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Did Reagan's Assassination Attempt Thwart an Invasion of Poland and Nuclear War?

Paul Kengor, political science professor and author of the new book A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, joined Glenn on radio for a fascinating discussion about the bond between Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. Both men survived assassination attempts in an age when the Soviet Union met its end. Kengor revealed incredible details about the lives of these two great leaders and how divine intervention may have prevented a geopolitical disaster.

Enjoy the complimentary clip or read the transcript for details.

GLENN: Paul Kengor, professor at Grove City College, author of numerous books. He has a new one out about Ronald Reagan, The Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. I don't want to tell you the name of the book because it will spoil the surprise. I would have thought that the best friend -- that someone Ronald Reagan would have said was my best friend would be Nancy. That's not what Paul found. Paul, welcome to the program.

PAUL: Hey, Glenn, thanks so much.

GLENN: So how did you find this about Ronald Reagan? Where did you find this? And -- and were you shocked by it? Not shocked, but just shocked that you didn't know it.

PAUL: Yeah, I'd say both, really. And, in fact, Nancy Reagan -- and here's the giveaway, said that John Paul II was her husband's closest friend, which is an amazing thing to say. So you had Ronald Reagan referring to John Paul II as his best friend, and then Nancy said that John Paul II was her husband's closest friend.

GLENN: Isn't that amazing? I've never heard that. Never known that.

PAUL: That's right.

GLENN: That -- in many ways, that completely changes my view in a positive way of Ronald Reagan and who he was. To be John Paul's closest and best friend is remarkable.

PAUL: It is. And I think, look, to be sure, I think there's probably a little bit of a kind of genial overstatement, right? On the part of Reagan in saying that. But the first time that I heard it, it was about ten years ago. And somebody from the Polish Solidarity Movement told me about him and three other members of the Polish Solidarity Movement.

They were visiting with Reagan. This would have been the spring of 1989. And Reagan was no longer president. He was at his Century City office. They were about to hold these historic elections in Poland that would really -- I mean, that's what really took down the Communist bloc, those elections in Poland, even before the Berlin wall fell.

GLENN: Yeah, yeah.

PAUL: And he said, you won't believe this conversation. We're talking to Reagan. The old campaigner who won 49 out of 50 states. And we asked him for some campaign advice. And he looked at us and he said, "Yeah, listen to your conscience because that's where the Holy Spirit speaks to you." What? What was that?

And they gave him a sort of puzzled look. And then he turned, and he gestured to a picture on his office wall of Pope John Paul II. And he said, "He's my best friend." Said, "Yes, you know I'm Protestant. He's obviously Catholic. "But he's my best friend." And when I started asking people about this, including Nancy Reagan, who was great. Every time I had a question for Nancy, I usually sent it by email or phone call, and she would respond to all of these. She was wonderful because she loved John Paul II herself.

She said that John Paul II was her favorite leader among everybody that Ronnie met with. And I think, Glenn, what they both mean by that is it's not like the two were calling each other up and talking about the ball game or going fishing.

GLENN: Sure. Sure.

PAUL: Or -- but I think what Reagan meant was, in terms of this kind of historical and spiritual -- he and John Paul II both thought this way, this historical, spiritual struggle to take down and defeat this evil empire, atheistic Soviet communism, Reagan felt that there was no better friend or no closer friend that he had in that endeavor than Pope John Paul II.

GLENN: We're talking to Dr. Paul Kengor. A professor and a great author. Written several books. One of them is -- that he did with Mercury, Inc. The Communist, which was about Barack Obama's mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. Great researcher on history. His new book is A Pope and A President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and The Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.

Paul, they had this -- they had this connection of not only bringing things down. But I think they also had -- and you talk about it in the book -- this connection because they both felt that they were men of destiny, and they both had an assassination attempt against them. And they both survived, which I think hardened that man of destiny, we're on God's side kind of feeling.

PAUL: Yeah, that's exactly right. People forget this now. Everybody remembers that they were both shot. But, I mean, they were shot only six weeks apart.

GLENN: I did not remember that.

PAUL: It was March 30th, 1981, that Reagan was shot by John Hinckley. And then John Paul II was shot on May 13th, 1981. And immediately after Reagan was shot, the pope sent his prayers to Reagan, you know, wishing him well for a speedy recovery. And then Reagan, right after John Paul II was shot, immediately tried to call the Vatican. He called Cardinal Cook, Cardinal Krol in New York and Philadelphia. Sent a letter off to the pope saying that he was horrified by this, telling him that he was praying for him. Had a personal letter delivered to him by Congressman Peter Rodino, a Democrat from New Jersey. Had it taken all the way to Rome. And, I mean, they -- they already had wanted to meet with each other, Glenn, at least since early 1981 when Reagan was president.

And actually for Reagan, he wanted to meet with John Paul II from the moment that he saw footage of the pope going to his homeland in June 1979. Reagan said we got to get elected, and we got to reach out to him and the Vatican and make him an ally. So now with the two of them being shot -- and people didn't know this then either. They both very nearly bled to death.

GLENN: Right.

PAUL: They should have died. The pope needed 6 pints transfused of blood. Reagan needed eight. They both should have bled to death on their respective ways to the hospital. And then when they finally got together for the first time at the Vatican in June 19832, they met for about an hour alone, and they confided to one another their mutual beliefs that they believed that God had spared their lives for a special purpose, to take down atheistic Soviet communism.

STU: Hmm. Talking to Paul Kengor. Paul, this is I think new. I've never heard this before. Reagan being shot may have prevented the Soviet Union from invading Poland. Is that true?

PAUL: Right. It's incredible. It's an incredible story. It was told to me by someone who was at the Berlin station at the time in the late '70s and early 1980s. And I first heard this about five years ago. And I was blown away by the -- by the possibility. I spent a summer at the Reagan Library, looking into this. And it pretty much checks out. And, I mean, look, here's what we know: Between about November 1980 and the time that the Soviets declared -- helped declare martial law in Poland. This would have been December 1981.

Everybody was on pins and needles that the Soviet Union was going to invade Poland. I mean, we thought it was possible. We were hoping it wouldn't happen. Thought it was possible.

I was told by my source that -- he said, "You have no idea how close this was." He was -- he was decrypting information from the Soviets, throughout March 1989. And he said that he had information that they were literally ready to march into Poland on March 30th, 1981. On that exact -- that exact date March 30th, 1981. And you say, well, why is that so profound? Because of course Reagan was shot on March 30th, 1981.

And he -- he claims that because Reagan was shot and the US military went on full nuclear alert, highest level of DEFCON --

GLENN: Wow.

PAUL: Al Hague, you know, stomped into the White House. Said, "I'm in charge here." It's funny because everybody made fun of Hague for that. But the Soviets saw that, and they said, Al Hague, you know, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. He's no one to mess around with.

STU: Hmm.

GLENN: Wow.

PAUL: And they sent a DEFCON alert. And my source told me they were ready to go. And then when Reagan was shot, that's what called off the whole thing.

STU: Wow.

GLENN: So --

PAUL: And I think --

GLENN: Go ahead.

PAUL: I think it's accurate.

GLENN: Let me go back to the assassination on the pope.

You have in your book, New Details, that the KGB was involved in the pope's assassination.

PAUL: That's right. And we've long suspected that the Soviets were involved. John Paul II, Glenn, fought it as early as July 1981. In fact, when he got to the hospital, before he passed out, he said to the nurse, "How could they do it? How could they do it?" They meaning who? The one guy that lifted his gun? Mehmet Agca. And shot him.

I mean, he suspected right away that something was going on. He was telling people by late '81 -- his aides and confidants -- that he thought Moscow ordered it.

Reagan, Bill Casey at the CIA -- Casey called a very tight meeting of the National Foreign Intelligence Board on F Street in Washington, the very next morning, May 14. Wanted to know what Moscow was up to.

Bill Clark, the National Security Council. So they all suspected Moscow. Then when the word got out that the Bulgarians were involved. And you and Pat and Stu knowing your Cold War history, I mean, you know what the Bulgarians were like. They were stooges of the Soviet Union. Some people called Bulgaria the 16th Soviet Republic.

So when they heard that Bulgaria was involved and was behind Mehmet Agca, that immediately raised red flags, pun intended.

And, you know, they -- when they heard Bulgaria, they thought, "Okay. Moscow had to have been involved." But they kept all of this quiet until Casey ordered a truly super secret investigation at the CIA. And this is really kind of the blockbuster thing that I broke in this book.

And Casey -- this was a very tight investigation. I was told it was spearheaded by two young women, one of them in her late 20s, early 30s. Another in her early 40s. And they came to the conclusion that Moscow did, in fact, order the hit on the pope. And, specifically, it was through the Soviet GRU -- military intelligence -- they're the ones that organized it. But they did it with the go ahead and the approval of Yuri Andropov at the KGB.

GLENN: How much -- and I'm trying to keep of the timing here. I think it was after the assassination. How much did this play a role in Ronald Reagan having zero doubt or fear of labeling the Soviet Union an evil empire?

PAUL: Well, that's a good question. Reagan said that in March of '83.

GLENN: Right.

PAUL: And I think for Reagan, I mean, he had always known they were evil.

GLENN: But, I mean, if you knew they were evil -- but even the pope said, "How could they do this?"

PAUL: Right.

GLENN: To go and try to assassinate the pope. And a guy who sees a black and white world already, that just pushes you into a whole new level of evil.

PAUL: That's right. It really does. And, I mean, it doesn't surprise me. Knowing the way that -- the Soviet Union, they had been killing priests and bishops, Russian Orthodox Church rabbis, Roman Catholic priests, Protestant priests. They had been doing this since 1917. I mean, they killed hundreds, if not thousands. They were blowing up churches. Reagan knew that history. John Paul II knew that from being in Poland, where they harassed him since the 1950s. So really I think the answer to your question, Glenn, whereas a lot of the establishmentarians in the State Department and the CIA couldn't imagine that the Soviets would descend to that level, Reagan and Bill Casey and John Paul II and guys like Bill Clark, they had no problem at all imagining that the Soviets --

GLENN: So I want to go -- I have to take a break. But I want to come back and talk to you -- we're talking to Paul Kengor. His new book is called A Pope and A President. You get into something that I wasn't aware of, and maybe others are, that the pope was a big scholar or big fan -- I don't know how you would describe it -- of the secrets of Fatima, which I would like you to describe what those secrets of Fatima are. How the Vatican has the last parts of the secrets of Fatima. Did Reagan know any of that? And the role that those secrets played with Russia. Something that nobody would have wanted to know about the president at the time. The press would have had a field day with that.

But I'd like to hear about his connections with the secrets of Fatima and the pope coming up in just a second.

PAUL: Sure.

GLENN: The name of the book again is A Pope and A President. Fascinating and new material on Ronald Reagan and the pope. Sponsor this half-hour is My Patriot Supply. Yesterday, two US B-1 bombers departed Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. And they conducted a joint drill with South Korea and Japan. They flew over the North Korean peninsula. And they flew close to the 39th parallel. Why? The reason why is they are showing -- they showed off our stealth and our -- our B-1 bombers, saying to North Korea -- they flew close enough to the zone for them to know what they were, to say, "We can knock out all of your infrastructure."

PAT: Does the 39th parallel scare them as much as the 38th does?

GLENN: I'm sorry. The 38th parallel. Thank you. No, it doesn't. It doesn't.

PAT: Okay.

[break]

GLENN: We're talking to Dr. Paul Kengor. Great friend of the show and a great brilliant historian and writer. A Pope and A President is his new book. And before we move into the secrets of Fatima, Paul, I want to go back to what you said about the Soviets planning on invading Poland the day of Ronald Reagan's shooting. And if it wasn't that Ronald Reagan was shot that day, they were going to invade.

A couple of things on that: If they would have invaded, even without Al Hague, America would have immediately assumed it was the Soviet Union that was behind this assassination attempt, which would have been false. But we would have immediately assumed that that was not a coincidence.

PAUL: That's right.

GLENN: And even if it wasn't for the shooting, if they would have invaded, we may have gone to nuclear war over that.

PAUL: That's right. You know, that would have been absolutely and ultra devastating. And I think one of the reasons why they pulled back, Glenn, is because people might have linked it to the shooting.

GLENN: Sure.

PAUL: The shooting of Reagan. It turns out, of course, it was John Hinckley and he was trying to get the attention of Jodi Foster. He wasn't involved in any kind of international conspiracy whatsoever, but people would have definitely thought of that.

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