by James Kelly Morningstar
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 378.
Illus., maps, diagr., chron., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 1612519792
Patton, the Thinking General
Drawing on two-decades’ of service in the U.S. Army and his study of military history, Morningstar offers some insights into Patton’s military thought and how it shaped his way of war that may be useful for modern commanders and strategists. This is not a history of Patton’s campaigns, which have been the subject of numerous books, some better than others. Rather, Morningstar takes a thematic approach to examining various aspects of Patton’s concept of war.
Morningstar opens with a look at the shaping of Patton’s postwar reputation, a mixture of truth, legend, and fabrication. He then uses Patton’s own writings and close examination of particular operations to discuss different aspects of his approach to war making. So we see his ability to quickly evaluate a situation, his “coup d’oeil” or “eye”, he ability to quickly evaluate a situation, a trait he shared with Rommel and many other great commanders. We also see Patton’s ideas about the use of combined arms, including air power. How his daily visits to frontline commanders and troops not only helped him exercise command and control, but also allowed him to evaluate morale. There’s much more, such as Patton’s ideas about the uses of intelligence, and his conception and execution of breakout operations. Morningstar concludes with a discussion of Patton’s legacy, which is perhaps more honored in the breach than the spirit.
While there are some problems with Morningstar’s treatment, he reminds us that command is a hands-on exercise, best conducted by well trained, free thinking professionals, whilst cautioning against thinking, as did one recently popular amateur historian, that Patton and the Third Army could settle the Middle East in a trice.
Note: Patton’s Way, is also available in several e-editions.