Inside Hitler’s Bunker


These stills are from a YouTube video. They show my dad in one of Hitler’s underground bunkers. I thought all this time that the bunker my dad had been in (and grabbed some souvenirs in the process) was the Berlin one; the caption on this video says it was the bunker under Hitler’s private home, called the Berghof. The caption also says that Dad was the first American G.I. to enter the bunker. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t say.

Just after the war, my dad was temporarily assigned to the 101st Airborne Division; in the video, you can plainly see the Screaming Eagle embroidered patch on his shoulder. Why he was chosen for this little film, which is in an early version of color, is not known to me. Maybe it was because he was a photogenic person or maybe it was because he was persuasive and talked his way into it. Don’t know; my dad never mentioned any of this stuff to me, other than to say he had grabbed a bunch of junk in Hitler’s bunker after the war. Anything I learned about his wartime experiences was from overhearing his conversations when a couple of other WWII vets visited our home in the mid-1960s.

Anyway, he sent home a roll of about a dozen water colors and a larger oil pastel that Hitler, an artist earlier in his life, had stored in that bunker. I gave away the watercolors to some friends in Naples in the early 1970s and burned the painting in the early 1990s. I reasoned that destroying an artist’s work is the biggest insult one can do him. All the paintings were of street scenes or of buildings; I guess people weren’t important to Adolf Hitler.

So here are some images illustrating one tiny portion of the aftermath of a hideous episode in the history of our world.

War Trophies


I just submitted this photo to Shorpy.com, my favorite web site, and figured I’d post it here, too.

My dad served with the 82nd Airborne in WWII, and sent home an enormous batch of trophies, as seen in this photo taken on the front porch of our family farm after the war. Many of these guns, flags and uniforms were loaned to a museum in Fernandina Beach, Florida, and went astray. We were able to recover a few of them in the early 1970s and the automatic-weapon stamps from the ATF cost us a fortune; I believe it was $500 per gun. You should have seen it when the Naples police chief, my mom, two of my friends and I carried this stash of weapons into the Bank of Naples to store in their safe-deposit vault!

They were all sold or given away long ago, except for a 7.65mm Walther PPK I’ve kept. Dad picked that pistol up in the bunker in Berlin where Adolph Hitler had committed suicide with a pistol of the same make and caliber. Now, that model pistol is much more famous for being the pistol that James Bond keeps under that well-tailored suit jacket of his. [Edit: just learned that the bunker may have been the one under Hitler’s home, not the one in Berlin. No way of knowing for sure.]

My dad even brought back that dog in the photo; her name was Beulah.

Here’s a photo of Dad showing the campaign ribbons and such that he had earned in that war. I guess he was about 21 years old in this photo taken after the war.

My grandmother had an 8″ x 10″ glossy of the following Associated Press photo on the wall in her den. It shows my dad in WWII; she also had the yellowed newspaper clipping which identified him in the photo. Its headline, I remember, was Local Trooper Advances Under Enemy Fire.

On the 82nd Airborne site, it has this caption:

An infantryman from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division goes out on a one-man sortie while covered by a comrade in the background, near Bra, Belgium, on December 24, 1944″

The three-week battle, of which the above photo illustrates one brief moment, was later called the Battle of the Bulge or the Ardennes Offensive; one of the last desperate efforts of Nazi Germany to survive. I think that’s a Thompson submachine gun in one of my dad’s hands; those might be wire cutters in the other.

Pretty grim situation for a kid just out of his teens. No helmet, either. No one likes to wear a helmet on Christmas Eve.