“Killing Patton” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Bill O’Reilly, along with historian Martin Dugard, has written four books dealing with historical cases of murder.  I have read Killing Lincoln, which I thought was a very thought-provoking novel.  I learned a lot about the historical events leading up to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln upon reading O’Reilly’s book.  The same can be said of my reading of Killing Patton.  I learned a lot about the war-time events leading up to the accident that claimed the life of General George S. Patton.  Up until this time, I had not heard that there was any suspicion about General Patton’s death.  Evidently there is some speculation that his was not an accidental death.

Killing Patton begins in December, 1945, seven months after V-E Day, May 8th, 1945 in Patton’s hospital room after the accident.  After this first chapter in the book, the authors then present events beginning in October 1944 leading up to V-E Day.  The main event of this time was The Battle of the Bulge, which was fought in the Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg from December 16, 1944 until January 25, 1945. Hitler envisioned it as a surprise German offensive campaign.  Hitler planned the offensive with the primary goal to recapture the important harbor of Antwerp. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. United States forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred the highest casualties for any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces on the western front which Germany was largely unable to replace. German personnel and Luftwaffe aircraft also sustained heavy losses.   Hitler was not ready to face the fact that Germany was losing the war.

Not only was this offensive by the Germans a surprise to the Allied forces, it resulted in dissention among the British, American and Russian forces.  This novel brought to light the apparent inaction of General Eisenhower, the too-cautious wait-and-see inaction of British Field Marshall Montgomery.  General George Patton was ready to enter the fray, but was halted by command of General Eisenhower.  General Patton was furious with Eisenhower and Montgomery for their hesitation in pressing forward into the German territory.  General Patton was feared by the Germans.  He was a noted hot-head and had been called on the carpet numerous times for speaking with less than diplomatic reaction to war-time events and about war-time leaders.

He did not agree with Roosevelt’s attitude of conciliation to Stalin’s Russia in “dividing the spoils” of war.  Russia was given virtual control of Eastern Europe, much to Patton’s dismay.  He thought, and rightfully so, that Russia would become an enemy of the United States and the free world.  He wanted the American army to enter Berlin first to show their superiority.  He thought that Eisenhower’s concession that the Russians first enter Berlin was totally wrong.  He made an enemy of Stalin.

Another person figuring prominently in this examination of Patton’s enemies was “Wild Bill” Donovan, the head of the OSS, an intelligence agency active in the war.  Donovan was determined to create the CIA, but was not a favorite of President Harry Truman.  Donovan knows of specific threats against Patton’s life by Stalin and his minions, but dismisses them.  He also tells a former OSS agent that he has a problem.  That problem is Patton.  The agent then asks Donovan if he wants Patton killed.  Donovan answers in the affirmative.

O’Reilly’s book sets the stage for further investigation of the death of Patton.  However, there are many pertinent records that are missing or non-existent.  This novel seems to call into question that the death was planned by one or more assailants.  I very much enjoyed reading about the historical events of this period of the war, but I was disappointed that the book did not go further or explain in detail the investigation of the accident.  Killing Patton is an interesting and intriguing account of the last days of the war in Europe.  However, I’m not sure that Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Dugard have successfully reached a conclusion that General George S. Patton was purposefully killed.

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