Book Review: Killing Patton

Killing Patton by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard is the story of major battles and events in the final years of World War II with an emphasis on the life of General George Patton. Like other books in the Killing Series, this manuscript opens readers’ minds to the possibilities for different historic outcomes if certain individuals had acted otherwise. Sadly, this book strongly hints at the likely non-accidental death of General Patton by betraying figures.

Authors of history easily can insert their biases in recounting of events. I appreciate that Killing Patton, like other books in the Killing Series, offers specific details to substantiate perspectives shared. Readers will find the insights credible and worthy for contemplation.

I came away from this book convinced that no matter how difficult a person General Patton may have been to associate with, he was the best military leader. His leadership dependably delivered on the battlefield. Yet, if he was given the support (e.g., supplies and troops) he needed and requested, he would’ve delivered even more than his counterparts who repeatedly floundered. Additionally, if Patton were given the backing, he could’ve beat the Russians to Berlin potentially impacting the future of Europe. Unfortunately, former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) appears to have valued his comrade with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin more than Winston Churchill, the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This book explains that FDR apparently agreed to give parts of Germany and Eastern Europe to Stalin rather than compete to restrain Russian influence in the region. Meanwhile, General Patton wisely identified the Russians for the threat they were and wanted turn America’s attention that direction. Instead, FDR working through his generals and Wild Bill Donovan in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) marginalized General Patton until his unexpected death in Germany.

In a sense, FDR helped create the cold war rather than recognizing the threat the Russians were to the future of the world. Granted, at some point the Russian threat needed to be dealt with. Regrettably, containment came after freely permitting the Russians to take over, control, abuse, rape, and murder many defenseless eastern Europeans and Germans.

It is interesting to read Killing Patton after reading Killing the Rising Sun. Both General Douglas MacArthur and General Patton recognized the threat from the Soviet Union in the post-World War II era. General Patton was sidelined and eventually probably killed. General MacArthur was given some power to confront the communist threat in Korea. He successfully landed troops at Inchon and reclaimed Seoul. Then, he was fired by President Harry S. Truman and the Joint Chief of Staff after he authorized pursuing combat into China against Truman’s orders. Rather than taking the battle to the communist super-powers, both of Americas mighty-generals’ careers were ended.

Understandably, America was tired of war, but the Korean conflict demonstrates that post-World War II military action was needed to contain communism (note that the later Vietnam conflict indicates containment was never fully realized). It appears that FDR and Truman kicked the problem down road as opposed to dealing with communism when they had the better opportunity. And, both generals who could’ve led the fight were forced out of power.

I come away from Killing Patton questioning the character and leadership of many noted Allied military leaders – General Dwight Eisenhower, General Omar Bradley, and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. General Eisenhower seemed more like a politician than a qualified battlefield tactician. Accordingly, it seems fitting he later became President of the United States. Similarly, I question the wisdom of FDR in allowing Donovan so much power to work with the Russians in intelligence activities. The partnership between the OSS and The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) near the end of World War II seems treasonous. That might explain why General Patton’s suspicious death isn’t a surprise.

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