The Murder of Rudolf Hess, By Hugh Thomas, Introduction by Rebecca West, Hodder and Stoughton Publisher, 1979, 224 Pages, Photos, Notes, Index The premiss of Mr. Thomas's book is that the man who took off from Augsburg Germany on the afternoon of May 10th, 1941 and the one who landed in Scotland later that evening offering to broker a peace between the Nazi Reich and Great Britain were not the same man, known to history as Reich Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess. According to Thomas, Hess was the victim of a complex conspiracy to remove him from the reins of power in the Nazi Empire, and to elevate his murderer to the pinnacle of status within the Reich. In Thomas's estimation that man could only be Reichsfuhrer-SS, Heinrich Himmler! The plot, as described by Thomas, did not simply involve Hess's demise, but his replacement with a doppelganger who would lay the groundwork for a negotiated peace between Germany and England. A peace that Himmler could take credit for and thus solidify his position as Hitler's heir apparent Thomas says the proof of this fantastic assertion lay in three main areas, discrepancies within the post capture medical records, inconsistencies within the alleged flight and the curious, if not to say, bizarre behavior of the prisoner in England, Nuremberg and at Spandau Prison. Thomas writes that his first inkling that something was amiss came after his posting to Berlin in early 1972, with one of his duties, the care of Prisoner No. 7 in Spandau Prison. By this time Hess was the last man lodged in this final artifact of the Nazi Reich and the pawn of Four Power politics. It is Thomas's claim that both written records and his own observations of both Hess's torso and chest X-rays show no evidence of a serious gunshot would suffered in Hungary during the Great War. Wounds that Hess's final service record details and family legends assert existed. Further he says that photo's taken at the time he left Augsburg show a aircraft incapable of reaching England on internal fuel (the image show no drop tanks) and the flight plan sketched by the prisoner after capture detail a flight incapable of being made by such an aircraft even with drop tanks. Lastly he states that the actions, demeanor and words of the captured "Hess" show a man with severe mental problems and a clear lack of intelligence and understanding of politics, as well as the inner workings of the Nazi hierarchy. Needless to say these allegations are so extreme that some further research is obligatory, and so I did considerable web mining to get to the truth. As Fox Mulder would say, the truth is out there, and I'm sorry Mr. Thomas, the truth is against you. The author concedes that he was never able to give Hess a comprehensive physical examination, partly due to Soviet intransigence and partly due to the prisoner's reluctance. He further concedes that his view of Hess's chest and back was very brief and under less than ideal conditions. This however does not explain the missing damage on the chest X-rays that Thomas asserts must exist according to the service record he has seen. The problem is that the service record he sites is one compiled in 1937, after the Nazi rise to power. He also relies heavily on the testimony of Frau Hess (who met and married him after WWI) and others who claimed he was always 'short of breath' when hiking any distance in the Bavarian mountains. The cherry on top was a family legend that a Dr. Saurbach, a famed thoracic surgeon, actually did the operation that saved his life. Thomas admits he can find no record of any surgical procedure, but considers this lack of documentation of little import. (Though later in the book a lack of records on the Messerschmidt 110 would be evidence of a conspiracy) This was neither the first or last time he would employ shifting goalposts to prove or defend his premiss. The author either did not look for or consider any other documentation such as contemporay (WWI) records, which did exist and flatly state that while he was wounded by gunshot, No surgery was undertaken. According to these records the bullet entered his chest near the armpit and exited his back near the spine, leaving a "pea" sized entry scar and a "cherry pit" sized exit scar. In effect Hess received a glorified, if unusual, flesh wound that never went past his dermis and muscle tissue that he later inflated into a grave and serious chest would. Little wonder that Thomas could find neither large scars or internal damage to Hess's lungs on X-rays. This is the best evidence the book offers and I find it less than compelling. Thomas claims that the aircraft shown in Augsburg, and seen taking off, is a Me-110C which lacked the range to make it to Scotland on a one way trip without drop tanks. He is once again forced to concede that the Me-110D model, which had the range without drop tanks was in production and deployed in some operational squadrons, but itcould not possibly be the aircraft used as they were all desperately needed for units in the north. Considering that Augsberg is near the Me-110 factory and was a Messerschmidt test field the claim it could never be a D model is absurd. Nor does the author consider that the plane carried no ammunition or rear gunner (the guns were still packed with grease and incapable of firing) and therefore would have somewhat greater range than a combat loaded plane. Thomas claimed that the plane that crashed in Scotland had drop tanks, though none were on the wreck, though a single tank was found in a river estuary some distance away. He also claims that the crashed plane had the letters NJ+OQ which was a C model, but a current image of the wrecked fuselage clearly show VJ+OQ (which is generally accepted) and this aircraft was a D model. Nor did Hess ever claim to have jettisoned drop tanks at any point during his flight and likely would have when he first crossed the East Coast of Great Britain, not after he had reached the west coast after overflying the girth of Scotland. We are going downhill quick here aren't we? His last evidence of a imposter is the reported erratic behavior of Hess after his capture, behavior the author likens to mental instability. This is not simply his opinion but that of many doctors and laymen who had contact with the prisoner. He asserts however that Hess was a sober, intelligent political animal that bore no resemblance to Hess the prisoner. Unfortunately he relies upon Nazi era propaganda to prove Hess's acumen. The author states flatly that no person could reach so high a position within the Nazi Reich with any kind of mental imbalance or defect. Really now? I can think of one fairly notable example off hand myself. In my opinion the reported behavior of Hess is totally consistent with a noted hypochondriac and the natural prisoner psychosis of a man who once held great power, but now finds himself at the mercy of those he once sought to destroy. Throw in a man who risked everything on a single toss of the dice only to be confronted by the fact that he never had a chance to sway the course of the war and a pathetic, confused and mercurial deportment is quite understandable. This only leaves the Plot to be debunked, but this seems hardly necessary as the author presents no hard evidence, only a opinion that only Himmler had the motive and means to create such a conspiracy. Set aside the fact that this violates the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid), what if it had succeeded? How would Himmler explain a fake Hess returned to the Reich? How does he keep a doppelganger on one hour's notice, who knows how to fly a Me-110? What or how does he explain a crashed plane in Germany with the real Hess in it and another in England? I wanted to give this book a chance, and for a chapter it held its own, but after finishing it I could smell something rotten in Denmark,..er Scotland! If anyone wishes to read this book and judge for themselves you will be able to find my copy at my local resale shop.