by Kevin M. Hymel
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2021. Pp. xviii, 436.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0826222455
A Fresh Look at Patton’s Generalship from North Africa to Normandy
General George S. Patton Jr., was one of the most controversial and fascinating individuals of the 20th century. This legend in the lore of the World War II is brought to life in Patton’s War: An American General’s Combat Leadership, the third book on Patton to come from Kevin M. Hymel. Patton’s War demonstrates a mastery of the subject, meticulously researched, which is not surprising, given the nature of working on the subject matter since 1996 (p. 347). Hymel breaks the general’s wartime career into two volumes, the first focusing on Patton and his generalship from November 1942 to July of 1944. Patton’s War is intended to examine Patton through sources not available to earlier authors on the general, while also attempting to chip away at the lore surrounding the legendary George S. Patton Jr.
At 345 pages, it makes sense that the subject matter is split into two volumes. It allows Hymel to spend more time fleshing out details not usually afforded to readers. Hymel sets about the difficult task of rehumanizing General Patton. However, there are times when it seems that in that undertaking, certain statements by the author leave readers scratching their heads. One of the best examples would be after the infamous slapping incidents took place, and Hymel, on page 231, makes an argument essentially blaming Dwight D. Eisenhower for Patton’s actions, “no one has asked where Eisenhower was for the months leading up to this incident.” Hymel argues that had Eisenhower not been “hiding in his cave” (p. 231) and had visited Patton on the battlefield to witness first hand his treatment of his troops, the slapping incidents could have been prevented. The head scratcher here is that Hymel never provides evidence to the contrary about how Patton acts differently around his superiors. In fact, he contradicts his own argument throughout the book with references to Patton’s diary and how he truly felt about his superior.
While there have been many books written about Patton, Hymel has set himself apart from the pack with the depth of his research. Military historians and laymen alike would benefit from having this book on their shelf. If the second and third volumes are half as good as the first, Patton’s War will be top shelf for any serious historian.
Note: A volume in the Missouri series ‘American Military Experience, Patton’s War is also available in e-editions.
StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium