressed to his wife Beatrice, revealing as they do his self-doubts, frustrations concerning promotions, and the wounds, both physical and psychogenic. In sum, this is a quite remarkable collection of lucent autobiographical fragments which pierce the tough hide of one quite remarkable old soldier.