After having read nothing but contemporary novels for so long, it was interesting to take a long step back in time to read Edna Ferber’s 1924 Pulitzer...moreAfter having read nothing but contemporary novels for so long, it was interesting to take a long step back in time to read Edna Ferber’s 1924 Pulitzer prize-winning So Big. Selina DeJong is the carefree daughter of a big-time gambler. When her father dies suddenly, she is left to fend for herself as a small-town schoolteacher in the late 1880’s in a farming community not far from Chicago. Orphaned at a young age and then widowed when she was also quite young, the very determined Selina finds herself struggling to raise her young son – known affectionately as So Big – and to run the farm left her by her deceased husband.
This was a superb tale of overcoming the many factors which stood in her way, not the least of which was what was viewed at that time as the proper things for women to be doing, and more importantly not doing. I very definitely recommend it to all.
I have had a great deal of admiration for MOST of what General George S. Patton, Jr. was and what he did for our country as a brilliant leader of troo...moreI have had a great deal of admiration for MOST of what General George S. Patton, Jr. was and what he did for our country as a brilliant leader of troops in World War II from the moment I saw George C. Scott’s very powerful performance in the 1970 film PATTON. Yes, that admiration is not 100%. I do have reservations related to those flaws in his character which led to such incidents as his slapping the hospitalized soldier for supposed cowardice and his frequent extreme profanity in talking to his troops. [“His ‘pep talks’ to his troops were laced with the rawest of language and sometimes embarrassed even battle-hardened veterans.”] At the same time those very flaws had a great deal to do with his success as a military leader. This is clearly evident from General Eisenhower having given him multiple second and third chances after Patton created one controversy after another. Ike knew that he (Ike) was stretching his credibility as the supreme commander in not relieving Patton so many times, but at the same time he (Ike) could not afford to forfeit the tactically brilliant leadership which he knew Patton could provide at a time when it was so needed.
Patton’s overall character was ‘made for war.’ He once said “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance. God, how I love it!” He was a leader who literally ‘led from the front’ – frequently being at the very head of his troops in circumstances of extreme danger. A close friend of his said “that George had assured him that he [Patton] was more afraid of showing fear than anything else, and that since he knew fear often in battle, he behaved in this manner to cover up his true feelings.” This was but one of numerous contradictions in Patton’s makeup. “Despite all his coarseness and vulgarity, Patton was a well-educated, civilized man who could recite from memory long portions of the Iliad, Shakespeare, the Bible, and the poems of Rudyard Kipling.”
Early in his career, Patton had an assignment under General John J. Pershing in hunting Poncho Villa. General Pershing quickly recognized his potential at that time and later requested him for a World War I assignment. Soon Patton asked for a new job which was not so much administrative. One of the two jobs he was offered was in the American Tank Corps, which was in its infancy. It is most fortunate that this is the assignment he chose, in light of his superlative leadership as a World War II tank corps commander.
During the era between World War I and World War II, Patton’s high style of living and lack of diplomacy antagonized many of his superiors and almost cost him his career. However, no less personage than the then Deputy Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall recognized his potential and “plucked him from obscurity” in 1938. He played critical roles for General Marshall as a high-caliber leader against the Germans in North Africa and later in the invasion of Sicily and beyond.
Patton had essentially no role in Operation Overlord – the “D-Day” Landings – other than as a decoy to draw German troops away from the Normandy beaches. His new Third Army command was not activated until August 1, 1944. That is when he began showing what he meant be the command motto he adopted, i.e., “Audacity, audacity, always audacity!” By August 4, his armored columns were streaking in four directions across France toward Germany. “This was the kind of slashing, mobile warfare that Patton had always dreamed about, and now he was jubilant. The Germans, who had introduced lightning warfare in 1939-1940, were stunned by the power and speed of Patton’s advances.” The Third Army’s drive in August 1944, had carried it father and faster than any army in history. By August 26, it had advanced 400 miles eastward, inflicted more than 70,000 casualties on the enemy, and captured 65,000 more. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel wrote that, although the Americans had distinguished themselves in Tunisia, “we had to wait until the Patton Army in France to see the most astonishing achievements in mobile warfare.” Josef Stalin, the Russian dictator, remarked, “The Red Army could not even have conceived, never mind executed, the Third Army’s incredible dash across France.”
In addition to having to fight the enemy, Patton also had to fight supply shortages and horrible weather. About the middle of December 1944, Patton ordered the Chaplain of the Third Army to “publish a prayer for good weather.” The response he got was “that it isn’t a customary thing among men of my profession to pray for clear weather to kill fellow men?” Patton said “are you teaching me theology or are you the Chaplain of the Third Army? I want a prayer.” A few days later the men of the Third Army received Patton’s Christmas card containing Chaplain O’Neill’s prayer for good weather. The following morning, the skies were bright and clear for the first time in several weeks. Patton was jubilant. “That O’Neill sure did some potent praying,” he told a subordinate. “Get him up here. I want to pin a medal on him.”
On March 1, 1945, Trier, Germany fell to Patton’s 10th Armored and elements of another division. The next day Patton received a message from SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force) ordering him to bypass Trier “as it would take four divisions to capture the city.” Patton immediately wired back, “Have taken Trier with two divisions. What do you want me to do – give it back?” The German retreat soon became a disorderly rout. One day, for example, a German corps commander drove into a field of dispirited German soldiers and asked why they were not fighting the Americans. A moment later, a U.S. military policeman clapped a hand on his shoulder and invited him to join the other prisoners of war. A Patton biographer later summed up the Third Army’s record as follows: “It had gone farther, captured more prisoners, crossed more rivers, liberated more friendly territory, and captured more enemy territory than any army ever in American history.”
Although this book is quite short at 142 pages, I found it worth the read. I definitely recommend it to those who wish to learn more about a military leader who made an extremely significant contribution to the freedom which our country enjoyed following World War II.
John Claggett presents a wonderful tale of the World War II sailors who was assigned to a squadron of PT boats (Patrol, Torpedo). Using the phonetic a...moreJohn Claggett presents a wonderful tale of the World War II sailors who was assigned to a squadron of PT boats (Patrol, Torpedo). Using the phonetic alphabet for military signaling they become "Papa Tangos." Those same sailors are also referred to as Papa Tangos. The novel tells of the terrible battles the PT boats had with the Japanese and the horrible, disfiguring injuries sustained by many of their crew members.
Claggett uses alternating contemporary and flashback chapters to describe how the Papa Tangos are so severely affected - physically, mentally, and in their personal relationships. The contemporary part of the novel revolves around a Papa Tango Reunion 20 years after the war. Many who had been hurt so badly have withdrawn from a normal life. For various reasons they have never previously attended a reunion but at the 20-yeear point decide to take a chance and go. There are mixed results for the various individuals involved - some happy, some less so.
It is an enjoyable read, especially for those such as me who are drawn to tales of the navy.(less)
A young Muslim man Issa from the Chechnya area of Russia escapes from torture and jail in Turkey and is smuggled illegally into Germany, arriving in H...moreA young Muslim man Issa from the Chechnya area of Russia escapes from torture and jail in Turkey and is smuggled illegally into Germany, arriving in Hamburg. There a soft-hearted attorney Annabel Richter soon meets him and becomes determined to save him from all those equally determined to capture him. It seems he is the heir to a very significant amount of money in a small Hamburg bank run by a Scottish banker Tommy Brue. The money is from ill-gotten sources by way of Issa's deceased father, a Russian crook named Grigori Borisovich Karpov, and the Chechen wants nothing to do with it. Tommy Brue's grandfather set up the account with Karpov many years prior, and it has grown in value to more than $12,000,000. Tommy wants to purge these illegal funds from his bank, but Issa will not submit a claim for it. Tommy and Annabel work toward getting Issa to make the claim and give the money away to charity. Issa gradually comes around to this as a good solution to keep him from soiling his hands with his father's dirty money. Issa indicates that he will make the claim but wants to be advised by the leading Muslim holy man in Hamburg Dr. Abdullah. Concurrent with all this, Issa is being hunted as a terrorist by agents from multiple countries' security forces. Finally, one set of forces kidnap Annabel and another kidnap Tommy and become their "handlers" in an effort to capture Issa. An elaborate arrangement is reached to have a meeting of Issa and Dr. Abdullah with Annabel and Tommy conducting a scripted ruse aimed toward capturing Issa and Abdullah.
I found this book only moderately enjoyable. It was much too confusing at times with too many players, each group of which had their own agenda. I couldn't give it more than 2 stars.(less)