21st Century Patton
Strategic Insights for the Modern Era
Edited by J. Furman Daniel III
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2016, 154 pages
Book Review published on: May 12, 2017
Many of Gen. George S. Patton’s professional articles and papers that he published during his career in the U.S. Army have been collected and turned into 21st Century Patton. J. Furman Daniel III, the editor, attempts to showcase Patton as a highly adept and strategic-minded individual that many people may be unaware of due to his larger-than-life persona that popular culture has shaped him into. The editor does this by introducing the reader to the various writings Patton has published and providing a little analysis to each in order to display those threads of strategic genius that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.
Daniel begins by introducing the young Patton as an avid student of history and military theory who prides himself on developing himself professionally. Patton read many books on history and religion, and he took copious notes that he would critically analyze and internalize in order to ascertain some semblance of truth from them. In one instance, Daniel takes note of a time when Patton traveled to France to take lessons on sword fighting while simultaneously touring the French countryside mapping out the roadways and terrain features. Later during World War II, after the Normandy breakout, then Gen. Patton used his knowledge of the countryside he gathered during his youth to maneuver his forces effectively. Others would attribute his uncanny ability to traverse the Bocage country of Northern France to his almost prophetic understanding of the operational environment when, in reality, his lifelong effort to study the world around him simply paid dividends. This introduction effectively sets the stage to help demystify Patton as a man that appears to have some form of providence about him and shows him for the man he truly was—a great student that never stopped studying.
The book contains eight separate articles, including the editor’s personal analysis of each, seven from Patton himself and one written by his wife, Beatrice, after his death. From his youth, he wrote articles discussing the use of sabers by the U.S. Army Cavalry, how its design is flawed, and provides his own ideas for how to redesign the weapon for better use by cavalrymen. Patton wrote extensively on the nature of human conflict midcareer, and the relations between soldiers and the technology they employed. He uses extensive anecdotal evidence from his studies to anticipate the nature of future conflict after the First World War and how small-professional mechanized forces will supplant the mass conscript armies used previously. In his final article published for posterity, before he first ventured off to lead men during Operation Torch, he discussed the development of the Desert Training Center in California that he oversaw the establishment of and lessons learned from training men in the harsh desert environment; undoubtedly saving the lives of many soldiers heading into North Africa. Beatrice’s article closes the book by discussing Patton’s home life and how he would incorporate his studies into family activities where his wife and kids would act out events from famous battles as he read them.
An important note to be made to those interested in purchasing this book is that the majority of this book are those articles transcribed by the editor. In fact, of the 154 pages that make of the body of this work, only about forty of those pages are the editor’s personal analysis; 26 percent, the rest are the words of Patton himself. That being said, however, the value in the book can be derived from being introduced to articles written by the man that the reader may otherwise have never known to have existed. Understanding the level of detail and dedication to analysis of everything he studied helps the reader understand why Patton was such a successful leader in combat. As the book states early on, most people have a romanticized image of Patton as a charismatic, stern, and highly spiritual individual with otherworldly insight. While most of that is both the result of the media and his own attempts to appear so, much of this can also be attributed to a strategic-focused mindset that was shaped early on in his life and continued on through his own self-directed professional development.
Book Review written by: Capt. Colin Marcum, U.S. Army, Fort Bliss, Texas