Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 18 Jan 2011
George Patton was one of those historical figures who demanded polar-opposite opinions. One would either say that he/she loved him or hated him; there seemed to be little middle ground when it came to Patton. Having said that, I would categorize Alan Axelrod as a member of the former group, but he had made a respectable attempt at writing an objective biography of Patton.
Beginning with his childhood fascination of books and the army, Axelrod set a good foundation on how his younger years shaped the man he was to become. His WW1 exploits and key interwar events were well-researched and well-told. While most of us knew Patton as a brash tank commander who stormed across France and later skillfully maneuvered a large group of forces to relieve the US 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne, the author succeeded in telling a side of Patton that was a little less understood For example, it was undeniable that Patton had lost his temper and crossed the line when he slapped a soldier in Sicily; however, Axelrod succeeded in presenting the general as one who worried about his wounded men and visited field hospitals whenever he could, slapping a man who was, to the eye, unhurt only after his emotions had already been run high seeing the seriously wounded. While known as a boorish and profanity-laden commander, the author also established him as someone who had the capability to understand politics, just unfortunately unable to do so all the time. Although Axelrod could be seen as an apologist at times, the author did do a good job with the biography.
I had reviewed this book in its audio book format. Brian Emerson did an acceptable job with the reading; nothing particularly good or bad struck me as I listened to the book.
Patton was among the most colorful generals in the modern era, and his accomplishments were as great as his eccentricities, thus building a myth around him. Although I would not consider Axelrod's Patton as one of the best biographies of Patton, it was still one worth reading nevertheless. Its simple language and cursory look on the world stage surrounding him, ie. retaining focus on Patton himself without going off course, might make this a good introduction to the general.
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939