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No praise for Patton

The third issue of 2007 carried a reprint of a review of the book, "11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge." The publication of origin of the review is not mentioned, nor is there any background on the reviewer, Jay McDonald. However, the author of the book, Stanley Weintraub, is identified as "a historian."

On the basis of quotes in the review, if he's a historian, he's a damn poor one.

First off, Weintraub says Omar Bradley began the war in the Pacific and was "a fish out of water" in Europe. No matter how hard I look, I can find no mention of the general ever having fought the Japanese.

But that's a microscopic error compared with one in the next paragraph, where, we're told, "The real hero of the Bulge was George Patton. He was a fighting general and the troops loved him."

Among all the thousands who served under his command at one time or another, there must have been some who had affection for "Old Blood and Guts," but I never met any.

I'll tell you how much we "loved him." It's no great exaggeration to say that if Hitler was in the middle of one large field and Patton in another a few miles away, and we had only air and artillery enough to attack one — and those of us in the Third Army had to choose the target — the war might have dragged on for weeks longer while we tried to come to a decision.

And familiarity apparently only deepened this contempt. In the spring of 1946, I ran across a guy I'd gone through basic with. In the course of our conversation, I learned that after Germany surrendered, my buddy had been transferred to the MP detachment at 15th Army Headquarters, the phantom command that Eisenhower created especially for Patton; one that gave him an important sounding title but almost no troops to torment.

Anyhow, my friend told how his platoon was awakened in the middle of the night when a lieutenant burst into their room yelling, "Men, the old son-of-a-bitch just died. Let's celebrate."

Nor was this feeling confined to enlisted men and lower echelon officers.

At a Christmas party in 2006, I met the daughter of a general whose division had been assigned to the Third Army during the latter stages of the war. She said her father went to his grave loathing Patton, whom he described as "a braggart, a bully, a backstabber — and a liar."

Patton brought out many emotions in most of us, but among them sure wasn't love.

Max Norris H/395

1290 Ridgeway Dr.

Sacramento CA 95822