It seems like yesterday that the Division Sgt. Major invited me up to his office for a cup of coffee. We talked, and then he discovered my love for history.
“Come on,” he said, and led me into a storage room in the recesses of the division headquarters. He pulled down a box like one would store files and such in. I was amazed that there was very little dust on it. Despite this being a back room and rarely visited, the cleaning staff did drop in on occasion. He opened it, and moved some yellowed newspaper aside and took out an old World War II style US Army helmet. It had three stars on it.
He handed it over to me. “Who’s was it?”
“It belonged to General Patton,” he said.
I stood in the storage room, holding the helmet a man dead for almost fifty years had worn, a variety of emotion coursing through me.
I’d always admired Patton, and I’ve met and talked with many of the soldiers he served under. They equally loved and hated him.
So when I picked up the book, I was hopping to learn a lot more about the man. I wasn’t disappointed. O’Reilly did a first class job on his homework, as always. Ninety percent of what he mentioned can be found on the internet. It’s what he did with it that I found so compelling. He took it and forged it into the man. Patton has always been a bit of legendary figure. He took the legend and gave us a living, breathing human being. Someone who not only was a brilliant soldier, but someone who could get himself in trouble just by opening his mouth. A man who thought nothing about dropping on his knees and praying, but then would have a questionable relationship with a young lady.
We ended up with a man who was flawed, complicated, and possibly even more of a legend than I expected. We also got a peek behind the scenes at the political situations that may have helped conspire against the man, and so what O’Reilly wove was a look at something much large than the man, but on which he had an impact.
The only real disappointment with the book was the title. There’s always been the question if he died as the result of an accident, or if it was an under the table assassination. There’s certainly more than enough mystery surrounding his death. What I found compelling was his last days in the hospital, his drive to recover, but then the the simple fact that he didn’t.
It’s in the attempt to tie it all together to show it was an assassination that the book falls down. I was hoping for much more evidence than was presented. What we got was half a dozen conspiracy theories and some statements to support them. As Dr. Carl Sagan pointed out, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
I didn’t get the evidence. Or at least enough to convict someone of the crime.
Beyond that, it was first class book that shows an extraordinary man placed in an extraordinary place in the middle of happening history.
That made it worth it.