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William Patrick Hitler was born on March 12, 1911, in Liverpool, England, to Adolf Hitler’s half-brother, Alois Hitler Jr., and Irish-born Bridget Dowling. In 1933 William went to Germany and, capitalizing on his uncle’s election as chancellor, managed to get a position in the Reichskreditbank and, later, in the Opel automobile factory. In 1939 William told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his uncle had offered to get him a job with the Hamburg-American Line but that he had said no because “the salary was too small.”

William then threatened to sell embarrassing stories about his family to newspapers if his “personal circumstances” didn’t improve, and he soon followed through on the threat by writing a magazine article titled “Why I Hate My Uncle” for a London-based magazine.

In January 1939 William Hitler moved to the United States at the invitation of William Randolph Hearst, the owner of the nation’s largest newspaper chain, to give lectures on Germany. When war broke out, he tried to enlist in the armed forces—first in Britain, then in Canada, and finally in the United States. He was rejected by all three on the basis of his name and family ties. (The U.S. Army’s official reason: “no vacancies at present.”)

Later that year William wrote an appeal to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After being cleared by the FBI, he joined the U.S. Navy with some fanfare—headlines across the nation read “Navy Gets Hitler”—on March 6, 1944. William served as a pharmacist’s mate and a hospital corpsman and was wounded in action and awarded the Purple Heart. After his discharge in 1947 he changed his surname to Stuart-Houston and receded into obscurity. He died in New York on July 14, 1987.

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