- Patton’s Pawns: The 94th US Infantry Division at the Siegfried Line
In Patton's Pawns, Tony Le Tissier attempts to shed light on the 1945 Siegfried Line/Saar campaign by looking at the experiences of the 94th Infantry Division, a vital but underappreciated component of Lieutenant General George S. Patton's Third Army. Le Tissier is best known for his work on the Battle of Berlin. But he grew interested in the 94th while giving Siegfried Line battlefield tours to many veterans of the 94th. Impressed with [End Page 1292] the challenging terrain the division captured, Le Tissier decided to delve more deeply into the outfit's experiences from January to March, 1945. This book is the result of that inquiry. Le Tissier's book is basically the story of the division's bitter struggle from Tettingen-Butzdorf to the Rhine. Along the way, we are afforded some interesting glimpses into XX Corps commanding general Walton "Johnnie" Walker's significant effect on the campaign, and Patton's too. The book has two other strengths. First, it draws some long overdue attention to the considerable fighting prowess of the 94th. Second, it makes the salient point that the 1945 campaign to conquer Nazi Germany was no walkover. Instead, it was a bloody, costly, demoralizing struggle. By and large, the Germans did not capitulate. They fought very hard, and Le Tissier illustrates this quite well.
However, Patton's Pawns has some serious problems that derail an otherwise promising work. Le Tissier relies almost entirely on secondary sources, most notably Lieutenant Laurence Byrnes's History of the 94th Infantry Division in World War II, published in 1948. He did not consult any of the 94th Division's operational records or after action combat interviews in the U.S. National Archives. This might be understandable for a synthesis or a larger campaign narrative, but it is a glaring oversight for a unit history. Nor did he mine the United States Military History Institute's collection for personal stories. He sprinkles only a few first hand accounts into his book and they add much-needed color to a fairly dry narrative laced with the passive voice. But Le Tissier acquired the vast majority of these accounts from the secondary sources. I was especially surprised that he did not interview any of the veterans he met on his tours. Perhaps the most stunning, and inexplicable, omission is William Foley's Visions from a Foxhole, one of the most outstanding combat memoirs in recent memory. Foley's stark account of his experiences with the 94th Division in the Siegfried Line campaign would have added much to Le Tissier's combat narrative. In Le Tissier's preface, he even mentions meeting Foley. Yet he never used Foley's memoir and that is puzzling. Leon Standifer's Not in Vain: A Rifleman Remembers World War II also would have been useful, but it's nowhere to be seen in Patton's Pawns. Throughout the book, there is a sense that Le Tissier is simply not familiar with the primary source material relevant to the 94th Division.
The main consequence of this paucity of primary research is that Patton's Pawns is little more than a recasting of Byrnes's division history plus a couple of other secondary works. Indeed, the organization and structure of Patton's Pawns is nearly identical to that of Byrnes. To be sure, Le Tissier liberally cites Byrnes. But, even so, some of Le Tissier's passages are uncomfortably close to Byrnes, and this includes adjectives. For instance, on page 120, Le Tissier writes: "The company then pushed forward rapidly." Byrnes wrote the exact same sentence, about the same company, on page 245 of his book. Most of the time, Le Tissier makes sure to vary his phraseology, but his over-reliance on Byrnes erodes the credibility of Patton's Pawns.
Overall, Le Tissier's book is something of a...