George Patton

I’ve always loved learning about WWII, so much so that as a part of my teaching internship, I requested to teach a unit on WWII. Coincidentally, this high school just happened to be showing “The Longest Day” to the history students. The school actually had a theatre. I was impressed.

My fascination with this war probably has something to do with the fact that I was born four years after the war ended, a war in which my father had served.

So I’m finally reading Killing Patton, the story of the infamous General. Don’t ask me what’s taken me so long, but because I’ve waited, I now need the large print version.

Patton served mainly in the European front. He was known to his soldiers as “Old Blood and Guts”. He lived for battle. He never lacked for bravado or optimism when it came to strategy and the thrill of a new mission. 

He believed in reincarnation and sensed he’d fought in many battles throughout the ages. He liked to read the war strategies of long deceased warriors, and believed he had fought in the 19th century.

Strategy-wise, General Eisenhower, who was his superior, thought Patton too impulsive and headstrong to take a major part in the D-Day invasion, but used him as a decoy.

The truth is…Patton tended to obey orders if he agreed with them. If not, he made his own decisions and attacked where he felt it was most advantageous. For this reason, he was called on the carpet many times. However, Patton was such a successful General and victorious in battle, he became an integral part of defeating the Germans and liberating the Allies.

Patton vied with the British General, Montgomery, known as Monty, for choice battle assignments, and due to his rash temperament, often came in second.

Wartime romances were also the norm throughout the story, and Patton was alleged to have had an affair with a socialite Red Cross worker throughout the war. 

What struck me about the battles was the freezing cold temperatures the soldiers had to endure. So many lives were lost, and life was cheap. Killing was the goal. Ethics and morals aside, war trains boys to be assassins. Surprisingly, toward the end of the war, as Patton gazes upon the razed buildings and bodies of the vanquished, he made a comment which mirrored the adage, “War is hell.”

If you’re a hawk, it will probably appeal to your belief in strength through might, and war as a necessary evil. If you’re a dove, you may be astounded by the brutality and loss of life. 

The Buddhists refer to “the middle way”.  Many years ago, I wrote a poem about war. In it, I wished we could “view each person as a brother rather than to kill each other.”

But, that said, we owe so much to Patton and those brave souls who defended our country. To them, we can say we owe” our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor”.