Joined: 20 Sep 2003
Location: San Francisco
|Posted: Sun Nov 28, 2004 9:05 pm Post subject: A Colonel of Truth
|Who Was The Real Col. Robert Hogan?
Most of us are familiar with Bing Crosby produced television show Hogan's Hero's, a tale of allied prisoners of war starring Bob Crane, the shocking details of his murder and his involvement with pornographic film, but not many people realize that the character of Hogan was based on a real life Saboteur/POW who was recruited by Bing Crosby for the O.S.S.
Hollywood durring the war was ripe with people willing to contribute to the war effort. Hedy Lamarr was once married to a Viennese armament manufacturer whom she left as he was rather involved with the Nazi's. After arriving in Hollywood she and Composer George Antheil patented a "Jam Proof" Radio for torpedoes and missiles, In fact many of the same principles are still in use today. Bing was right along with them. Bing had become friends with the German ex-patriot Hedy during the war. They spent a great deal of time together at the Hollywood Canteen, doing bond drives, radio shows and entertaining the troops and she and other displaced Viennese actors had the connections needed in Germany to facilitate one of the greatest cloak and dagger missions during the history of the war. But we need to start somewhere and Stalag 17b is as good a place as any.
Background and misconceptions
Stalag 17b, while far from being a great place to spend some time, was still cushy compared to many other POW camps in Germany, The real Stalag 13b, for example was ridden with lice and on starvation rations. Stalag 17b, located near town of Gneixendorf just 30 Km outside of Vienna, Austria was far different in many respects, It held prisoners from France, Italy, Russia, Yugoslavia and various smaller nations. American Airmen, most of whom had been downed on the Schwienfurt Raid in 1943. Prisoners had it easy compared to other camps. At Stalag 17b they had plenty of cigarettes and Hershey bars, why they even had an internal broadcast system and boasted a theater run by British commando's. It should be remarked that at Stalag 17b the prisoners refused to denominate who was Jewish amongst them, saving an untold many from use as slave labor as had resulted at several other camps.
Two American POWs, Donald Bevan, & Edmund Trzcinski certainly gained knowledge of Col. Hogan during their internment and later wrote the play Stalag 17 which was the first to be made in a series of prison camp films. Was Stalag 17 Hollywood's first subtle telling of its story? And then during the ultra paranoid Vietnam era 60's releasing The Great Escape, a telling of the prisoners of Stalag 3? Another film tells us a similar tale, Von Ryan's Express, starring Frank Sinatra, of course you knew that Bing Crosby was his hero but did you know that the jacket Bob Crane wore in Hogan's Hero's was the exact same A-2 flight jacket that Frank Sinatra wore during Von Ryan's express? Was Hogan's Hero's a way for Hollywood to brag and celebrate the people who were involved with the original mission? Often incorporating one or more of them into a Hogan's Heroes episode.
The image of the reckless saboteur, blowing up bridges and sneaking out of the camp was hardly the truth or even the nature of their mission. Hogan's job was to sneak into Germany movies manufactured in Hollywood by Preminger in order to discredit certain Nazi's. The plan was for him to meet up with contacts from Vienna who could then place them in strategic locations. After handing over films he was to attempt to acquire any photographic evidence and try to relay it back to the Allies. Unfortunately he was caught. Fortunately he wasn't thought of as anything more than a flier who had eluded detection for some weeks. He knew he would first be taken to the "Transit Camp of the Luftwaffe", called Dulag Luft by the POWs, and questioned by master interrogator Hanns Scharff
(who also just happens to be Sabrina Scharf's uncle. Sabrina costarred in Hogan's episodes #97 as a Gestapo interrogator and #146 as a Underground agent.)
The allies had information that Hanns happened to be enamored of Hedy Lamarr. So our "Hogan" developed a fast friendship with Hanns after telling him of being befriended by her during rehearsals for the Armed Forces Radio. Hans eventually had him transferred to Stalag 17b the softest POW Camp the Germans ran located near the town of Gneixendorf just outside of Vienna, Austria.
Later Hanns became a well known author. Though only a corporal during the war Hans was though to be a high ranking officer by many POW's. His book on the subject is still referenced and primer reading for all modern interrogators. His methods were subtle and he never used torture or duress or so much as a raised voice, he succeeded through skillful chatting, gently coaxing information without the prisoner ever being aware of it.
Never prosecuted for war crimes, Hanns was probably an unknowing pawn in a complex game of subterfuge. His help was defiantly the reason for being allowed to emigrate to the US and later display his mosaic artwork in Cinderella's Castle at Disney World, in downtown LA as well as receiving visits from Col. Francis "Gabby" Gabreski, Gen. James H. Doolittle, General Curtis LeMay, aces James L. Brooks and Robert M. DeHaven at banquets in his honor.
Interestingly, Unter Officer Hans Schultz, who had been Max Schmelling's sparring partner was far from the jolly bumbling incompetent guard and was noted as fair and non-abusive, a good solider doing his duty to his country but certainly no monster nor was he fat being in fit shape owing to his previous carrier as a boxer.
Vienna born Otto Preminger who played the commandant of Stalag 17 later played the famous role of Mr. Freeze in the Batman television series and appear in several Desi-Lu produced Twilight Zones. Who would disbelieve Bing and the Anti-Castro Desilu studio's of planning to continue to humiliate the Nazi's through humor. Richard Erdman who starred as Hoffy (chief, barracks #4) in Stalag 17 also played a bit part on Hogan's as well as many Desi-Lu shows as did Sig Ruman, Sgt. Schultz (who also worked with Edward G Robinson), Neville Brand who played Duke. In fact Harvey Lembeck, Harry "Sugar Lips" Shapiro, Robert Strauss, Stanislas 'Animal' Kasava, Don Taylor, Lt. James Skylar Dunbar, and Peter Graves as Price all were staples of the Desi-Lu system. Many other bit characters like Peter Baldwin, Jay Lawrence, Gil Stratton, William Pierson and John Mitchum, Robert Mitchum's Brother, who as well as guest starring on such wholesome shows as Little House on the Prairie played the part of Hermann Goering in movies like Hitler ('62) better known as Women of Nazi Germany which also introduced us to John Banner and Richard Basehart as Hitler. Richard also played Johnny Hyde in Marilyn: The Untold Story along side Howard Caine. Richard later stared as Wilton Knight on Knight Rider. In 1978 William Holden narrated Bing Crosby: His Life and Legend.
"Who can play Nazis better than us Jews?"
was the comment John Banner once made. John played Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes and was a displaced Vienner having fled Austria in 1938 after the Nazi anschluss and his release from a concentration camp. He was also the real gourmand of the cast and published a cookbook.
Klink, portrayed so vividly by Werner Klemperer, Werner's father was one Otto Klemperer fled the Nazis in 1933 his father was legendary orchestra conductor and secured a job with Los Angeles Philharmonic. Werner worked in Maurice Evans' special services unit in World War II, which gave him invaluable training. During World War II Maurice was put in charge of the Army Entertainment Section, Central Pacific Theater; with the rank of major. As a cover they toured Pacific military bases in a streamlined version of Hamlet while he and Klemperer undoubtedly searched for clue's to the locations of Gen. Yamashita's gold. Near the end of his life he gave a great deal of money to a family friend, conductor Zubin Mehta and his wife to help offset the damages from a $150,000 embezzlement and tax fraud perpetrated by Susan McDougal who was their bookkeeper and personal assistant from 1989 to 1992. The Whitewater/Clinton scam was a naturally a cover for funneling the profits from the buried Yamashita treasure in the Philippines that had been received through Imelda Marcos. Maurice later attained great fame as Dr. Zeus in The Planet of the Apes.
Leon Askins who played Gen. Albert Burkhalter speaks fluent Russian as well as German. Was born in Vienna and knew and worked with Otto Preminger, Alma Mahler, Billy Wilder, (the director of the film Stalag 17.) After spending time in an internment camp, Meslay du Maine and suffering brutality at the hands of the Nazi's Askins fled and became an Army Air corps Sgt. stationed in England. He unquestionably played a role, in 1944 he was put in charge of a weekly digest, 'The Orientation Digest', which became one of the most outstanding military publications. It provided important information about the situation in Europe to the soldiers who were heading overseas. Later in life he received the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, the Silver Cross of Honor and the Gold Cross of Honor for service to the City of Vienna for his contributions to Austria. He also starred in What Did You Do During the War Daddy? With Dick Shawn. Dick would later turn's up in another masterpiece of Nazi ridicule, Mel Brooks' 1969 The Producers as Lorenzo St. DuBois (L.S.D.) who played Bialystock and Bloom's Hitler.
Howard Caine who played Maj. Hochstetter in Hogan's Heroes went on to play Stalag 17 director, Billy Wilder in Marilyn, The Untold Story. He was also an Appalachian banjo master.
I wont go into to much detail about Hogan's crew, what is important is that they were multiracial and multinational. Robert Clary who played Cpl. Louis LeBeau was in a concentration camp. We all know about Richard Dawson, including his introductory role as an uncredited British soldier in The Longest Day (Starring Robert Mitchum among many) and his part as POW Capt. Weaver in King Rat. Like Leon in real life, Kinchlow was also a communications officer and beats Lt. Urha (Another Desilu Production) and Link from The Mod Squad as the first African-American member of the team to be portrayed as an equal member of the team. Even before Mission Impossible electronics wizard Barney Collier (Greg Morris). His character was also obviously based on a real life participant or Stalag 17b Prisoner which is more likely considering the multiracial nature of Stalag 17b. Ivan Dixon who played the part appeared in 1959 in the Preminger directed Porgy and Bess along side of Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis Jr. as well as Perry Mason and Twilight Zone. He then directed 13 Magnum P.I.'s Plus various McCloud, Bionic Woman, Bret Maverick, In the Heat of the Night Trapper John MD and Airwolfe episodes.
The people who produced Hogan's Hero's had a story to tell about the those who had done something big during the war and were attempting to communicate it through this obviously touchy subject of Nazi prison camp's. A thinly veiled story of the real Hollywood operatives who lent not only their bravery but their cinegraphic talents to the war effort in the most dangerous of situations while simultaneously fighting on the home-front to desegregate the army in the movies and films, years before the army itself practiced all but the most experimental of integrated troops.
The real Hogan
Did the real Robert Hogan ever appear on the show Hogan's Hero's? Yes he did, in episode's #15 and #143. He also appeared as himself in episodes of Bronco, Hawaiian Eye and 77 Sunset Strip. Why even on Green Acres "Hogan" was referred to as a real person. Although we really need to look to his father Robert J. Hogan for our answer. Robert J. Hogan learned to fly during World War I and was a pilot demonstrating Curtis Wright airplanes. He was also a well known pulp author who's W.W.I spy series, G-8 and His Battle Aces, published from 1933 to 1943, was a popular pulp which mixed aviation and science fiction. Hogan, a W.W.I veteran made his hero the worlds greatest pilot and a master spy which often led to plots where he was "under cover, behind enemy lines." His sidekick, named Battle, an English servant who is a gourmet cook (obviously similar the character Corporal LeBeau) who is able to improvise and a master of disguise. (Oddly an attendant assigned to an English officer is called a Batman in British military jargon.)
Again it is no coincidence that there is are two experimental planes registered in the late twenties with the CAA (Carriage Association of America) under the name Hogan-Moyer. One is named Hogan-Moyer Special, and one simply, Homer.
Registration (Robert J) Hogan-(Jarrett G) Moyer Aircraft Corp., 226 Wolf St., Syracuse NY.
Homer 1928 = 3pCM; 40hp Anzani; span: 35'0" length: 20'6". POP: 1 [X7879]. Sold 6/10/29 to Theron D Beach, Dover NJ, who installed 80hp Anzani, then to F C Wright (dba Major Aircraft Co, Brooklyn NY) 3/31/30, and the trail fades there. Reg was cancelled by CAA 2/16/33.
Those familiar with the show will no doubt remember that Hoganmeyer was often the pseudonym used when Col. Hogan impersonated a Nazi Officer. So it seems we have two Robert Hogan's just as suggested in the third to the last episode, #166, The Double Life of Hogan.
The 60's were strange times in Hollywood, it was the peak of the Desi-Lu empire with so many in Hollywood paying her great tribute. Klink and Schultz were not the only ones popping out of windows on Batman episodes (an episode which also costarred John Mitchum, who also played a Stalag 17 prisoner) Even Edward G. Robinson and Sammy Davis Jr. got in on the act. Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz even appear in a late Three Stooges Film Star Spangled Salesman.
Jane Mansfield was a close friend of Crane and her and Sammy Davis Jr. were both ardent followers of Satanist Anton LeVey, With Mansfield eventually even photographed posing nude on his alter. This strange behavior followed well into the early '70's, I doubt many of our readers would have ever viewed '73 movie Ilsa She Wolf of the SS, A very distasteful pornographic W.W.II sadomasochistic fantasy about a brutal prison camp filmed using the very same set as Hogan's Hero's.
I believe that at a certain point Bob Crane attempted to live out Robert Hogan's life in as perverse a manner as possible, infatuated with every aspect of his hero.
The most important question to ask is Why? Why was Hogan's Heroes even allowed to be on the air? Why is Hogan so often refereed to a real person on other shows? Why did Crane, Klemperer, Banner and Askins reunite in the 1968 movie with Elke Sommer named The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz?
And who found the home movies of Eva Braun skinny dipping with her cousin?
History says it was the 101st Airborne at Hitler's tea house at Berchdesgarten, but were these films originally manufactured by Otto Preminger and were there more movies? Did Lucille Ball's sudden and drastic change in appearance during W.W.II from strikingly beautiful to rather ugly have to do with plastic surgery needed to play a certain high ranking Nazi's mistress?
Was Bob Crane killed for a movie he possessed?
A movie he stole from Bing Crosby's collection.
A pornographic movie made mocking Hitler and Eva Braun starring none other than Lucy?
Heroes, heroes, husky men of war,
sons of all the heroes of the war before.
We're all heroes up to our ear-o's
you ask the question, we make suggestions,
that's what we're heroes for.