WAR AS I KNEW IT, George S. Patton

Seven months after the end of World War Two in Europe Patton was seriously injured in an auto accident. Two weeks later he died.

For his family he wrote a brief memoir of his commanding experiences, and the “dash” across France in a chapter entitled: Touring France With an Army. That chapter is the best account of rolling the German Army out of France: The Germans had no time to plan and burn Paris. It took less than a month for the Third Army to go from Normandy to Lorraine with a detour west through Brittany.

Because “Touring France” is short there is no good account of that month’s campaign and the decisions – day to day, tactical and strategic which Patton made. At one time he determined that German occupied France did not mean the German Army was there. Patton left his flank open to attack figuring that any Germans would be subject to air attack followed by ground forces. He swept the enemy east. To a field commander Patton challenged: “Why haven’t you taken Chartres?” “There are Germans there.” Patton didn’t know but said, “There are no Germans in Chartres! If you aren’t in Chartres by 5:00 p.m., you’re relieved of command.” Patton left. The field officer gathered available forces and drove into Chartres which had been evacuated by the Germans.

It is important to know the highlights of Patton’s campaigns because this book also has command and military guidelines: How to fight in a forest, in town, etc. How his army command was organized. How he ordered everyone to do their work. These 80 pages of management and business techniques are informative if one can extrapolate from the military and war to business. OR, if a writer can, by analogy, use military tactics to attack and write a novel. It is entirely feasible that writing a book is a type of war, waged by the writer who strives for perfection. (Patton says perfection is not possible, only victory.) How a writer approaches the subject and how to go about expressing ideas through the characters, or whether an idea can be carried from character to character. Write efficiently, write effectively, write economically. The three “Es” are all military concepts which will make writing better and more perfect.

I have yet to figure out and understand the military campaign in France in August 1944, but I know Patton’s management instructions and tips are of value beyond their military specificities. 

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