It's tough to have a family name like Hitler. Association with one of the most hated and despised names in modern history cannot be easy. But that was the situation that William Patrick Hitler had to endure during WWII.
When William was a teenager, he found out his father was still alive. Naturally curious to learn more about his father, he went to visit him in Germany in 1929. He visited several more times over the next couple of years, attending a Nazi rally and meeting his Uncle Adolf.
In hindsight, it is easy to be critical of the boy's association with the Nazis. But at this time, Adolf Hitler was simply the leader of an extremist political organization. He was not yet guilty of the crimes against humanity that he would commit a decade later. Back in England, William wrote several articles about his Uncle. While not yet a war criminal, the British people saw Adolf Hitler as a threat. William's association caused him to lose his job in Britain and made it impossible for him to find another.
William Hitler with mother
Adolf did not want a close family member making trouble. Government officials kept a watch on William. Several times, he was summoned to speak with his Uncle Adolf, who berated him and made his life generally miserable. There is some evidence that William tried to threaten his Uncle by revealing family secrets, which if true would have made their relationship even worse.
In 1936, William decided to cut his ties with Hitler and Germany and move back to Britain. Anti-Hitler sentiment in Britain had only gotten worse in the intervening years. To prove his loyalty, William attempted to join the British military. He was, however, rejected due to his relationship to Adolf Hitler. William decided he would never really have acceptance in either Germany or Britain. In 1939, he decided to move to America and make a life for himself there.
William also tried to join the US military. But for some reason, recruiters questioned whether William Hitler, a recent German immigrant, might pose a security risk. His applications were rejected. Eventually after the war began, William wrote directly to President Roosevelt, begging to be allowed to fight. The White House referred the application to the FBI for investigation. After, several years of investigation J. Edger Hoover, gave approval and William Hitler enlisted in the US Navy.
In March 1944, William Hitler joined the US Navy in New York City. He served for three years as a pharmacist's mate, even receiving a Purple Heart for a minor injury. He served honorably but relatively obscurely until his discharge in 1947.
Despite his loyal service, the Hitler surname only continued to cause him trouble. He decided finally to change his name to William Stuart-Houston. It is not clear why he chose that name, but it is clear why he wanted the change. The name change allowed William to live a life of quiet anonymity. He married a German born American wife and had four children. He settled into a home on Long Island and lived a normal life until his death in 1987.
None of his four children had children of their own, bringing the family line of Hitlers in America to an end.
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