Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General. Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Henry Holt and Company. September 2014. 368 pp. ISBN#: 9780805096682.
Let me state from the outset this reviewer has absolutely no interest in examining this book for political purposes! Instead, this reviewer’s father served in the U. S. Army under General Patton and had tremendous respect for his person and leadership. Thus, this reviewer’s fascination grew to desire to know more about this man who was loved and hated by so many in military and civilian circles! While other books have been read about Patton, this is not a comparison or contrast review; rather it’s a stand-alone objective review of a book about a truly great man whose actions changed the course of WWII in Europe.
O’Reilly and Dugard pose the theory that General Patton was killed because he was too outspoken and considered dangerous to others vying for power and vying to create a European order after WWII that would favor certain countries over other countries. There is actually very little evidence for this so-called murder other than the accounts of those present at the time and reports that mysteriously seem to have disappeared or gone missing, with very little response from those who should have known about those documents. Whatever happened, the story of this anti-Patton plot makes for fascinating reading!
Some background is given to the backgrounds of Patton, Churchill, Roosevelt, Lenin, Stalin and other world leaders who were pivotal during the coming Second World War! The authors examine these characters with what they know will fascinate readers – just enough personal and political information to whet the appetite for more – some of it unnecessary but which builds the “story” being presented.
The authors tell the story of WWII battles led by Patton and that is also mesmerizing reading because it is also an intimate look at the political and military leaders making the decisions about the war. We read about how Patton arrived in France and moved through that country into Southern Germany. There a huge competitive campaign emerged in which Patton desired to be the first to reach Bastogne and later Berlin, a competition with Britain’s Montgomery that grew fierce indeed!
Patton’s verbal gaffes were amusing, inflammatory, truthful, lies, and totally destructive to policy, depending on who was the target of those comments and who was fitting them into or rejecting them into American military and political goals.
In many ways, this book reads like a novel. One has to remind one’s self that this is the account of a real General whose life was almost larger than life for those who served under him or with him and whom one could accurately call a “shaper of history.” Some have decried this account for leaving out certain facts about Patton’s attitudes toward Jews and political predictions or attitudes. The reader must judge those accusers after examining what they know and don’t know about Patton and differing written accounts – fiction or non-fiction. The best? The worst? Somewhere in between? That’s for others to argue.
This reviewer highly recommends Killing Patton as a great read about the man, the war, the assassination theory and one account of a pivotal period in world history!