WAS GEN. PATTON ASSASSINATED?CONTROVERSY
By Robert K. Wilcox:
Sixty-five years ago, on December 21, 1945, America lost one of its greatest champions of liberty - Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., a largely unsung hero today of the Liberal-Conservative battles that have raged in America most of this century. There is evidence he was assassinated.
Patton, perhaps America’s greatest fighting general, died twelve days after a mysterious vehicle accident outside Mannheim, Germany, December 9, 1945. He was the only person injured. Sitting in the rear of a chauffeured Cadillac limousine with an aide beside him, Patton suffered a broken neck when a two-and-a- half-ton US Army truck suddenly veered into the Cadillac’s path without signaling. Patton’s driver, who couldn’t avoid the crash, would later privately tell his son that the truck had been waiting for them on the side of the road as they’d started up from a railroad track stop. All on-scene reports and military investigations of the incident have vanished.
Patton when he was injured on that fateful Sunday was just a day away from leaving Europe for good. During and after the war he’d angered the Roosevelt Administration with his antagonism toward the Russians. FDR, believing the Soviets crucial to maintaining world peace, wanted them appeased and had acquiesced to their domination of Eastern Europe. Patton, an ardent anti-communist who foresaw the Iron Curtain descending over Russian-occupied countries, wanted to fight them; in effect,
start World War III. “We’ve kicked hell out of one bastard (Hitler),” he lamented, only to “help establish a second one (Stalin)…more evil and more dedicated than the first.”
By late 1945, with the like-minded Truman continuing FDR’s pro-Kremlin policies, he was the lone, high-ranking voice against the Democrat administration’s foreign policy. His bosses, political and military, no longer needed him to win battles and had exiled him to an almost meaningless command. He was angry. And, on the eve of the crash, Patton was vowing to reveal “blockbusting” secrets about the war, including how badly it was conducted by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, and to rally Americans against the Soviets when he arrived home, possibly even run for office. In late 1945, Patton was high on the list of most popular Americans and the loudest critic of the Left’s love affair with the Soviets, who had clandestinely infiltrated the White House and other top US government branches and were manipulating them for communist aims.
We now know how extensive this infiltration was through the “Venona” revelations. “Venona” was the ultra-secret US deciphering of Russian codes at that time that only recently was declassified. It details the Russian spying in America but had just started when Patton was injured. While the driver and passengers of the truck that hit him mysteriously disappeared – as did the sergeant driving the jeep leading his limousine - Patton was taken, already paralyzed, not to the nearby Mannheim hospital, but to Heidelberg some 20 miles away where it was assumed he would die soon. But he rallied and was soon deemed fit enough to withstand a grueling trans-Atlantic flight home. On the eve of that flight, however, he had a sudden and unexpected relapse, dying from a spate of embolisms that migrated to his lungs, stopping his breathing.
Although he was the highest ranking general in Europe at the time, he had uncharacteristically requested a guard be posted outside his room. After his death, rumors immediately circulated that he’d been assassinated. Curiously, there was no autopsy.
Patton had suffered clots years before but not in such profusion or so deadly. His wife, Beatrice, had enough doubts that she hired private detectives to investigate her husband’s death. But officials hurriedly pronounced the December 9 crash accidental and Patton’s death natural, effectively silencing inquiry. Since then however two key witnesses emerged to claim that the general was assassinated – and in a unique way: a vehicle accident followed by a lethal drug dose. This method of assassination was used by many clandestine services—particularly the Russians. Stalin preferred it. It raised little suspicion at the time. And if the road job was botched, it could always be finished later in the hospital by an assassin posing as a doctor or nurse.
Douglas Bazata was the first of these two witnesses to go public. An Office of Strategic Services (OSS) “Jedburgh” in World War II, the forerunners of US Special Forces, he claimed that as an OSS assassin, he was asked to kill Patton by OSS chief Gen. William“Wild Bill” Donovan. The order was the culmination of a long-running plot during the war that had started as a non-lethal “stop Patton” plan. Later, in interviews with me, he enlarged that scenario, claiming that he, along with an NKVD (Russian military intelligence) accomplice, set up the December 9 “accident,” and that others – he believed the Soviets – had completed the task in the hospital.
It is not well known except amongst certain historians that Donovan forged a cooperating alliance between the OSS and NKVD, beginning in 1943. And despite the fact that he was sometimes played for a fool by the Russians, whose spies already riddled the OSS (and therefore the NKVD did not need the cooperation), he continued working with them throughout the war and after.
The other witness was Stephen J. Skubik, a Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) agent attached until war’s end to Patton’s armies. Afterward he continued working as a CIC agent among Soviet-dominated Ukrainians whom, he said, warned him that Stalin had put Patton on an NKVD hit list. Skubik, who wrote a privately-printed book entitled, The Murder of General Patton, claimed three top Ukrainians – Gen. Pavlo Shandruk, Prof. Roman Smal-Stocki, and the Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera – each separately warned him that Patton was marked for murder. But when he reported the plot to Wild Bill Donovan himself, instead of being grateful, Donovan had him jailed. Following Patton’s death, Skubik was forced to flee Germany for fear of being murdered himself. For several years he lived in hiding in America.
These two witnesses are highly credible. Their stories mesh without either having known about the other. Bazata, who left the army as a major, was one of the most decorated Jedburghs, having jumped into, among other harrowing missions, Nazi-occupied France to help organize local resistance in preparation for D-Day. He spent 25 years after WWII in Europe as a clandestine, was a good friend of fellow Jedburgh and ex-CIA director William Colby, and ended his career as an aide to Secretary of the Navy John Lehman during the Reagan Administration.
Skubik, after emerging from hiding, rose to a top managerial position in the Prudential Insurance Company in Washington D.C., and aided Republican presidents from Eisenhower through Reagan as an expert on Eastern European affairs. I vetted both men extensively through secret documents at places like the National Archives and through interviews with those who knew them. They both died in the 1990s. But if this case were ever brought to a grand jury, their preserved testimony, I believe, would be enough to get an indictment.
Even without such testimony, Patton’s death remains an unsolved mystery. In the months before he died, for instance, he was involved in at least two other highly suspicious accidents.
On May 3, 1945, Patton was almost decapitated when a farmer’s wagon with some sort of scythe-like instrument protruding from it suddenly rolled out unattended from a side street towards his passing jeep and “missed us only by about an inch,” he wrote in his diary.
The other “accident,” just a few weeks before, on April 10, 1945, is even more suspicious. Patton was visiting units in his light observation plane when four Polish Spitfires supposedly mistook his tiny aircraft for a Nazi fighter and attacked it. While three circled and acted almost as lookouts, the fourth Spitfire made repeated attacks. If not for the ground hugging and evasion skills of Patton’s pilot, the general surely would have been killed. As it was, the attacking Spitfire couldn’t pull up after one of its steep diving attacks and crashed. The Russians by that time controlled Poland. Patton was livid, and an aide accompanying him in the plane vowed to find out what happened. But to this day, there is scant information about the attack beyond what both wrote in their diaries.
The December 9 crash alone remains a major mystery. What was the truck doing waiting for the Patton car on the side of the road? Why did it suddenly turn without signaling into Patton’s path? The driver, Robert L. Thompson, was not authorized to drive the vehicle, and had two mysterious passengers with him “in violation of rules,” according to former intelligence agent Ladislas Farago, a US intelligence officer and author, and one of only a few who ever investigated Patton’s death.
Rumors that Patton was assassinated have grown since his death. Although I’ve only mentioned a few, motives to kill him abound. It seems clear that what actually happened to him has been covered up. The disappearance of all reports and investigations from that fateful day, as well as the car in which he was injured, are strong indications of foul play. Add two credible witnesses testifying to a plot to kill Patton, the inconsistencies surrounding the accident itself, and his questionable death in the hospital, and there are compelling reasons to initiate an official investigation even sixty-five years later. Until the truth is revealed, the rumors about his accident will persist, crucial history may be lost, and an enormous crime may go unpunished. Patton deserves better.
Although the crash occurred on a remote road on a quiet, no-work Sunday morning, a large crowd of mostly military personnel quickly descended on the scene. These included: a brigadier general accompanied by a major; two sets of military police who, it is written, made official reports; a mysterious “Lt. Vanlandingham” who appears to have been a clandestine; a lone provost marshal, and various groups of helpers, all military, including a set of medical officers with an ambulance whose officer in charge opted for the lengthier trip to Heidelberg rather than nearby Mannheim.
At least two on-scene reports and three post-crash investigations are recorded as having been made – five (5) in all. But all such primary, close-to-the-crash documents have vanished. One or two being lost or misplaced is understandable. But five? That’s a cover-up. They’ve been removed – except for quoted bits and pieces that have survived as parts of other documents. Thompson and his passengers not only were not charged, they vanished, although Thompson was reported to have been whisked to London for a brief time. Years later, I tracked him. He had died but even his family said it didn’t surprise them if he’d been involved. He’d been an opportunistic black marketer in post-war Germany where in his secret dealings he’d made a “suitcase” of money.
Similarly, the sergeant in a jeep leading the limousine to the crash disappeared. That fateful morning Patton and his aide decided to spend the general’s last day in Europe hunting, one of Patton’s favorite pastimes. The sergeant was familiar with the route to the hunting grounds, carried the rifles, and had to be within sight and sound of the limousine in order for it to follow. But he never came to the crash scene. This was tough General George S. Patton, the highest ranking general on the continent, he was charged with leading, and he failed to turn around and return to the crash site? It beggars belief.
The sergeant was conveniently misidentified in the official army records but I tracked him down, too. He died a strange, mysterious death after leading a life similar in several respects to that of OSS assassin Douglas Bazata.
For years The Patton Museum in Ft. Knox, Kentucky advertised that it had on display the limousine in which Patton was injured. That limousine we know from pictures and records was a 1938 Series 75 Cadillac sedan, a rare type. I figured I would go there and examine the vehicle from the crime scene, so to speak. I invited Cadillac’s historian to join me from Detroit. After his examination, he told me the Cadillac at Ft. Knox was not a 1938, but a doctored 1939. Among other incriminating details, he showed me where the car’s hard-to-find vehicle identification number (VIN) had been crudely filed off the metal chassis. Every vehicle has a VIN so it can be traced or verified for potential buyers. The museum wasn’t aware of the fraud until we informed them of our findings. So if the museum’s car wasn’t the Cadillac in which Patton was injured, where then was that car? I believe it disposed of in an effort to destroy evidence.
Since his death, a number of people in positions to know came to believe Patton was murdered. These included Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, a Patton contemporary who was so convinced that he informed the FBI that if he were found dead, supposedly a suicide, it was because he was actively espousing such a view, and Ralph de Toledano, a former Newsweek editor and one of the National Review’s founder. De Toledano, who died in 2007, wrote me that Raymond Murphy, who headed the U. S. State Department’s security department during and after the war, told him that the OSS killed Patton. De Toledano’s good friend, John A. Clements, part of a secret Marine Corps intelligence operation which penetrated the Kremlin, had also told him they had learned Patton’s “accident” was an OSS-NKVD hit. Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, an aide to Gen. George C. Marshall, he of the Marshall Plan, and another of de Toledano’s friends, confirmed that the Soviet’s top officer, Marshal G. Zhukov, an outspoken enemy of Patton’s, had pressured Eisenhower to “get rid” of Patton.