Bill O’Reilly, the opinionated host of The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, is about to shake up the world of history with his latest bold claim — that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered the assassination of Gen. George S. Patton.
“We found compelling evidence,” O’Reilly says. Readers can decide for themselves with the publication of Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General (Henry Holt), co-written with Martin Dugard.
It’s the fourth in the pair’s wildly successful “Killing” series, which launched with Killing Lincoln in 2011 and continued with Killing Kennedy. Last year’s Killing Jesus reached No. 1 on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list. (O’Reilly says three more in the franchise are to come.)
While not always embraced by scholars, the non-fiction books are written as you-are-there thrillers in a way that “people who do not necessarily like history will enjoy,” says the former history teacher, 65.
The catchy titles don’t hurt, either. “I’m a snappy guy. I do things in a flamboyant way. I want to get your attention.”
He’s likely to do so with the Patton book. He says it will be “very controversial,” which never hurts sales.
O’Reilly and Dugard are not the first to question Patton’s death. Conspiracy theories abound, and in 2008 Robert K. Wilcox wrote a book called Target Patton: The Plot to Assassinate General George S. Patton.
The biggest smoking gun for O’Reilly was the car crash in 1945 in Germany that paralyzed the outspoken Patton, who had made headlines for slapping soldiers he thought were cowards and certainly had his enemies, even among fellow generals.
A U.S. Army truck veered into Patton’s car, and “the official accident report disappeared,” according to O’Reilly’s book. Patton survived the crash but died 12 days later.
“We believe he was poisoned in the hospital” by the Russian secret service, O’Reilly says. Why?
Patton was vocally anti-Soviet at a time when the U.S. was an ally. He saw the Communists as a serious threat.
O’Reilly, who says the U.S. government should reopen an investigation into Patton’s death, is a fan of the general’s battlefield tactics. (He said on-air recently that Patton and U.S. Grant would be “rolling over” in their graves over President Obama’s “wishy-washy” ISIS strategy.)
Though the previous three “Killing” books have been picked up by the National Geographic Channel for TV (Jesus is about to film in Morocco), O’Reilly wants to sell Killing Patton to the movies because of its “big battle scenes” and larger-than-life characters. The book covers the final months of the war in Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge and Patton’s pivotal role in winning it, and takes us inside the inner sanctums of Hitler and Stalin.
George C. Scott won an Oscar playing “Old Blood and Guts” in 1970’s Patton. Who should play him this time?
Says O’Reilly: “I can’t talk now, but we have somebody in mind.”