Book Reviews: March 2001

By Lee Arten

Patton - A Genius For War
By Carlo D’Este
Harper Collins Publishing Inc.
10 East 53rd Street,
New York, NY 10022
ISBN 3 0-06-016455-7,
92 black and white pictures,
nine maps, 977 pages.
Reviewed by Lee Arten

That antiquated public scold, Andy Rooney, who worked for the service newspaper Stars and Stripes during Work War II, hated Patton. That ought to be enough for me to appreciate the general called “Old Blood and Guts.” Bill Mauldin, the Stars and Stripes cartoonist made famous by his drawings of scruffy World War II soldiers, also had problems with Patton. Rooney has been a waste of airtime and newsprint for years, but I appreciate Mauldin’s World War II cartoons. That leaves me with a contradiction, when considering Patton, this is not unusual.

Patton was famous for the belligerent speeches he made to his troops and his aggressive, driving style in combat. He was infamous for slapping two shell-shocked soldiers in Sicily and having to make a public apology to his army for the incidents. At the same time, biographer D’Este shows that Patton was sentimental, usually polite to women and personally and publicly religious. He was both different and more complex than the man shown in the film Patton with George C. Scott. Patton did say, “The object of war is not to die for our country. It is to make the other poor dumb bastard die for his,” but there was a lot more to his before-battle exhortations.

In Patton A Genius for War, D’Este reveals that Patton was dyslexic. The academic difficulty Patton had because of this at both Virginia Military Institute and West Point contributed to feelings of inferiority and wide mood swings. While in school Patton could be devastated by a bad grade, and his spelling fluctuated as wildly as his moods. Samples of his personal correspondence showed that George Smith Patton was not among those boring souls who can only spell a word one way.

Despite dyslexia, Patton was able to produce clear and precise reports and battle plans. He also seemed, D/Este says, to have an instinctive grasp of where battles would develop and be decided. He was usually one of the best at reacting to conditions and carrying out plans with the maximum force and speed. D’Este also shows that Patton was one of the first American generals to appreciate what a potent force armor and air power could be when working together. On his smashing attacks in France, Patton used air power both to prepare the way for his Third Army and to protect his flanks.

Patton began working with tanks in World War I, when he ran the first U.S. Army tank school in France. Before and after that, he was a cavalryman who designed a new saber and studied famous cavalry campaigns including those of Confederate generals who gave the Union so much trouble in the Civil War. Patton saw his first action as a cavalryman in the Punitive Expedition into Mexico in 1916. During this attempt to punish Pancho Villa, who had invaded the U.S. and attacked Columbus, New Mexico, Patton led the first motorized assault on an enemy position ever made by the U.S. Army. That assault was made with Dodge Touring Cars, not tanks, but Patton did take tanks into combat in World War I, and was wounded after four days of combat.

In the years between the wars, he played polo, wrote papers on tank tactics and waited for the next war. During that time, he and another junior officer, Dwight Eisenhower, were stationed together at Camp Meade, Maryland. While there, D’Este says, “By themselves they stripped a tank down to its last nut and bolt and managed to put it back together-and make it run.” They also did some machinegun shooting.

“Patton was test-firing a .30 caliber machinegun while Eisenhower observed the trajectory of the bullets through field glasses. Without warning, the weapon “cooked” and began spewing bullets everywhere. The two future generals raced off in panic but returned to disable the gun with sheepish expressions on their faces.”

There were subjects on which Patton deserved to be ignored. However, if he had been listened to about the desirability of capturing Berlin and Prague instead of letting them be taken by the Soviet Army, and if his predictions of future bad behavior by Stalin had been believed, the postwar years might have been much different.

This book is well written and well researched. The author, Carlo D’Este, is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel and a military historian. He is the author of four other books on World War II: Decision in Normandy, Bitter Victory: The Battle For Sicily, 1943, World War II in the Mediterranean and Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle For Rome.

Ruger & His Guns
By R.L. Wilson
Published by Simon & Schuster
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
ISBN #0-684-80367-4
Price $65.00 plus s&h
Reviewed by Christopher Trumble

Sturm, Ruger and Company Incorporated has been producing quality firearms since it first started producing its .22 rimfire caliber semi-automatic pistol, that just about everyone is familiar with firearms either owns, owned or wished they owned. There have been numerous books written chronicling the history and development of American gun manufacturing companies such as Smith and Wesson and Colt. The Sturm, Ruger company has not been paid much attention to by authors until this book. I am pleased that this book was written because the Sturm, Ruger company has been a very active participant in the development of quality firearms and the promotion of safe and responsible firearms use.

The first chapter of this book is an extremely interesting section on the development of the company leader, William Ruger. Without him there would be no development of the company, and I feel it is always helpful in understanding a firearm to understand both the person who designed it and the purpose of the design. The photographs through this chapter and all the chapters are excellent quality and a fascinating trip into the near past.

The following chapters, two thru ten chronologically follow the development of the various firearm models. Interspersed through each chapter is interesting information about each firearm including great photographs and schematic diagrams. Included are variations to each model, numbers produced and initial suggested sales prices. Also, there are numerous annual reports that were produced by the company outlining its financial achievements.

Chapter eleven gives insight as to the company’s future path and philosophy of continuing to produce excellent quality firearms in a socially responsible manner. There is also an excellent photograph of the very well designed MP9 submachine gun along with the schematic drawing for same.

The final chapter contains more exquisite photographs of what can only be described as works of art that happen to be firearms. The final chapter of the book is a nice summation of the Ruger empire reflecting on the past success, but also making it obvious that this is not the final chapter to this company’s history.

If you are interested in determining the date of manufacture of a firearm in your collection, interested in Ruger firsts or wanting to know if the manufacturing markings on your firearm are authentic, then the appendixes are for you.

This book does not have detailed information on the disassembly of firearms. Nor does it have extensive explanations as to the inner operation of firearms. This book was not written for those purposes and if that is what you are looking for then avoid this book. If you are looking for excellent information on the history and development of the Ruger company and its products than this is the book for you. I feel this book is worth much more than the asking price and makes a welcome addition to my library.

Military Book Clubs Classic Weapons Series’: The Thompson Submachine Gun
By Chris Ellis
The Browning M2
Heavy Machine Gun

by Terry J. Gander
Review by Lee Arten

I’ve been a member of The Military Book Club three times. I’m not so devoted to military history that I’ve stayed for years, but I have found club selections useful at times. I’ve bought several books on sniping from the club’s list, some of which were not available elsewhere.

The Thompson Submachine Gun is 64 pages long with black and white photographs, many of which I’d never seen before. Besides the photos, the book covered the history of the submachine gun in general, and the Thompson in particular. Chapters I found most interesting were “The Thompson SMG in Production,” which had information on a version almost produced by BSA, and “The Tommy Gun in Service,” with pictures of Thompsons in all the theaters of operation in World War II, and “Rivals and Successors,” which covered guns that were supposed to replace the Thompson and one that eventually did.

The Thompson Submachine Gun was originally printed in the United Kingdom. The edition I have was produced in 1998 for the Military Book Club. It is not the most comprehensive book on the Thompson by any means, but it does contain some interesting information.

The Browning M2 Heavy Machine Gun follows the same basic format. It was first published in England in 1999, and the book club edition came out here the same year. It is 64 pages long and filled with black and white photographs. Beginning with John Moses Browning’s first machinegun experiments, it goes on through the 1895 Potato Digger, the Model 1917 and 1919, and then goes to the .50 in Chapter 2, “The M2.”

That chapter includes sections on US Navy M2s, M2HB Mountings, and tank and aircraft guns. Other chapters cover new developments, attempted replacements for the M2, new uses for the gun, and ammunition and production data. The photographs in this book are varied, showing the M2 and variants in use in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and during various training sessions before and during the cold war. One shot of particular interest shows two captured M2HBs used by the Germans in an antiaircraft mount.

I found these books to be good additions to my MG library. The Military Book Club can be reached at 6550 East 30th Street, P.O. Box 6357, Indianapolis, IN 46206-6357 or on the web at www.MilitaryBookClub.com. (Tell them you saw the review in SAR)

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V4N6 (March 2001)
and was posted online on July 25, 2014


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