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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Saturday 22 October 2022

Killing Patton

 My library pick this month was Killing Patton by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories, which is confirmed by reading this thin gruel.

Almost the whole book is an average overview of the last months of WW2. Particularly so after reading Peter Caddick-Adams' excellent book covering the same period. The reader is left wondering, when are we getting to the point of this book? The reason is that there is so little to say. The best the authors can say is that there is a case to be investigated. 

Apparently, O'Reilly suggested in interviews that Patton was poisoned while recovering from the automobile accident he endured on December 8, 1945, on the orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, ostensibly to prevent him from warning the United States about the imminent danger of the Soviet Union. Several historians and Patton's family found O'Reilly's theory highly implausible. Carlo D'Este, the author of Patton: A Genius for War, said, 'He was a quadriplegic, he was going to die anyway, he was totally immobilized, he couldn't move What is the point of assassinating him?' Indeed!

In fact, Patton's anti-Soviet rhetoric pissed off his own side more than the Soviets. They complained about him employing ex-SS men, which Bradley agreed with. Marshall had his phones tapped and requested a psychoanalysts report. Patton certainly was losing the plot.

There are other conspiracy theories in the book.

An RAF Spitfire fired on his army cooperation plane, the L5, which, as he concedes, bears a distinct resemblance to the German Fi-156 Storch. But, instead of this being an all too common friendly fire incident, he points to the fact that the Soviets have Spitfires - with RAF roundels?

A couple of Nazi collaborators, desperate to escape deportation back to the USSR, tell the OSS that the NKVD plans to kill Patton. I fear this comes under the heading, let's make ourselves look like a valuable source of information. 

The author says that OSS didn't act because they wanted him dead - 'He must be silenced'. This was to be done by an OSS operative Douglas Bazata, who claimed Wild Bill Donovan personally authorised it. However, he waited until 1975 to say this privately and, in 1979, in public. He claimed that he fired a low-velocity projectile into Patton's neck at the very moment of the crash. Yet no projectile was found, and neither of the other occupants noticed this. Even the author concedes that many believe his story is far-fetched. He was also later employed by the Reagan administration, which is a bit odd if he really did kill a right-wing WW2 icon.

Then we have the truck driver that crashed into Patton's car. It's unclear what the authors are claiming here, another OSS agent? He was some way from his base, but it didn't occur that he might have been dabbling in the Black Market. Such entrepreneurial activity was pretty common at the war's end. The fact that Patton's driver had a penchant for speed on his and Patton's own admission isn't even considered a contributing factor. Vehicle accidents were also common at this time. Yes, some records went missing, but again not all that unusual.

Patton's widow employed several private investors to look into her husband's death. They all drew a blank. But, of course, that might just be because he died in a motor accident, full stop.

Even by the standards of conspiracy theories, the evidence in this book is less than convincing. Not quite QAnon-level nonsense, but no doubt it sold well to that audience. It wouldn't get anywhere near the standard required even to start an investigation these days, and it didn't at the time. I am delighted I didn't waste any money on this. My recommendation is, don't waste your time. 


  1. It does sound as if it’s stretching the bounds of believability.
    I do, however, enjoy a decent conspiracy tale every now and then - but that’s more from the perspective of “who on earth believes this tosh?”. Just because something is theoretically possible doesn’t mean it is likely. And, often the conspiracists latch on to the smallest connection but then take it way, way too far beyond all sense.

  2. "Peace will be Hell for George" His purpose being served of "Leading men in Desperate Battle" The Gods of War took him home.