123 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2001
"War As I Knew It" is not an autobiography. It is not a study of World War II. And it is not a doctoral dissertation. It is simply one of the greatest, most insightful accounts of the campaign in NW Europe, beautifully written by one of history's most charismatic and successful generals.
The book begins with a collection of open letters written by Patton during the time of his campaigns in North Africa and Sicily. For cesnorship reasons, these letters do not contain much battle information, but they provide a unique insight into the man Patton was, and how he dealt with problems that were not military in nature. He discusses his meeting with French and Arab leaders in attempts to protect his rear while he defeated the Germans to his front. The letters from Sicily are similar, discussing not so much tactics but outcomes, reactions, and the like. These early letters show how much Patton was moved around, and the interesting places that he visited.
The main part of the book covers Patton's proudest moments--commanding the U.S. Third Army. This section is wholly unique. Written shortly after they campaign ended with Germany's surrender, Patton describes the actions of Third Army from Normandy to Czechoslovakia. While he does not go into great detail about tactics and such, he provides a window into his own mind. The reader knows what he was thinking when he made his decisions, and the reasons that he made those decisions. In so doing, the reader gets a firm understanding of how an army worked in WW II. Also, he mentions his personal relationships with many different generals...ones you don't read about in history books. In short, this is a first hand account from the man who was a pure warrior.
The concluding section is Patton's gift to future leaders. He was a student of warfare, and his own contributions to the art are invaluable. He discusses everything from the conduct of general officers, to what the best tactics for attack are, to how to deal with trenchfoot! In conclusion, anyone who enjoys military history, or just plain good writing, should read this fascinating book written by a man born for war.
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2003
The book is composed of excerpts from the diaries of General Patton. It isn't the complete diaries but is fun and interesting. It's good to read something, in his own words, of how the general actually thought. It seems that General Patton had intended to write a book called "War as I Knew It". He didn't live long enough after the war to get it done. He does expound some about his philosophies and why he put on his war face to give the impression of being hard boiled, when in many ways he was very sentimental. He did not want to get soldiers killed needlessly. He made the "tough guy" act in order to inspire his men and psych them up for the job they had to do. His rough, hard, & extremely thorough training made his troops among the best-trained and combat ready troops in the army. The hard training was to condition and train the men to know what to expect and how to react so they would not get killed for lack of condition or not knowing what to do. General Patton's biggest problem, not controlling what he said in public, is not treated very much in this book. His war principals are outlined at the end of the book. It's a rather short read and quite entertaining.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2003
General George S. Patton, Jr.'s diaries and letters were assembled into this book in 1947, two years after his death. His widow Beatrice Ayer Patton served as a capable editor. This edition has some new material and was reprinted in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of V-E day.
Unfortunately with Patton's premature and unusual death in December 1945, (calm yourselves, conspiracy theorists) the post-war world lost its opportunity for the war's greatest memoir and its most unpredictable political leader. War As I Knew It is the next best thing, a full account of the leadership and strategic thinking of our greatest warrior.
Readers will travel with Patton from his arrival in North Africa in 1943, through the campaigns in Sicily, Western France, Belgium, the Bulge, and ending in May 1945 in Austria. Lesser known events are related such as the initial fighting with the French in Africa. In many cases, Patton revisits towns and territory that he had first seen as a young officer in the First World War.
Surprisingly, the book is also full of humorous stories such as unusual encounters with African tribal leaders, British generals, and French politicians. Cameo appearances include Marlene Dietrich, General T. Roosevelt (son of the President, who participated in the Normandy Invasion), and historical figures like William the Conquerer who influenced Patton's tactics.
Patton greatly plays down the events that led to his downfall, only briefly mentioning the slapping incidents, although he does make a very forceful argument that malingerers are a great threat to morale and need to be punished with extreme measures. The press conferences in London and Boston that led to his dismissal from the Third Army are basically outside the scope of this book, as they occurred after V-E Day and receive only a footnote.
On another level the book is chocked full of real insights into leadership that are probably more relevant today than in the 1940's. Patton is a clear proponent of focused planning, communication, speedy execution and offensive action.
Here are some examples:
It is vital to good morale that decorations get out promptly and on an equitable basis.
Staff officers of inharmonious disposition, irrespective of their ability, must be removed.
Time (speed) is more valuable than co-ordination.
In war,the only sure defense is offense, and the efficiency of offense depends on the warlike souls of those conducting it. Successful generals make plans to fit circumstance, but do not try to create cirmcumstances to fit plans.
Whenever a man gets a medal, he usually attempts to outdo himself and gets killed, whereas in order to produce a virial race, such men should be kept alive.
I believe in fighting until lack of supplies forces you to stop, and then dig in.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 1999
A great book even after all those years. The reader gets a pretty good impression of Patton's personality an his way of thinking. The first part of the book covers his experiences in Northern Africa and Sicily from 1942 on. Besides the military aspects he describes how he learned to know the local cultures and we are reminded how well educated he was in some other sciences than war. The second and biggest part deals with the operations conducted by his Third Army from France to Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria. Very informative are his views of Eisenhower, Bradley and Montgomery as well as the German side especially concerning the Battle of the Bulge. The third part is a personal view of tactics, the military generally and his career. All in all a great book for people interested in military history as well as leadership. A little drawback, as in many books covering military history, is the lack of good maps, the few maps in the book only give a very general impression of the campaigns.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2005
Patton's "War as I Knew It" is a good but not great collection of some of General George S. Patton's diaries from World War II. At times, it is an illuminating and interesting look at Patton and his views, but probably because it was edited by his wife and others after Patton's death, many interesting parts of Patton's life are glossed over or ignored. Anyone interested in Patton's war career or World War II would find this book interesting, and any current US Army officers should read this book for many of Patton's leadership lessons.
The book briefly describes parts of the North Africa and Sicily campaigns, and I found it very interesting to read about Patton's meetings with the Sultan of Morocco. Most of the rest of the North African campaign was skipped, and after a few pages about the Sicily campaign, Patton is suddenly in northern Europe as the Third Army commander. Most of his writings about the European campaign give daily updates on the condition and position of his subordinate divisions. Fortunately, the book is replete with maps of most of the Third Army's areas of operations - something too many military history books forget.
For anyone hoping to find Patton's insights and feelings about the controversial incidents during his command, you won't find them in this book. Most events are completely skipped over: the soldier slapping incidents are mentioned in two paragraphs on page 381 of 390 pages of text; there is no mention of Patton's difficult months after being passed over to lead the American D-Day effort and while serving as the "diversion" for a second invasion; there is no mention of Patton's comments and insults about the Soviet Russians as allies; and there is nothing about Patton and his tepid de-Nazification of his sector in Germany. Also, when criticizing many of his subordinate commanders and discussing the relief of some commanders, this book omits the names of those being criticized and only refers to them by position; and the reader has to wonder if these criticisms were whitewashed by the editors after Patton's death.
Despite these shortcomings, this book still gives many insights into Patton's persona not found in most other works. Too often, Patton is portrayed as a one-dimensional commander whose success relied on the discipline of his soldiers and his obsessiveness with the attack. Anyone reading this book will quickly discover that Patton's brilliance as a commander was based on a well-developed command philosophy. Patton understood that his role as an Army commander was to support his corps commanders and give them the moral support necessary when they grew weary. Patton's flamboyant personality was part of this philosophy as well: for instance, he would always drive to the frontlines when visiting the frontlines but fly back to his headquarters, because he wanted his soldiers to always see him going forward and never see him leaving the front.
This book should be read by all current Army officers, because many of Patton's lessons are timeless. He had a thorough understanding of the functions of his staff, and insisted that representatives from each staff section visit frontline units daily. The book ends two many chapters on his personal views of the Army: a chapter called "Earning My Pay," recounting various anecdotes throughout his Army career and the lessons he learned; and "Reflections and Suggestions," with tactical advice for soldiers and commanders.
This book is mostly a detailed recounting of Patton's World War II European campaign. For the casual reader wanting to learn more about the real Patton, I recommend looking elsewhere. But WWII buffs and real George S. Patton fans will get a lot of insight from this book, and all current U.S. Army officers should read it for the timeless lessons that Patton teaches.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2002
Patton's "War as I knew it" captures war and the experiences of it in raw and true form. Dedicated to his craft, Gen. Patton, thru his comentaries and diary entries, walks the reader thru day by day (in some cases minute by minute) accounts of a senior officer. From the "Babtized by fire" landings in 1942 North Africa, to personal reflections and "not so politically correct" comments and observations made after the war.
Right or wrong, Gen. Patton spoke his mind...eloquently, profanely and retrospectively. He is quick to criticize yet equally quick to praise. This book is a welcome addition to any military historian's library.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2000
Having read Patton - a genius for war, I bought this book with great expectations. I believe the description of the war in Europe to be both accurate and enlightening. I find it hard to believe that in War as I knew it, there was very little on both Africa and Sicely. The fact that there was no refence to the death of Dick Jenson and the profound sadness Patton felt, surprised me. I also felt that there being no reference to his relief of Lloyd Freedendall, an officer Patton obviously disliked left the book short. However, as an admirer of Patton, I enjoyed the book overall. I recommend the book, but take it as it comes and don't expect what may not be there. Regards Tom Rawlings, Victoria, Australia.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2004
This book gives the reader an excellent insight into the mind of one of the most colorful and reknowned military leaders in history. The book is his war diary, so it is filled with dates and facts about the war, but is also meshed with the thoughts of General Patton on the course of the war. As a fan of Patton's, I found the book to be incredibly enlightening, especially the end sections on his views of the principles of military operations.
I do have to say that if a reader is not a big fan of Patton, they may find this book to be a rather boring read. Part of the allure of this book is Patton's interpretation of events, so if you aren't into his views...well, there is no shortage of his opinions within!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2004
Army Commander that he was, Patton, at critical times would send a letter to be read to his soldiers, commending them on their battle performance. On August 22, 1943, in Sicily, following the successful completion of Operation Husky there, he ended his letter to the Seventh Army, with which he had raced to Messina, with this sentence: "Your fame shall never die." Fitting words to say to men who would see much death and destruction in the many days ahead. So, I've tampered with his statement somewhat, but I think it's fitting to apply it to him and his soldiers, given what they accomplished during WWII, and, to this day, the statement is true. His letters and methods are also a testimony to how well he cared for the men under him. The book does follow the movie quite a bit, though it is not credited as such; the diary begins in North Africa with the date of October 29, 1942. Patton encouraged all of his men to keep diaries, which this one is of the 3 U.S. operations he commanded: Operations Torch, Husky, and Overlord. At times, I would admit that his diary was not terribly interesting when he would speak of the different divisions etc. that were being shuttled here and there. I don't think he was writing to publish a New York Times best seller, just to document what actually transpired; also, I would think that should be a standard, wise habit to utilize in the midst of a major war. Most of the time, I found myself admiring Patton for his abilities to command and inspire. He took good care of his men, and I think there is ample evidence to support that.
When they were on their way to Luxembourg and Germany, he asked his chaplain to write the "weather prayer", also in the movie, because of incessant rains and flooding which were slowing them down, causing a high incidence of trench foot and hampering efforts to provide air cover. I stumbled on an article that that chaplain, Msgr. James H. O'Neill published on October 6, 1971 in the Review of the News about him and how he dealt with this predicament. From what Mr. O'Neill wrote, the footnotes and other commentaries of Colonel Paul D. Harkin's in War as I Knew It, were a little off in explaining the significance of this prayer. He writes, "Many conflicting and some untrue stories have been printed about General George S. Patton and the Third Army Prayer. Some have had the tinge of blasphemy and disrespect for the Deity." The weather prayer was printed as a Christmas card greeting and given to every single soldier, 250,000 men, underneath his command. An additional "Training Letter" went out to every chaplain, every officer under his command, a total of 3200 because Patton believed in the power of prayer. He told Mr. O'Neill, "Up to now, in the Third Army, God has been very good to us. We have never retreated; we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics. This is because a lot of people back home are praying for us. We were lucky in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy. Simply because people prayed. But we have to pray for ourselves, too. A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work. There is something in every soldier that goes deeper than thinking or working--it's his "guts." It is something that he has built in there: it is a world of truth and power that is higher than himself. Great living is not all output of thought and work. A man has to have intake as well. I don't know what you call it, but I call it Religion, Prayer, or God. But the time is now to intensify our faith in prayer, not alone with ourselves, but with every believing man, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Christian in the ranks of the Third United States Army. "Those who pray do more for the world than those who fight; and if the world goes from bad to worse, it is because there are more battles than prayers. 'Hands lifted up,' said Bosuet, 'smash more battalions than hands that strike.' " His chaplain reveals in his article how the prayers were answered: "On the 19th of December, the Third Army turned from East to North to meet the attack. As General Patton rushed his divisions north from the Saar Valley to the relief of the beleaguered Bastogne, the prayer was answered. On December 20, to the consternation of the Germans and the delight of the American forecasters who were equally surprised at the turn-about-the rains and the fogs ceased. For the better part of a week came bright clear skies and perfect flying weather. General Patton prayed for fair weather for Battle. He got it...It was late in January of 1945 when I saw the Army Commander again. This was in the city of Luxembourg. He stood directly in front of me, smiled: "Well, Padre, our prayers worked. I knew they would." Then he cracked me on the side of my steel helmet with his riding crop. That was his way of saying, "Well done."" Patton had socks sent to all the soldiers of the (now) Third army to deal with the trenchfoot problem. He loved his men and his men loved him.
From his diary, it seems that a large part of their success was how well the commanding generals worked so well together and were of the same mind. Patton felt that delays of any sort in the midst of battle were sure roads to defeat and death to be avoided at all costs. After every campaign in his diary, he shows the tallies of losses to the allies vs. the enemy. What he doesn't show, and what cannot be calculated, is the numbers of lives that were saved, soldiers and civilians, because of his swift methods. Many times he ponders, however, that if some orders had not been questioned, not only would more U.S. soldiers' lives have been lost, but we might have lost the war. Hmm.
General G. S. Patton, Jr., I give you FIVE STARS, FIVE STARS!!!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2000
General Patton was one of the more interesting figures history has produced. As a military history expert, I always prefer to read memoirs by the 'actors' themselves. Read this one. Rent Patton. Read Ladislas Farago's book (on which the movie was based). Then read this book. When you're done, tell me (whether you like the man or not) that you aren't at least impressed with the man's skill as well as knowledge of the enemy (specifically, the Soviet Union near the end of the war).
You will not be disappointed.