As the most audacious General during World War II, George S Patton’s death in a car accident has raised questions if it was an assassination. There were attempts on his life and the General hardly took notice of them. But the US Army remains unbudging that its inquiry held Patton’s death was due to injuries suffered in an accident when a army truck hit his Caddilac limousine. However, some searching questions about the manner in which the accident occured remains unanwered.
There was no formal inquest, no attempt to speak to Patton in the hospital about his version of events, and no inquiry was conducted after his death. Seeking more information about the death of his friend, Gen Geoffrey Keyes, commander of the seventh Army immediately launched a probe of his own into the accident. But Keyes report too went missing. The only report that remained in circulation was a curious document that was allegedly written in 1952 and signed by PFC Horace Woodring, Gen Patton’s driver.
When asked about it in after 27 years in 1979, Woodring swore that he had never made any statements or signed his name to any such report. He believed the paperwork was completely fabricated.
Attempts by the authors of the book “Killing Patton” — Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard — to find the official accident report were unsuccessful. If it does exist it is well hidden. The cover up was complete. In 1979, Office of Strategic Studies Jedburgh Douglas Bazata made the astounding assertion that he was part of a hit team that lay in wait for Patton’s limousine. He claimed after the crash he fired a low velocity projectile into the back of Patton’s neck to snap it.
When Patton did not die immediately, the general was murdered by the agents of NKVD, the Russian security in charge of political assassinations and espionage, by using an odorless poison. Bazata also swore that Wild Bill Donovan of the OSS paid him $ 10,000 Dollars plus another $ 800 in expenses for his role in Patton’s death. But many believe Bazata’s story is far fetched. No projectiles were ever found, and surely Woodring, Patton’s driver, and Gen Hap Gay who was accompanying Patton would have seen an assassination team.
The authors believe the death of Gen Patton should be reexamined by American military investigations. Although the trail is ice cold, technological advances could solve some of the puzzles. There is no doubt that Patton died a hero, and history certainly honours that to this day. But the tough old general did not go out on his own terms, and there are many unanswered questions surrounding his death. These questions deserve to be addressed. He had some premotion about his impending death. A few weeks before leaving his daughters in Washington, Patton said something that disturbed them greatly. “Well, I guess this is goodbye. I won’t be seeing you again.” His daughters protested “It’s crazy”. Constantly wanting to attack the “krauts” as the Allied forces called the Fuhrer’s Nazis, the only competition he had came from the British commander Gen Bernard Law Montgomery for whom the overall allied commander Gen Dwight Eisenhower had a soft corner. Montgomery silenced the Nazi desert fox Gen Erwin Rommel and secured a major breakthrough.
It was on September 28, 1945 when Patton had 85 days to live that he is summoned with prejudice to meet his boss Eisenhower or ‘Ike’ as he was widely known. Because of foul Autumn rains, Patton had driven seven-and-a-half hours to reach Ike’s massive industrial office complex that now serves as his headquarters.
During the journey, Patton was thinking of the words to speak to save his career once again. The meeting between Patton and Ike borders on volcanic. Ike is “nasty and showoffish” Patoon thinks. Given his propensity to shoot off his mouth before the media, Patton has made a mess of things yet again going on record as stating that being a member of the Nazi party is no different from being a member of the Republican or Democratic party.
“To get things done in Bavaria after the complete disorganisation and disruption of four years of war we had to compromise with the devil a little. We had no alternative but to turn to the people who knew what to do and how to do it,” he told a small gathering of the press in his office, defending his use of former Nazi officials in the rebuilding of Germany.
But the truth is Patton no longer has a career worth saving. He is restless and bored. His behaviour borders on depressive some days, with the best remedy being a hunting expedition or time on horseback. Patton desperately misses the war. He also believes that the Russians are America’s new enemy, and should be treated as such.
This was also the view of Britain war time Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Patton stands alone. Indeed, American troops are either going home or being sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, leaving fewer and fewer GIs to fight the “Mongols” as Patton calls the Russians.
Even more disturbing to Patton is that all his peers are going home to bigger and better jobs. While Patton spends his days reluctantly getting rid of the Nazi presence in Bavaria, Ike will soon be the Army chief of Staff, Gen Omar Bradley is already in Washington, heading the new Veterans Administration, and of course Gen Courtney Hodges is of to fight in the Pacific.
It seems there is no place for Patton in a peacetime army. “Your greatest fault,” Eisenhower tells Patton “is your audacity”. The words are meant to sting but both men know that Patton considers audacity his greatest asset. He has no choice as he walks out of Eisenhowver’s office. Later on he tells an aide over dinner that he’d like to resign from the Army so that he can go home and say “what I have to say.” But powerful people do not want this to happen. Patton knows too much — and saying what he knows would be a disaster. He must be silenced.
At 6 AM on December 9, 1945 Patton who has barely a dozen days to live has awakened. Official Army orders are directing Patton to return home where he has arranged to take 30 days leave and celebrate Christmas with his family. After that he plans to leave the military. On this particular day Patton decides to go pheasant hunting outside Manheim but enroute visits the Roman fort near Sallburg.
He starts at 9 AM and at 11.45 AM a military truck crashes head on with Patton’s Cadillac. At 12.43 PM Patton arrives at the US Army 130th Station Hospital. In the right backseat Patton is thrown forward his head slamming violently into the steel partition between Woodring’s driver’s compartment and the backseat. His nose breaks. He feels a sharp pain at the back of his neck.
After checking on his staff, Patton says in a weak voice “I believe I am paralysed.” Military Police Lt Peter K Babalas is on the scene and opens the back door and finds himself staring at George Patton being supported in an upright seated position. He was having trouble breathing. He asked that his arms and shoulders be rubbed hard. His face is growing pale and his feet are extremely cold.
“I don’t want a damned thing,” he tells the attending Doctor. Allied authorities are given the top secret information that one of America’s great heroes is incapacitated. Doctors believed Patton will survive his injuries and should be able to travel soon. They were proved wrong.