Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 10 Apr 2010
WW2 was the largest conflict mankind had ever seen, and it was almost fitting that some of the men who fought in the war had personalities and egos large enough for it. When Bernard Montgomery and Erwin Rommel met each other in combat for the first time, it was in North Africa where Rommel's tactical genius nearly kept par with Montgomery's war of attrition backed by material superiority. In Sicily, George Patton who did not see enough action in Africa butted heads with Montgomery, his brains and guts put him in Messina first before his conservative ally. When the Allies first landed on Normandy, Patton fought Rommel in an unwilling war of deceit, with Patton commanding a non-existent army and the Germans waiting for him to come. By the time the Allies were fighting to cross into German borders from France, Patton and Montgomery fought the Germans at the same time that they fought each other for the resources for their armies and for their own glory. Author Terry Brighton's Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War focused on the interactions on and off the battlefield, capturing the history and the drama between these three figures as the war progressed.
The version of the book that I had "read" was the audio book version. Narrator Mel Foster. To be honest, I was at first annoyed at his style of narration, specifically when he spoke in-character as one of the historical figures. He had a version of a southern American English accent for Patton that was not quite there, an English accent for Montgomery that was not always clean, and read Rommel's quotes in English with an artificial German accent. I must admit that the narration grew on me very quickly, though. The consistent manner of speech and accent for each of these three characters (as well as "side characters" such as Dwight Eisenhower, Adolf Hitler, and Winston Churchill, to name a few) provided the listeners of the audio book the ability to tell rather distinctly who he was speaking as, thus able to better visualize the ongoing events. I very quickly changed my mind about Foster's reading for the better.
Whether a book was printed or in an audio form, content would always be the critical component. In the case of Patton, Montgomery, Rommel, Brighton had done a wonderful job with his research and his ability to keep the story interesting. When Montgomery went on one of his tirades about how his fellow American generals misunderstood his objectives in regards to Caen, I felt part of the annoyance that must had bothered Eisenhower and Patton. As Rommel told his wife Lucia and son Manfred that he was about to commit suicide in order to provide them a future, I felt some tears in the corners of my eyes. When Patton gave his famous profanity-laden speeches to motivate his men, I thought I could for a split second understand what it must had felt like as an officer standing before him, inspired to serve my country while at the same time trying hard not to grin at the seemingly endless instances of words not typically favored in public. Brighton's own analysis and commentaries on the three main characters were generally fair, in-depth, and most importantly thought-provoking; the latter quality was among the things that I enjoyed the most, making me evaluate each of the three generals based on the information and guidance given, rather than purely taking in what the author what to say without question.
The only complaint I had was that, as the last CD came to an end, I had the feeling that the book seemed to have placed more focus on the war of personalities between the two Allied generals, while, Rommel's involvement in the book seems to be only sporadic, making me want more. Perhaps this observation, or rather the memory of my observation, had been misplaced, but an interesting point could be made from it: Could the book have been better if Brighton focused his research efforts only on the difficult alliance between Patton and Montgomery, thus able to dive in more depth in that arena?
All in all, I had thoroughly enjoyed the audio book edition of Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War, so much so that I think I will be keeping a look-out for a printed copy for ready reference.
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939