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Book Review – Patton’s Third Army in World War II: A Photographic History

By Michael Green and James D. Brown; Zenith Press; 300 pages

In the realm of World War II history, few subjects have had more written about them than Gen. George S. Patton and the drive of his Third Army across Europe and into the heart of the Third Reich. It would seem hard for a book to tread new ground, but authors Michael Green and James D. Brown accomplish just that in Patton’s Third Army in World War II: A Photographic History thanks to the use of rare photography.

The authors’ inclusion of a rich array of photography for Patton’s Third Army in World War II provides the reader with a visual treat. Alongside a brief history of the Third Army, page after page of photographs show every conceivable aspect of what World War II was like in Europe for a soldier fighting under the notoriously demanding Patton.

The authors inclusion of a rich array of photography for Patton’s Third Army in World War II provides the reader with a visual treat. Alongside a brief history of the Third Army, page after page of photographs show every conceivable aspect of what World War II was like in Europe for a soldier fighting under the notoriously demanding Patton. Some of the most interesting photos are of U.S. Army soldiers using captured German equipment against the previous owners. The biggest section naturally focuses on Patton and his Third Army’s biggest accomplishment, the relief of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Lt. Gen. George S. Patton

Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and Maj. Gen. Walter Robertson pass in review of Third Army soldiers, ca. April 1944. The Third Army did not participate in D-Day, but was unleashed on the Germans just after the breakout from Normandy. The accomplishment of Patton and his Third Army are the subject of Patton’s Third Army in World War II: A Photographic History. U.S. Army photo

Patton’s Third Army in World War II doesn’t shy away from showing the brutal nature of war. Some of the photos of dead U.S. and German soldiers are hard to look at. Others, like one showing Third Army soldiers next to Parisian women wearing dresses representing the U.S., Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, are more amusing.

“Few men are killed by the bayonet; many are scared of it. Bayonets should be fixed when the firefight starts. Bayonets must be sharpened by the individual soldier. The German hates the bayonet and is inferior to our men with it. Our men should know this.”

Going beyond the use of photography, Patton’s Third Army in World War II incorporates excerpts from Patton’s War As I Knew It, a quasi autobiography comprised from Patton’s diary entries after his death in a traffic accident on Dec. 21, 1945. These excerpts give the reader an insight into the mind of Patton and his thoughts on an array of military topics. For example, regarding the bayonet, Patton wrote, “few men are killed by the bayonet; many are scared of it. Bayonets should be fixed when the firefight starts. Bayonets must be sharpened by the individual soldier. The German hates the bayonet and is inferior to our men with it. Our men should know this.” These short comments on subjects as diverse as battle with non-mechanized forces, decorations, fire and movement, the duties of an officer, and prisoners, provide readers a glimpse at a general who clearly thought about war in all its aspects.

Patton’s Third Army in World War II: A Photographic History

Patton’s Third Army in World War II: A Photographic History, by Michael Green and James D. Brown; Zenith Press; 300 pages

Included in the book are brief biographies of many of Patton’s sometime rivals (Montgomery, Bradley) and key lieutenants; men such as Middleton, Gaffey, Walker, and Weyland. These leaders helped hone the Third Army under Patton into a fearsome fighting force. These biographies serve to remind the reader that the numerous accomplishment of the Third Army were possible not just because of Patton, but because of the efforts of the officers and soldiers who served with him.

Men such as Middleton, Gaffey, Walker, and Weyland. These leaders helped hone the Third Army under Patton into a fearsome fighting force. These biographies serve to remind the reader that the numerous accomplishment of the Third Army were possible not just because of Patton, but because of the efforts of the officers and soldiers who served with him.

The book also benefits from the generous inclusion of maps that help the reader track the dizzying advance of the Third Army across Europe. Many of these maps are extremely detailed and identify units down to the division level. Unlike many books, the maps aren’t squished into a small space on the page, but are often full page or even double page in size. This allows the reader to get a big picture view of just what faced the Third Army and an appreciation of just how much ground their advance covered.

Third Army

U.S. Army soldiers of the 89th Infantry Division, part of Patton’s Third Army, cross the Rhine River at St. Goar, March 26, 1945. The Third Army advanced from France to Czechoslovakia during World War II, the farthest east any U.S. units advanced during World War II. U.S. Army photo

Despite being a photographic history and featuring a broad range of Third Army photographs, one can’t help but think that the photographs in Patton’s Third Army in World War II could have been larger. This stands in contrast to the large maps. Some of the photos are quite small and don’t do justice to the subject matter. The impulse to fit in as many photos as possible is understandable, but a bit more selectivity might have allowed for the use of larger photo sizes.

A reader of Patton’s Third Army in World War II can’t help but come away with a renewed appreciation for the accomplishments of Patton and the Third Army, who helped make Allied victory in Europe during a World War II a reality.

Patton’s Third Army in World War II is bound to become a definitive photographic account of the Third Army. Anyone reading a more comprehensive history of the Allied drive across Europe during World War II will want to keep this book handy in order to form a visual picture of what was faced and overcome, from the weather to the enemy. A reader of Patton’s Third Army in World War II can’t help but come away with a renewed appreciation for the accomplishments of Patton and the Third Army, who helped make Allied victory in Europe during a World War II a reality.

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Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...