I am probably best known for my work as part of the investigative team on History Channel’s “Hunting Hitler”. Ironically, I was almost never on the show, and then was supposed to be in only three episodes.
My friend Tim Kennedy reached out on social media (on his personal page, not private) saying that the production company was looking for someone with a special operations background who met certain qualifications (Spanish or German language, combat experience, anti-terrorism training, as well as some very specialized intelligence and counter-intelligence training). Meeting all the qualifications, I texted Tim and he made the appropriate introductions. I was still on active duty at the time and asked my chain of command if they would let me take leave to film the show. They agreed.
Initially, I thought it would all be for naught, as the History Channel chose a former Navy SEAL over me for the role. Then, only three weeks before shooting began in Spain, I was contacted and asked if I could still do the show, for three episodes. I rushed through my paperwork for overseas leave (which was particularly complicated as both Spain and Morocco were considered intermediate threat countries and required approval from the embassies’ Military Groups) and packed my bags.
After the first week of shooting 16 hour days, we got an evening off in Cadiz Spain. The crew sat around a beachside patio, enjoying the rest. I was drinking a glass of Spanish port and smoking a Cuban cigar, determined to enjoy every moment of the experience that I knew was to be short lived. It was at that moment that the director asked me if I would be willing to go to South America to shoot more episodes with Tim: “I would love to get you and TK on screen working together”, he said. Of course, I agreed, as long as he could convince the production company and the network.
It wasn’t until almost a month after I returned home from Morocco that I got the news that I would be traveling to South America to do two more episodes, including the season finale!
Still thinking that those five episodes would be my only television experience, Tim and I had a huge viewing party for the finale, renting a theater at the Alamo Drafthouse and inviting 150 of our closest friends and family. Little did I know that, not only would the show get a third season, but that I would have an expanded role and get more episodes. Not bad for the guy they initially passed over because he was too short, too old, and not good looking enough.
Some people have criticized the show as being sensationalistic and stretching the narrative to gain more viewers. Ultimately, I am extremely proud of what we did on the show. Whether Hitler escaped, or died in the bunker, the fact remains that the lid on the case was closed prematurely in 1945 because the public needed closure. We illustrated that. More importantly, we shone a light on the global network that, even if it didn’t allow Hitler himself to escape, it most certainly transported his ideology around the world, where it took root in places like Pinochet’s Chile.
We exposed Nazi atrocities that took place as late as the 1970’s and showed our audience that many monsters of Hitler’s Third Reich escaped justice for decades. For every definitive clue that we failed to find proving Hitler escaped, we found hundreds or even thousands that proved others close to him did, and that many lived out their years unmolested, while spending the spoils stolen from those they persecuted and murdered.
In 1945, good people wanted to believe that the war was over, and that good had triumphed over evil. In their haste to put that ugliness behind them, they convinced themselves that it was truly over. That haste, combined with other factors, contributed to an environment that allowed Nazis and their ideology to find safe haven in other parts of the world and to share their message of hate with others.
This is a lesson we cannot forget, for even now we have a generation reaching adulthood that doesn’t remember 9/11. To think that the war on terror is over because UBL is dead, and we have reduced troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, is foolish. A cockroach only needs a narrow crack to escape, and they reproduce rapidly once they find a new home. Nazism, Marxism, radical Islam, or whatever other label the ideology of hate attaches itself to, as long as ONE individual remains to carry their vile message, there will be more.