Growing Up Patton: Reflections on Heroes, History, and Family Wisdomby Benjamin Patton, Jennifer Scruby
The White House, Washington, D.C.
It was the woman's first solo shift as the night duty officer in the Office of the President and the communications section had hummed with its normal nighttime routine, lulling her into a sense of complacency. The phone call from her counterpart in the/h4>/h3>… See more details below
The White House, Washington, D.C.
It was the woman's first solo shift as the night duty officer in the Office of the President and the communications section had hummed with its normal nighttime routine, lulling her into a sense of complacency. The phone call from her counterpart in the State Department had jolted her fully awake. "Sally," the veteran bureaucrat said, his voice coming through scratchy on the secure line, "a hot one just came in. The Bangkok embassy reports that Senator Courtland's daughter has been kidnapped."
The woman's fingers flew over the computer keyboard at her desk as she recorded the details of the phone call for future correlation and reference. When the caller had hung up, she replayed the tape, making sure she had all the details correct. Then she told a technician to transcribe the tape immediately into hard copy. Her lips compressed into a narrow line as she stared at the clock: 3:32 A.M. Then she made her decision they should wake the President of the United States with the news. But she first had to check with her boss, the President's chief of staff. Leo Cox answered the phone on the second ring, listened without comment and gave her the okay. Her hand was steady when she jabbed at the buttons on her communications panel to call the President's valet.
Matthew Zachary Pontowski opened the door that led to the small office off the President's bedroom and walked in. A simple dark blue robe covered his lanky six feet and he was carrying his glasses. His blue eyes were clear and his full head of silver-gray hair was onlyslightly ruffled. As usual, he walked with a slight hunch to his shoulders and a definite limp, a legacy from World War II. His prominent, aquiline nose reminded the woman of a hawk but his face was not harsh. The laugh lines at the corners of his eyes promised warmth and understanding. He looked and acted ten years younger than seventy-six years of age.
"Well, Sally," he began. "Charles says you have something important."
She could hear friendliness in his voice and relaxed. "Yes, sir, I think so." She handed him a transcript of the phone call from the State Department. He sat down at his desk and adjusted his glasses. Zack Pontowski could read at over twelve hundred words a minute, faster than a person could talk. He preferred to read and to ask questions later. It was a well-established routine in the White House.
"Charles," he said through the still-open door, "would you please get some coffee." He reread the transcript and thought about the young woman still standing in front of him. "Please sit down," he told her, motioning to a comfortable armchair next to him. "What do you think Leo will say when he learns you woke me up so early?" He glanced at a small carriage clock on the desk. Leo Cox, a former general in the United States Air Force, ran a relaxed but well-controlled office for the President.
"He's already said it, Mr. President. I called him before I called Charles to wake you. General Cox should be here in fifteen minutes." On cue, Charles walked in with a fresh pot of coffee.
"Was he the only other person you woke?"
"Yes, sir," she answered, now certain she had done the right thing. The gentle warmth in his voice was very reassuring.
Pontowski smiled, pleased with her. Cox does pick the right people, he thought. She keyed on the political sensitivity of this immediately and wasn't afraid to get the ball rolling. How much further can she carry it? "What do you recommend I shoulddo first?" he asked, his voice serious.
"Make a personal phone call to Senator Courtland with the news, " she answered immediately, "and arrange a meeting with him at the first opportunity."
Pontowski picked up the phone and spoke to the operator. "Please put me in contact with Senator Courtland immediately." He hung up. "How do you think the good senator will respond?" he asked.
"He'll try to crucify you with it, sir."
William Douglas Courtland stretched an arm over the sleeping girl to pick up the telephone. The first insistent ring had woken him and he was fully alert. "Yes," he said, not letting the touch of hostility he felt at being disturbed show in his voice. "Of course, I'll take the call."
The girl stirred as he sat upright and pulled the covers away. "Oh ... what ... ?" she mumbled. The dewiness of sleep gave her the look of a twelve-year-old nymph.
Courtland placed a hand over the mouthpiece of the receiver. "It's Pontowski," he told her. "I need to take this in private." She nodded and slipped out of bed. He smiled at her as she disappeared naked into the bathroom. She's younger looking than most of them, he thought, but a hell of a lot smarter. "Yes, Mr. President," he said, his voice now smooth and rich. He listened silently, making the appropriate responses. Then: "Yes, thank you for calling and I'll be there." He hung up and sank into the pillows.
"Can you make some coffee?" he called.
"Coming right up," the girl answered and appeared in the bathroom's doorway, still not dressed. "Trouble?"
Courtland grunted an answer and watched her walk across the room, dragging a towel. She is beautiful, he thought, and the same age as Heather. He worked through the contradictory emotions he felt for his daughter. Heather in trouble again, this time serious. Goddamn! Why couldn't she stay low-profile? Out of trouble. And who in the hell has kidnapped her? I never did think much of her going on that trip anyway, not that telling her would have made a difference. Probably just made her more determined to do it.Call to Duty. Copyright © by Richard Herman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
"An attentive consideration of the deep affection between a military legend and his son, of particular interest to those already enthralled by Patton’s larger-than-life shadow." Kirkus Reviews
“A poignant and often touching record of the interactions amongst successive generations of an Army family devoted to duty and soldiering. Ben Patton appreciates family cultural legacy and documents his own with grace and charm.” Lewis Sorley, author of A Better War
“Benjamin Patton and Jennifer Scruby have written a gem of a book that is both hugely entertaining and enormously insightful. It is not only the story of the Patton family but evocative portraits of a number of famous and not so famous people associated with the Pattons and the legacies that they have inspired. These people come to life leaving us wishing we knew them. Highly recommended.” Carlo D’Este, author of Patton: A Genius For War
“Ben Patton creates a beautiful story from the real life of an extraordinary American family. It is fascinating to read the wartime correspondence between father and son—the father, an iconic war hero, and the restless, passionate son...[He] puts forth the indisputable notion that bloodlines set us on a path, yet chance encounters provide direction and meaning to life. Truly an inspiration, the Patton family story is one of discovery and passion, how one leads to the other, and how, together, they allow us to live life to the fullest.” Mary T. Scott, Chairman, Board of Governors, National Military Family Association
- Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
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Meet the Author
Benjamin Patton, grandson of WWII general George S. Patton Jr., is a documentary filmmaker who specializes in biographies for individuals and families, as well as documentary-style commercial work. A former development executive and producer at Manhattan's PBS affiliate, he also teaches filmmaking through his Fred's Film workshops. He lives in New York City. To find out more, visit PattonProductions.com and FredsFilms.com.
Jennifer Scruby is a former editor at ELLE and Vogue, and has also written for GQ, O - The Oprah Magazine, Lucky, ELLE Décor and The Financial Times of London. She lives in Miami.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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A good family history story for those who study the life of GEN George S. Patton, Jr. though most of the book relates to his son, Major General George S. Patton, IV. Instead of war stories, it's more about how the grandfather and father of the author interacted with one another at first and then later focuses on the life and career of the latter, George Patton, IV. With the author sharing some of the personal correspondence between the grandfather and his son and a few other tidbits, it makes for a good look into what it was like to grow up in a family that carried the name of Patton.
One of the most memorable books I read in 2013. Surprising and thought-provoking.
You never hear much about Patton as a father. So I was interested to learn about the impact he made on his only son, who followed him into the army and fought in Korea and Vietnam. You'll find lots of great father-to-son advice in Patton's letters from the front. You also learn about heroes who were closely connected to the Patton family, like Creighton Abrams and Manfred Rommel (son of Germany's Desert Fox). I read their stories over a few sittings. Together, they offer a close-up look at modern warfare and how quickly it's evolved.
Everyone's family history includes a complex network of friends and acquaintances. When you're a Patton, many of these connections turn out to be history-makers. This is exactly the kind of memoir I like best. It's immediate, inspiring and engaging - with lots of surprise relationships that punch up the storytelling. For example, who would have thought that General Patton IV would become close friends with his father's arch-rival's son, Manfred Rommel? I loved this book and gave copies to many of my friends.
not based on war history. just a great read.