There have been a lot of incredibly bold and brave generals in American History: Washington, Eisenhower, Grant, MacArthur, Lee. But one of the most venerated, larger than life military figures was George S. Patton, or old ‘Blood and Guts’.
Patton had an impressive life to say the least. He attended West Point, competed in the pentathlon of the 1912 Olympic Games, hunted Pancho Villa through Mexico, and led a tank brigade during World War I. And that doesn’t even take into account his experience in the Second World War.
He lead attacks in North Africa and the invasion of Sicily. But his most storied battles come from his time in France and Germany:
Patton on the Western Front
Killing Patton by Bill O’Reilly focuses mainly on Patton’s experience on the Western front of World War II leading the 3rd Army group. The Battle of the Bulge specifically garners a big share of the book.
Patton would go on to lead his 3rd Army to many great feats. A few of which were being the first soldiers to cross the Rhine, entering the heartland of Germany, as well as relieving stranded soldiers from the Siege of Bastogne.
Patton was so successful on the field of battle that he was greatly feared by the German military command:
Lt. Col Freiherr von Wangenheim will go on to add, ‘General Patton is the most feared general on all fronts… The tactics of General Patton are daring and unpredictable… He is the most modern general and the best commander of armored and infantry troops combined.”
Patton was undoubtedly the most talented military strategist among the American military officers, if not in the entire war! Yet, there was no chance of Patton ever being promoted. In fact, there was talk of him even being demoted to Colonel for his behavior. One such incident that threatened demotion was when he smacked a soldier across the face who was being treated for distress, calling him a ‘Yellow Bastard’.
Napoleon Bonaparte had a saying:
“L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace.” (Audacity, audacity, always audacity.)
Patton claimed it as his own.
He used his unshakeable audacity to lead bold raids and attacks. His fellow generals on the Western Front were often left in the dust, trying to keep pace with Patton’s advances.
One such example is the attack on Trier, a city in Germany across the French border:
Shortly after the conquest on March 1, Patton received a message from Allied headquarters: ‘Bypass Trier.’ It will take four divisions to capture it….”
Patton replies, “Have taken Trier with two divisions… What do you want me to do? Give it back?”
Patton’s audacity did not come from any delusions of grandeur, rather it stems from his deep rooted beliefs on what it means to be a man and to fight for one’s country:
The real hero,” Helmlund heard George S. Patton say just four months ago, “is the man who fights even though he’s scared…But a real man will never let his fear of death overwhelm his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood.”
While audacity was perhaps Patton’s greatest trait, others saw it differently:
He lives by the words of the great French general Napoleon, “L’audace, l’audace, toujous l’audace” “Audacity, audacity, always audacity” a motto that works well on the field of battle, but not so well in diplomatic situations. Patton has damaged his career again and again by saying and doing the sort of impulsive things that would see a lesser man relieved of his command for good.”
Your greatest fault,” Eisenhower tells Patton, “is your audacity.”
This frustrates Patton immensely, but:
Knowing that being bitter and angry will not help his cause in the slightest; Patton tries to put a positive spin on the situations.”
They’ll Always Keep You Down
Patton’s fiery determination to speak the truth had many powerful men squirming not only during the war, but also afterward… Some have come to see Paton as a roadblock to world peace. And now Patton is at this most vulnerable, an easy target for any of those enemies.”
In fact, the premise of this book stems from the idea that Patton was assassinated by Americans. Though he was mortally injured in a car accident, some say it was no accident and that Patton was intentionally targeted because of the threat he posed.
“Patton’s soaring popularity must be brought back down to Earth. It was no secret in American [Intelligence] circles… that certain politicians and generals did not want Patton to garner more laurels…”
This is frightening to say the least, though it shouldn’t be too surprising. The people at the top are the ones who will call the shots. It’s not a huge deal if people criticize their views, but when it’s a national hero that becomes an issue, a real threat to power.
A Riveting Account of World War II
People who dislike Bill O’Reilly for his political views may be quick to dismiss this book—don’t! This book really measures up with other historical works I’ve read.
It’s not a scholarly work, however, and that’s a good thing for most readers. The reason that every book in the Killing series has sat atop the New York Times best-selling list for weeks at a time is because these books make history accessible to those who often shun reading.
Also, this book, along with the other Killing books are, co-authored by Martin Dugard. He is an exceptional author and his personal history books carry the same narrative history tone you’ll find in Killing Patton.
I recommend the Last Voyage of Columbus (No affiliate). It’s a phenomenal account of Columbus’s trips across the Atlantic, with a focus on his final voyage and the implications it had for him and posterity.
Killing Patton makes an excellent addition to the Masculine Books bookshelf as it blends an up-tempo narrative of WWII with a biography of one of history’s boldest and outspoken military commanders. A must read for fans of history or biography.
Click here to purchase a copy of Killing Patton on Amazon.
- General George S. Patton was assassinated… from The Telegraph
- Audacity, Audacity, Always Audacity! from Danger&Play