Review: In ‘I Marched With Patton,’ a Young Soldier Glimpses His Hero

October 20, 2020J. Ford Huffman
marched with patton review

Book cover, I Marched with Patton

Glance at the title, and you could easily think this book will tell the inside story of a soldier who is the right-hand man, perhaps an aide, to the notorious Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

Think that and you will have been misinformed. 

Technically, Frank Sisson is one of the couple-hundred-thousand 3rd Army troops marching under the general’s command in Europe. He’s part of the 667th Field Artillery Battalion, 10th Armored Division.

Literally, he is “alongside” the general twice. He first encounters Patton in a vehicle with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. Omar Bradley. He salutes, and Patton looks at him “straight in the eye” — and smiles. 

marched with patton review
Frank Sisson. Photo courtesy of War History Online.

The second encounter? Patton is “flying by” in a staff car with Eisenhower, and Old Blood and Guts grins.

That’s close enough for the Oklahoman, who believes the Californian he “unequivocally” admires is a kindred spirit. The bombastic but brilliant Patton is “an invisible force that guided me.” No doubt. But a young man’s adulation does not fulfill the promise and premise of the clickbait book jacket. 

That said, you might welcome the observations in this memoir by the 94-year-old member of the Silentest Generation of veterans, Frank Sisson, and his 81-year-old co-author, Robert L. Wise.  

By the way, evidently the titular “Firsthand” and “Greatest” are somebody’s go-to adjectives. Another book co-written by Wise is 82 Days on Okinawa: One American’s Unforgettable Firsthand Account of the Pacific War’s Greatest Battle, from the same publisher. 

Sisson’s isolated life in Weleetka, Oklahoma, changes abruptly when his father dies. At age 15 he leaves school, learns how to weld, and heads to California, where he earns enough at Kaiser Shipbuilding to support his mother and siblings. (The company’s German name — “emperor” in English — is a prewar irony the book does not note.)

Then he is drafted, like 61% of his fellow US service members, in the Allies’ fight.

“Most of us [soldiers] had never been out of the state we were born in,” and when Sisson, still stateside, learns about heinous anti-Semitism in Europe, he is dumbfounded.

marched with patton review
Gen. George Patton wearing his 4-star service cap in 1945. Photo courtesy of the US Army.

“No one had told me about such a horrible thing as killing people just because they were of another religion.”

In Europe he witnesses the impact of wickedness. 

“War can do strange things to strong men,” he says. “It’s not like in the movies. When you know that any second you can get killed, that singular fact wraps around your thinking and turns you inside out.” 

 The tumult he observes is terrible:

  • Seeing steak-cut human flesh, presumably evidence of cannibalism, while in a morgue.

  • Being hosted by a distraught French couple whose son’s home across the country lane is empty because the Nazis murdered him and his family.

  • Being shot at by a Soviet soldier who supposedly is on your team. 

  • Walking “through hell itself” — the liberated Dachau concentration camp. 

Wherever he goes, Sisson retains the humane outlook he discovers at combat’s first sight. “I was glad to have survived, but something deep in me had been touched. I realized we were out there killing one another, and the people on the other side were just as human as we were. We were all victims of the circumstances.”

Decades later, circumstances change. His daughter’s genealogical research unexpectedly ties the Sisson family to the Dachau area, and the history Sisson saw in the making becomes more personal. “Let my people go,” he prays.

I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II Alongside One of the U.S. Armys Greatest Generals by Frank Sisson with Robert L. Wise, William Morrow, 304 pages, $28.99

J. Ford Huffman
J. Ford Huffman

J. Ford Huffman has reviewed 400-plus books published during the Iraq and Afghanistan war era, mainly for Military Times, and he received the Military Reporters and Editors (MRE) 2018 award for commentary. He co-edited Marine Corps University Press’ The End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (2012). When he is not reading a book or editing words or art, he is usually running, albeit slowly. So far: 48 marathons, including 15 Marine Corps races. Not that he keeps count. Huffman serves on the board of Student Veterans of America and the artist council of Armed Services Arts Partnership and has co-edited two ASAP anthologies. As a content and visual editor, he has advised newsrooms from Defense News to Dubai to Delhi and back.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Military Moves To Cut Suicides, But Defers Action on Guns

In a memo released Thursday, Austin called for the establishment of a suicide prevention working gro...

March 17, 2023Associated Press
us military drills japan-south korea
US, Partners Stage Military Drills Amid Japan-South Korea Talks

The Sea Dragon 23 exercises that started on Wednesday will culminate in more than 270 hours of in-fl...

March 17, 2023Associated Press
leo jenkins a word like god
‘A Word Like God’: New Book From Army Ranger Leo Jenkins

In his latest poetry collection, Ranger-turned-writer Leo Jenkins turns away from war to explore cosmic themes of faith, fatherhood, and art.

March 16, 2023Mac Caltrider
us drone
Pentagon Video Shows Russian Jet Dumping Fuel on US Drone

The Pentagon on Thursday released video of what it said was a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a ...

March 16, 2023Associated Press
10th Mountain Division
‘Climb to Glory’ — A History of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division

From the mountains of Italy to the mountains of Afghanistan, the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division built its legendary reputation by fighting in some of the most inhospitable places in the world.

March 16, 2023Matt Fratus
iraq invasion 20 years later
Why US Troops Remain in Iraq 20 Years After 'Shock and Awe'

The roughly 2,500 U.S. troops are scattered around the country, largely in military installations in Baghdad and in the north.

March 15, 2023Associated Press
Ohio train derailment
First Responders
BRCC Donates Coffee to Towns Ravaged by Train Wreck and Historic Storms

Americans living in East Palestine, Ohio, and central Oklahoma are recovering from February disaster...

March 15, 2023Jenna Biter
Coffee Or Die Photo
DOD Official Says Sub Agreement Will Help Guarantee Free, Open Indo-Pacific

Mara E. Karlin, performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said the agree...

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved