Most Americans’ knowledge of George S. Patton comes from the Academy Award-winning film PATTON (1970). D’Este’s massive and thoroughly researched biography serves to separate the man from the myth.
Born in 1885 into a military family, Patton battled with dyslexia to graduate from West Point, but quickly established himself as a dashing young commander during his pursuit of Pancho Villa in northern Mexico. He went on to organize the first U.S. tank corps in World War I. The years between the wars were difficult, as he battled severe depression and hungered for a chance to fulfill his destiny. Patton finally got his chance in 1942 in northern Africa, proving to be a demanding and daring tactician.
During the war in the Mediterranean, he committed the famous “slapping incident”—hitting a soldier he branded a coward, almost costing him his entire military career. If it were not for this incident, Patton most likely would have been chosen by Eisenhower to lead the Allied invasion of Normandy.
Patton’s extraordinary battle skills, however, would play a critical role as his Third Army drove to the heart of Germany. His leadership in the relief of Bastogne and in the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler’s desperate attempt to break through the Allied offensive, remain as some of the most remarkable combat feats in history.
D’Este thoroughly chronicles Patton’s many close brushes with death, his obsession with destiny and success, his deep devotion to his men, the unfailing commitment of his wife, and his many controversial public statements, eventually forcing Eisenhower to relieve him from command; and finally, Patton’s death in 1945 in a freak accident. This book is sure to become the definitive work on the life of this complex man.