Pall bearers, including Master Sergeant George Meeks, carry Patton’s casket on its last leg of the journey to his burial spot in the American cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg. Courtesy of The National Archives and Records Administration. (From WW2 Museum)
December 9th, 1945 – General George S. Patton was invited by Major General Hobart Gay to participate in a pheasant hunting trip near Speyer as Patton was becoming depressed by the war.
As he observed the many destroyed cars caused by the war, he mentioned to the Major General: "How awful war is. Think of the waste."
Patton was sitting at the back of a Cadillac limousine when his car crashed with an approaching army truck that was moving at low speed.
- Private First Class Horace Woodring was speeding on the N38 road over a railroad crossing in Manheim, Germany. He collided with the car at 20 miles an hour which cause the General to be thrown from his seat, smashing his head on the glass partition that separated the front and back seats.
- While the rest suffered minor injuries, Patton was not as he started to bleed from a gash to the head. The General was having trouble breathing and was unsure if he was paralyzed. He asked the Major General to rub his fingers, barking: “Go ahead Hap, work my fingers.”
- That only confirmed that he was paralyzed and so, Patton was rushed to the 130th Station Hospital in Heidelberg which was about twelve miles away from the crash site after being patched up by a medic from a passing army ambulance.
A broken neck necessitated Patton lying in traction for 12 days, sometimes with painful fishhooks implanted into his cheeks and weights attached to stabilize his neck.
- His wife was flown in from Boston to be by his side and read his books and letters of well-wishes. The doctors at first noticed that Patton was showing a few signs of recovery which prompt them to prepare a body cast for his return flight to the United States.
- However, he succumbed to his paralysis and breathed his last before any measures could be made. His wife was offered numerous burial sites such as Napoleon’s tomb (From the French Government) due to his actions during the war, but she ultimately decided that her husband would be buried at the American Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg together with the men of the Third Army that were killed during the gruesome Battle of the Bulge.
Was General George S. Patton, America's most famous WWII general, murdered in December 1945?
There are some speculations that he was a target for murder. This theory is made famous by the writer Frederick Nolan in his novel, The Algonquin project, in which there was a plot attempt on General Patton.
This novel was adapted into the 1978 film, Brass Target, which looks at the fatal automobile crash and suggests that the accident was the result of a conspiracy to eliminate the General.
Further support for this assassination theory came from, Douglas Bazata, a former OSS officer who revealed the confirmation of this theory to the public after the war.
- The story goes that this officer was assigned by Major General William Donovan to kill Patton on that December day due to Patton becoming an embarrassment to the United States army.
- Bazata after the war was a highly decorated soldier and many took to believe the story he presented to the public. However, his accounts of the accident did not tally with the official statements of those at the crash site including that of Private First Class Horace Woodring and Major General Hobart Gay.
- The story as recalled by Bazata is as follows: Bazata claimed to have jammed the car windows of the limousine when Patton was touring the Roman ruins shortly before the accident so that he could shoot Patton in the head when the car collided with a pistol that he obtains.
- He could not remember where he got the pistol and was supposed to make it seem as if Patton had been killed by the crash. He also mentioned that the car accident was the stage. If Patton was to survive both attempts, Bazata would eventually poison the General which would leave anyone puzzled as it was to present the death as of natural causes.
What added fuel to the mystery was that no autopsy was made on the General as the case was considered an accident and not an assassination. The records of his accident as well were found to be missing from the national archives. The latest ideas prompt up that it was the Soviets that took the life of Patton. However, most historians have regarded all these claims of conspiracy to be untrue and that it is more likely that Patton died from his wounds due to the car crash.
Nicholas Dreystadt designed the 1938 Cadillac which was part of the Cadillac Series 36-60. The car is known for both its exterior and interior features such as a new Harley Earl-designed exterior and a newly invented Turret Top one-piece roof by Fisher Body. The automobile uses Bendix dual-servo brakes and the "Knee-Action" independent suspension which was introduced by Cadillac in their car models from 1934 onwards and was considered a novelty. Under the hood, the car houses a Monobloc V8 engine that produced 125 horsepower which was 10 horsepower lesser than the larger Cadillacs. However, the design proved to be the Cadillac's best-selling model.