Wednesday, August 10, 2022

on O'Reilly's "Killing Patton"

I've thought about reading a book from Bill O'Reilly's series on conspiracy killings and I finally got around to reading his work (with Martin Dugard) on General George Patton. This book is doubly interesting to me because it may be the last book my dad ever read. He read from this series; he was a huge fan of Patton; and he died within a year of the book's publication. So, I don't know, but I'd be surprised if he didn't read it and it wouldn't be shocking if this was the last one!

Let me open with two broad points. First, the book is an easy read, with a lot of interesting detail, well-organized, and so on. If you're into this sort of thing (a combo of history, unsolved mysteries, biography), it's good stuff. I wouldn't go out of my way to read this series (not my cup of tea) unless I was particularly interested in the subject's life. 

Second, I was impressed and a bit surprised that O'Reilly was sober in his analysis and (seemed) careful to distinguish between contexts where he and the consensus are more/less certain of how things went.  I expected more flash, hyperbole, and sensationalism. (It reminded me of Randy Alcorn's approach in his excellent book Heaven-- and a humble anthropological/archaeological dig we saw at Carters' Grove in VA, where they would only build/exhibit as much as they knew.) 

Aside from that, I just want to share some favorite observations from the book: 

-Ike was willing to put up with Patton given his prowess in leading his troops (51). In contrast, Hitler  has Rommel killed after suspicions that he was involved in trying to have Hitler killed (33-36). Granted, Patton's many excesses were merely problematic, insubordinate, and embarrassing, while Rommel was traitorous. But there is debate about the extent to which Rommel was involved. And it still points to a larger issue about a willingness-- or not-- to tolerate garbage from people who have much to offer you (or society). 

-Eisenhower's long-running affair with Kate Summersby is another example/aspect of the sort of mediocre religiosity that Ike brought to the presidency as he reflected as pseudo-Christian version of religion, American Civil Religion. It was fascinating to read about efforts to keep them apart and ironic to see efforts to erase their history-- all for the good of Ike's political future and "the country". Not surprisingly, she wasn't a fan of this work (279-280, 320).

-Patton's take on religion was much more fervent, even if wrong-headed at times. A blurb from his journal is telling: "I seemed always to be a ray of sunshine, and by God, I always am. We can and will win, God helping." (116) But he also believed in reincarnation, from a few personal experiences (200). The most amazing discussion was about Patton's prayers when he was frustrated with God for the weather in Christmas 1944. It is full-throated stuff-- reminiscent of the prophets, psalmists, Moses, David and Job; questioning how God runs His universe. (126-131) And then, when God comes through, he backtracks, repents and apologizes (159). 

-The authors have a brief discussion of the "scientific racism" that helped drive the German efforts. Akin to slavery back in the day, eugenics throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and the popularity of the Molechian position on abortion, human beings were seen as "sub-human." (95, 97)

-A bit surprising: O'Reilly holds the popular but erroneous views that FDR deserves acclaim for his handling of the economy (69, 166). He also noted FDR's electoral prowess, only surpassed by Reagan. Ignoring policy, if you're going to give credit for improving morale, popularity and election success, and leading through difficult times, FDR and Reagan have to be in the upper tier of your presidential rankings. 

-The premise of the book are the possibilities that Patton was murdered. Here, he lays out a few possible angles (274-275, 285). The Russians wanted him dead and had experimented extensively with poison (286-290). Patton knew "too much" and some folks at the CIA/OEO wanted him dead (294-295). And then, the strangest thing involves a strange plane incident (241-242) and then, the direct manner of his death-- a suspicious car accident with a new driver (283, 297-303, 309-313). The car crash resulted in his paralysis and his death a few days later. While it's certainly possible that it was an accident; it's also possible that it was nefarious.

Smaller things: 

-Patton predicted Pearl Harbor (74)

-The West Point Class of 1915 was amazing (87), including Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. 

-O'Reilly (100) details the differences between the barbaric SS and the more standard aspect of the German military, the Wehrmacht.

-I hadn't heard of the "Malmedy Massacre" (102), but apparently it's relatively well-known, including prosecution for war crimes. 

-Hitler's health woes were impressive-- self-inflicted wounds and not the best constitution to boot (135).

-They detail Stalin's cleverness in dealing with the West. (I have it on my shelf, but I hope to read about this angle in McMeekin's Stalin's War.)

-There are a few interesting, explicit references to incentives in concentration camps (176) and Stalin encouraging rape as a reward for soldiers (192). 

-Jews were tattooed with a number-- their new identity to replace their name (183). 


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