December 21, 1945 – a date that many people do not know the significance of unlike June 6, 1944 or July 4, 1776. December 21, 1945 should be remembered by all Americans as the day we lost one our best fighting generals in our history. On that day, General George S. Patton succumbed to complications from injuries he suffered in an automobile “accident” on December 9, 1945. I write “accident” because there are some that think the accident was an elaborate plot to assassinate Patton. Robert Wilcox’s Target: Patton, The Plot to Assassinate General George S. Patton provides a compelling argument supporting the idea that Patton was killed for his outspokenness against the Soviets.
Here is a synopsis of the book (in part) from its publisher:
He was the most controversial American general in World War II–and also one of the most successful, courageous, and audacious. As a post-war administrator of defeated Germany, he sounded alarm bells about the dangers of Soviet encroachment into Europe. Politically, he was a lightning rod–an outspoken conservative who continually embarrassed his superiors with his uncensored, undiplomatic, and unrestrained comments to the press. He was General George S. Patton Jr., old Blood and Guts.
In 1945, shortly before he was to fly home to the states as a conquering hero, he was involved in a mysterious car crash that left him partially paralyzed.
Two weeks later, just as his doctors were about to send him home to finish his recovery, he was dead.
The army ruled the car crash an accident, his death natural. Yet witness testimony on the crash conflicted, key players in the incident disappeared, official reports vanished, soldiers were ordered to keep silent, and there was no autopsy performed on the body.
Investigative and military reporter Robert Wilcox, author of Black Aces High and Wings of Fury, has spent more than ten years investigating these mysteries, and in Target: Patton he has written an electrifying account of the shocking circumstances–long hidden from the public–surrounding the death of America’s most famous general.
This is a very well-written and researched book. Wilcox clearly did his homework when he wrote this book. I am amazed at the amount of information that he puts in writing. All of this information is well-organized for the most part – a few times Wilcox’s tangents could have been pared back. I particularly think that the parts of the book regarding the infiltration of the Soviet spies into our political hierarchy is fascinating.
Two of the more interesting aspects of the assassination theory revolve around Office of Strategic Services (OSS) agent Douglas Bazata and Counter Intelligence Corps (the U.S. Army intelligence in World War II) agent Stephen Skubik. Bazata claims that he was recruited by General William Donovan – Director of OSS – to help assassinate Patton. Although he has nothing to support his claim other than his own words, Bazata claims it was a clandestine operation that was approved by the higher elements of the U.S. Army command. Wilcox supports Bazata’s claims about Donovan by stating several instances where Donovan’s motives are suspect.
Skubik’s claims are a little more solid than Bazata’s claims. At the end of World War II, Skubik was approached by several Ukrainians stating that the Soviets were plotting to kill Patton because of his controversial comments about taking on the Soviets after defeating the Germans. By citing Skubik’s book and other sources, Wilcox provides an aborbing glimpse into the immediate post-World War II political environment of Europe. According to Wilcox, the Soviets reigned supreme with their highly developed spy network while the Allies were more than willing to bend over backwards to appease the Soviets in order to avoid conflict. This appeasement led to many betrayals of possible allies in Eastern Europe and possibly the acquisence to the assiassination of Patton (more on that below).
After reading this and digesting the plethora of information that Wilcox provides, I am not sure what to believe. Many of the questions that Wilcox brings forth have not been answered, including – (1) all known reports (at least five) on the accident are missing – where are they?; (2) there are several persons who were either involved in the accident or investigated it – their whereabouts are unknown or it is not known why they were not questioned more thoroughly; (3) why did Patton want guards outside his hospital room?; and (4) why was no one else who was in the car injured as seriously as Patton?
I have never been a conspiracy person, but these unanswered questions make me wonder. I still find it hard to believe that American military and political leaders would sell out one of our own, but I also may not totally understand the attitudes at that time.
Even if you have doubts about Wilcox’s arguments, you will thoroughly enjoy the spy stories and intrigue.