Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General
“His uniform was a marvel, with four rows of ribbons, four shiny brass buttons, a polished helmet bearing his three general's stars, tan riding pants, and knee-high calvary boots. Most vividly, a Colt .45-caliber pistol with an ivory grip was holstered on his hip, sending a strong signal that Patton is no bureaucrat. He's a warrior and everybody had better know it.”
The description of General George S. Patton not only paints a picture of this iconic figure, it illustrates the style and scope of KILLING PATTON. Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard have combined their talents to provide an essential read for history buffs, patriotic supporters of our military and the simply curious alike. While definitely a well-researched historical book, it is also a suspenseful mystery that still begs for resolution. Next year's 50th anniversary of the death of Patton has prompted O'Reilly to call for a new investigation into his untimely passing.
"In less than 400 pages, [KILLING PATTON] supplies more in-depth information than a dozen history books of lesser caliber and definitely more interest than semesters of dry lectures could provide."
KILLING PATTON is the fourth book that O'Reilly and Dugard have written; the previous three are KILLING LINCOLN, KILLING KENNEDY and KILLING JESUS. The latter far exceeded my expectations, so I was looking forward to seeing how the team would handle the controversial General and his often documented times. Though it has been 44 years since the “audacious warrior” was brought to life by George C. Scott in the award-winning movie Patton, I still have vivid memories of the man and his larger-than-life-persona.
Patton was an unapologetic patriot and uncompromising military leader. As such, he garnered both enthusiastic supporters and ruthless enemies. It is no wonder that so many books have been written about him, and a number of theories have surrounded his death. In addition, the leading characters in the drama surrounding Patton are no less than American generals and presidents, prime ministers and dictators. The times were fraught with news of invasions, upheavals and horrendous atrocities being perpetrated on innocent civilians. A world war literally was being fought on many fronts and claiming thousands of lives on an almost daily basis.
Yet, as fascinating as the details are of the various battles, strategies and hardships that occurred during the war itself, the aftermath provides even more page-turning information. This General who fought for his country, from the days of battling Pancho Villa to fighting in World War I and finally to being assigned his command in World War II, had to battle politicians as well. The brilliant tactician was not without critics, and those with less commitment to winning did not hesitate to thwart his missions.
Chock full of information about the treaties and compromises after the war, the book gives the reader an inside look at the motives and machinations that went into the dividing up of Europe and that set the stage for the Cold War that followed. These events played such an important role in the decades following World War II that understanding them should give today's leaders a template for making decisions that have global implications. Yet we may see history repeating itself because they refuse to learn from the past --- waiting too long to stop terrorism, not acknowledging enemies who are bent on our destruction, tying the very hands of the military whose mission it is to protect us from them.
KILLING PATTON should be required reading for students in general and for students of history in particular. In less than 400 pages, it supplies more in-depth information than a dozen history books of lesser caliber and definitely more interest than semesters of dry lectures could provide.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on October 2, 2014