GROWING UP PATTON: Reflections on Heroes, History and Family Wisdom. By Benjamin Patton with Jennifer Scruby. Berkley. 355 pages. $26.95.
Benjamin Patton is the grandson of the iconic World War II warrior George S. Patton. Although he was always known as a “junior,” the general actually was the third, which means the subject of this biography is George S. Patton IV.
It is a biography of the author’s father, whose career had much in common with the better-known Gen. Patton.
The structure of this biography is markedly different. After some traditional introductory material, the story is told in terms of how it intersected with a diverse assortment of friends and relatives, some famous, some not.
The book reveals their stories almost as much as it does Patton’s.
Some of the more interesting, and often interconnected, side stories include those of Creighton Abrams, Manfred Rommel, Geasung “Sammy” Choi (a refugee during the Korean War), a Benedictine nun, Vera Duss, Jim Dozier, daredevil helicopter pilot Charley Watkins, Benjamin’s mother, Joanne, and some of the author’s siblings.
The heart of the book, of course, lies in the difficulty of being the son of such a national hero, and choosing to follow the same challenging profession, even commanding some of the same units his father had led.
His father’s bombastic, larger-than-life persona would have found more resistance in George IV’s era. Nonetheless, the strong leadership skills still were evident.
“Growing Up Patton” is the story of an American military family whose name is the very embodiment of the warrior ethos, as well as a chronicle of how they grew and sacrificed through three wars.
The significant impact of the women of the family also is well-portrayed. Insight is gained into many of the characters by extensive use of family letters.
It is an inspiring tale from the era of the “greatest Generation” and of the one that followed in their formidable footsteps.
Reviewer Frank L. Cloutier, a retired engineer living in Hanahan