Growing Up Patton: Reflections on Heroes, History, and Family Wisdom

Growing Up Patton: Reflections on Heroes, History, and Family Wisdom

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by Benjamin Patton, Jennifer Scruby
     
 

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Chapter One

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

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Overview

Chapter One

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With a name like Patton, it's impossible to write a book about family and not devote a sizable portion to the legendary WWII General George S. Patton Jr. (technically G.S.P. III). But this volume—written by George's grandson and featuring plenty of anecdotes about his grandfather and father, George S. Patton IV—is primarily a meditation on the bonds of family, the influence of heritage, and the importance of sharing one's stories. Born from previously unpublished letters (reprinted in the book) between the author's grandfather and father, as well as the author's interviews with his old man following a house fire that destroyed the dozens of diaries he'd kept over the course of his own illustrious military career, this book is by turns sweet, funny, and poignant. Patton discusses the exploits of his grandfather and father, and includes profiles of a handful of people who played a significant role in his their lives, such as General Julius Becton—a professional rival and family friend—and Manfred Rommel, the son of the German general Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (aka Desert Fox). At once an intriguing portrait of two of the American military's best-known heroes, Patton's debut is a poignant tribute to a family's rich history. Photos. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
With the assistance of former Elle and Vogue contributor Scruby, the grandson of George S. Patton Jr. chronicles the relationship between his father and grandfather in this mélange of memoir, correspondence and biography. The book opens with the fascinating correspondence exchanged between Gen. Patton and his son, George Patton IV, then a new cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The selected letters highlight the close relationship between father and son. Straight from the battlefront, Patton's letters are solicitous and enthusiastic about the daily concerns of a cadet, while his son's letters express encouragement for his father's battle campaign and an eagerness to begin his own military career. Documentary filmmaker Benjamin Patton continues with a series of character studies of a wide array of people who figured prominently in his father's life, including his wife, his developmentally disabled son (the author's brother), a commanding officer and a nun. One such significant figure is Manfred Rommel, son of Patton Jr.'s chief military rival during World War II, Erwin Rommel, who was executed by Hitler for alleged disloyalty. These two sons of military legends began a friendship later in life when George Patton IV was stationed in Germany, and their mutual admiration for their fathers served to cement their unlikely friendship. 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.
From the Publisher
"At once an intriguing portrait of two of the American military's best-known heroes, Patton's debut is a poignant tribute to a family's rich history." —Publishers Weekly

"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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425243510
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
03/06/2012
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
With the assistance of former Elle and Vogue contributor Scruby, the grandson of George S. Patton Jr. chronicles the relationship between his father and grandfather in this mélange of memoir, correspondence and biography. The book opens with the fascinating correspondence exchanged between Gen. Patton and his son, George Patton IV, then a new cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The selected letters highlight the close relationship between father and son. Straight from the battlefront, Patton’s letters are solicitous and enthusiastic about the daily concerns of a cadet, while his son’s letters express encouragement for his father’s battle campaign and an eagerness to begin his own military career. Documentary filmmaker Benjamin Patton continues with a series of character studies of a wide array of people who figured prominently in his father’s life, including his wife, his developmentally disabled son (the author’s brother), a commanding officer and a nun. One such significant figure is Manfred Rommel, son of Patton Jr.’s chief military rival during World War II, Erwin Rommel, who was executed by Hitler for alleged disloyalty. These two sons of military legends began a friendship later in life when George Patton IV was stationed in Germany, and their mutual admiration for their fathers served to cement their unlikely friendship. 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

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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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Growing up Patton: Reflections on Heroes, History, and Family Wisdom 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Paterson More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most memorable books I read in 2013. Surprising and thought-provoking.
MrHistory More than 1 year ago
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.
chloemarie More than 1 year ago
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.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
not based on war history. just a great read.