Military History George Patton
John Nelson Rickard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 July 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0136


George Smith Patton Jr. is a major figure in both American and military history. He has achieved a renown exceeded by perhaps only MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Churchill in the pantheon of World War II figures. The literature on his life and career is large and falls into five broad categories. First, Patton has been the subject of innumerable biographies ranging from hero-worshipping by associates, friends, and admirers to iconoclasm by those uncomfortable with the darker aspects of Patton’s character. A ubiquitous element in virtually all Patton biographies, however, is the struggle to reconcile his warrior image with his cultured and thoughtful nature. The second category consists of published articles, books, and graduate theses on specific aspects of his career. A substantial number of studies covering Patton’s Tunisian, Sicilian, and North-West European campaigns exist. Patton has also been the subject of many theses written by serving officers at American service schools. No American World War II commander has been the subject of a service school thesis more frequently than Patton. The third category consists of campaign studies that fit Patton into the larger strategic narrative. Fourth, there is a very large body of commentary on Patton by his superiors, peers, subordinates, and associates. The commentary is almost never benign; rather it varies from one extreme to another. Finally, Patton’s own writings published from the early 1920s to 1945 stand alone as the thoughts of a thoroughly professional soldier grounded in a deep appreciation and understanding of military history and theory. This article provides a pathway through the major Patton sources and highlights the principal controversies surrounding him.

General Overviews

Patton’s life and career are well covered in overview format in numerous print collections, including biographical dictionaries, and web sources. Researchers looking for brief synopses of Patton’s life in print can consult Dupuy, et al. 1992 and Boatner 1996. Dawson and Spiller 1989 includes cross references and bibliography. Province 1983 is not scholarly but provides a good orientation to the general themes and controversies surrounding Patton. Many Internet sites cover Patton’s life and career in outline. Biography OnLine is useful for the undergraduate.

  • Biography OnLine.

    A short overview of Patton’s life and career.

  • Boatner, Mark, III. The Biographical Dictionary of World War II. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1996.

    The entry on Patton is organized chronologically and contains an overall evaluation at the end.

  • Dawson, Joseph, and Roger J. Spiller. American Military Leaders. New York: Praeger, 1989.

    Unlike most overviews of Patton, Dawson and Spiller offer critical assessment of his generalship and character.

  • Dupuy, Trevor N., Curt Johnson, and David L. Bongard. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

    Describes Patton’s career in chronological fashion with little commentary or analysis.

  • Province, Charles M. The Unknown Patton. New York: Bonanza, 1983.

    Distinguishes and assesses some of the major controversies surrounding Patton. A useful overview for undergraduates.

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