William Patrick Stuart-Houston was a respected and well-liked member of the US Armed Forces. Serving as a pharmacist’s mate in World War Two, he would go on to serve for three years and be awarded a Purple Heart in the process. After the war he moved to New York state, married his partner Phyllis, raised four children and set up his own successful healthcare business.
What very few of those living in Stuart-Houston’s Patchogue neighbourhood realised was that their good ol’ neighbour Bill was, in fact, Adolf Hitler’s nephew.
That’s right, William Patrick Stuart-Houston was born William Patrick Hitler. It’s important to point out early here that the man wasn’t a mole, he wasn’t a Nazi spy. His despotic uncle hadn’t secreted his nephew deep into enemy territory. William served honestly and with a real disdain for the vile acts of his father’s genocidal brother. But the fact he was allowed to serve in the US Navy at all was quite remarkable.
This is his story.
William Hitler was born in the Toxteth area of Liverpool in March of 1911. His Irish mother Bridget having met Austrian Alois Hitler Jr. in Dublin some two years previously. The couple eloped to London, then moved into a flat at 102 Upper Stanhope Street in Liverpool shortly afterwards. ‘Willy’ was born there. 31 years later, a German air raid on the city would obliterate the property. The raid, of course, ordered - indirectly - by Alois’ half-brother Adolf.
Alois was long gone by the time bombs rained down on Britain, anyway. He left his wife and child not long after William’s birth, embarking on a European tour of casinos and gambling dens that only ended after he met another woman and settled down for a second time. This time as a bigamist in Germany. Alois had faked his own death to pull off the feat. So while not quite as bad as his brother, there was clearly something malignant running in the family.
On hitting 18, William decided to reach out to his father and travelled to Germany to spend time with him. It was 1929 and while there, the father and son went to see Uncle Adolf at one of his increasingly popular Nazi rallies. The young William spent some time with his uncle and father before returning to England where he would write some less than favourable articles about Germany’s rising star of politics. As you can imagine this upset his thin-skinned fascist uncle. Adolf softened though and, in 1933, was happy to arrange his nephew a fairly humdrum job in the Reichskreditbank in Berlin.
Something of an opportunist keen to exploit his uncle’s position as German Chancellor, William was forever trying to swing a better paid and more powerful job. Despite failing to excel in any of his previous roles. Adolf Hitler was careful about being seen as willing to indulge the younger man, not wanting to be accused of nepotism. 'I didn't become Chancellor for the benefit of my family, no one is going to climb on my back,' he apparently said. He also reputedly referred to William as ‘my loathsome nephew’.
William bravely/foolishly tried to strongarm Hitler into getting him a better job with some rather audacious inter-family blackmailing. Despite threatening to spread the lie that the Hitlers had Jewish blood, William escaped Germany with his life and ended up settling in the United States, just before the outbreak of the war. He moved there after a short spell back in Britain. Understandably the British Army were a little sceptical of his allegiances and so refused him entry to the Army.
The US Armed Forces had a similar approach to begin with. After giving a lecture tour across the States as guest of media baron William Randolph Hearst, William Hitler again decided to attempt to enlist and fight in the war against his uncle. You’d have to imagine he felt something of a personal responsibility, knowing that the spearhead of the Nazis who were stampeding through Europe, killing millions, was his own flesh and blood. Again, he was rejected. Understandably so too. It would have been a risky choice.
The younger Hitler didn’t give up, though. He kept trying and eventually saw action fighting for the allies. But only after writing a letter directly to President Roosevelt. In the correspondence he explained his reasoning for moving to America from the UK:
'The British are an insular people and while they are kind and courteous, it is my impression, rightly or wrongly, that they could not in the long term feel overly cordial or sympathetic towards an individual bearing the name I do.'
This wasn’t until 1944, but he would see action in the Second World War. Even though he served his three years as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, he wasn’t hidden away patching up other soldiers for the entire last year of the war. At one point he was involved in an incident that saw him take shrapnel to his leg, the injury for which saw him given his Purple Heart.
His first day in the service garnished William with an anecdote he would dine out on with friends for the rest of his life. His induction officer asked his name. 'Hitler,' he replied. The officer cocked a look at the new recruit and furrowed his brow. 'Nice to meet you, Hitler. I’m Hess.'