42 pages 1 hour read

Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard

Killing Patton

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2014

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Summary and Study Guide


Killing Patton is a 2014 historical nonfiction work by American authors and journalists Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. It explores the final months of World War II in Europe from an American perspective—specifically the role iconic General George S. Patton played in securing eventual Allied victory.

The book also explores Patton’s death after a motor vehicle accident, floating the conspiracy theory that this death was no accident. Investigating the motives of Stalin, Eisenhower, and others, Killing Patton argues that Patton was assassinated because of his views on denazification and Soviet power. O’Reilly’s conspiracy theory has been widely disputed by historians and members of the Patton family. This guide uses the following edition: Killing Patton, New York: St. Martins Paperbacks, 2014.

By the autumn of 1944, following the success of the D-Day invasion in June, the Western Allies had succeeded in liberating most of France and stood poised to invade Germany. However, Hitler believed that a major new German offensive might turn the tide of the war. The Soviet Union was preparing for a push into Eastern Europe.

On December 14, the German army launched the opening phase of “Operation Watch on the Rhine,” an offensive through the Ardennes forest designed to split and destroy the British and American forces. The Germans, after meticulous planning, had achieved the element of surprise against the Allies, who did not believe a German attack was possible. However, despite early successes, logistical difficulties and stiff American resistance slowed down the assault. Much hinged on whether the Germans could capture the strategically vital town of Bastogne, and thereby push on towards the river Meuse and Antwerp. The American forces surrounded there managed to hold out for eight days, until Patton’s Third Army relieved them on Boxing Day, 1944. This, along with the Germans running out of fuel, effectively ended “Operation Watch on the Rhine.” Meanwhile, the Soviet Union liberated Czechoslovakia and Hungary from Nazi occupation and was poised to strike at Berlin.

In January, with the arrival of Soviet forces imminent, the Nazis tried to destroy evidence of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Soviet army liberated the camp at the end of that month.

In February, Roosevelt sidelined Britain at the Yalta Conference, so when the Allies planned to cross the Rhine river in March, and push into Germany proper, Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower gave the honor of doing this to British General Montgomery, rather than to Patton, to smooth over the international relationship.

The Battle of Berlin took place in late April. After the Soviets entered the city, Hitler committed suicide on April 30, effectively ending World War II in Europe. The Potsdam Conference, involving new US President Truman, USSR leader Stalin, and UK Prime Minister Churchill, met in late July to determine the future of post-war Europe.

Eisenhower relieved Patton of his command for making remarks critical of the Allied denazification policy. Patton grew worried about attempts made on his life. Patton died six months after the end of the war on his way to a hunting expedition when an army truck hit his car. The book points out many flaws with the official view of events, drawing attention to an ex-spy’s 1979 confession that the US Secret Service had paid him to assassinate Patton.