I Marched with Patton
A Firsthand Account of World War II alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals
Frank Sisson and Robert L. Wise
William Morrow, New York, 2020, 304 pages
Book Review published on: June 18, 2021
On Christmas Day 1944, Frank Sisson entered into combat in World War II when his landing craft arrived on the coast of France. He continued to serve in the Army through 1946, returning home to a small town in Oklahoma as a sergeant after the war. Nearly seventy-five years after the end of World War II, Sisson shares his story and experiences. I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals chronicles Sisson’s war experience from basic training, his participation in the battle of the bugle, and finally to the occupation of Berlin.
At the age of fifteen, and shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sisson left the small town of Weleetka, Oklahoma, to work and support his family following the unexpected death of his father. He spent the first two years of World War II welding cargo ships in California, waiting his chance to register for the draft. In 1943, drawn by strong sense of duty to serve his nation and a desire to follow Gen. George S. Patton, Sisson registered for the draft on his eighteenth birthday. He was immediately drafted and trained as a field artillery communications specialist at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After nearly a year of training and preparation, Sisson joined the 667th Field Artillery Battalion, 10th Armored Division, with Patton’s Third Army.
Sisson’s march with Patton provides a firsthand account of what life was truly like for soldiers fighting in Patton’s Third Army through France, Belgium, and ultimately Germany. Sisson quickly rose to the rank of sergeant and led a small team of soldiers responsible for establishing observation posts and maintaining communications with the howitzers. The soldiers on Sisson’s communication team represent a cross section of young men from America and complement Sisson’s own thoughts and experiences. Through Sisson and his team, the reader gains insights into their motivations for joining the war effort, their desires to survive the war, and philosophical and comical discussions during times of little activity. He outlines the harsh conditions soldiers faced dealing with constant enemy artillery barrages, below-freezing temperatures, the constant desire to understand their role in the war, and the drive into Germany.
As World War II drew to an end in the European theater of operations, Sisson provided another unique perspective in occupied Berlin. Following the surrender of the German army, Sisson received a new assignment as a military policeman in Berlin. He provides graphic descriptions of assisting newly liberated prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp and the impact of the war on the German citizens. Sisson learned firsthand the impact of the war and its aftermath on the citizens through his interpreter, who assisted him in ensuring U.S. soldiers maintain order and discipline. After nearly a year in Berlin, Sisson returned home to surprise his mother after his discharge from the U.S. Army.
Overall, I Marched with Patton is a noteworthy book providing great insight into Sisson’s experiences during World War II. It is well worth the time to read. His descriptions of hardships in combat, his fear, determination, and the desire to survive are exceptional. Of particular interest is Sisson’s and his fellow soldiers’ viewpoints on Patton and their unending belief that Patton was a strong leader who cared for the soldiers and would lead them to victory. The author does not shy away from controversies that surrounded Patton. Sisson acknowledges and accepts those faults, maintaining trust and admiration in Patton’s leadership. The author captures the reader’s attention with his personal experiences and also with the updates from fellow soldiers. In this way, Sisson reveals his need to understand how the campaign was progressing, and this also serves to ensure the audience is able to follow the Third Army’s drive into Germany. Finally, his experiences after the surrender of Germany as a member of a military police unit not only provide a view of the devastation the war took on the Germany and its people but also the challenges U.S. Army soldiers faced in a city occupied by multiple armies with different and sometimes contrary outlooks on Germany and its people.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Leland Waldrup, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Belvoir, Virginia