“Hogan’s Heroes” was a very popular TV comedy series that focused on what would typically be the not-so-funny lives of WWII P.O.W.’s. The show was set almost solely in the fictional Luft Stalag 13, a German camp set aside for captured Allied airmen and overseen by the strict but bumbling Colonel Klink.
Even today, “Hogan’s Heroes” remains a supremely funny and subversive show that speaks volumes about cultural differences, camaraderie, and always looking at life with a glass-half-full mentality. Here’s what happened to the actors from “Hogan’s Heroes” and some interesting facts about the show.
Werner Klemperer As Col. Wilhelm Klink
Werner Klemperer played the role of the dim-witted and inept Colonel Wilhelm Klink. He was a cowardly man and incredibly gullible. He loved to claim that “No prisoner ever escaped from Stalag 13,” even though prisoners seemed to come and go as they pleased. Klemperer passed away in 2000 at the age of 80, but not before a long and successful career in TV.
His final role came in 1993 when he appeared as the voice of Homer’s Guardian Angel Colonel Klink on “The Simpsons.” He also made appearances on “Love Boat,” “Law & Order,” and “Mr. Sunshine,” among various other roles.
Bob Crane As Col. Robert E. Hogan
Bob Crane starred as the team’s leader. He is a United States Army Air Forces Colonel and the senior ranking POW officer on the show. He’s the brains of the operation, a man who knows how to plan and lead a team. Following his role in “Hogan’s Heroes,” Bob Crane played a role in “Love, American Style” from 1969 to 1971. He also led “The Bob Crane” show in 1975, but it only lasted for one season.
He acted in several other bit roles until his final TV appearance on “The Love Boat” in 1978. One month after starting a starring role in the play “Beginner’s Luck” in Scottsdale, AZ, he was found tragically deceased in his hotel room.
Robert Clary As Cpl. Louis LeBeau
Clary took on the role of Corporal Louis LeBeau, a Free French Air Force Corporal and a Master Chef. He was known for referring to all Nazis as “pigs” and Klink and Schultz call him the “cockroach.” He was also known for getting along better with the guard dogs than the prisoners and can often be seen using the tunnel entrance in the kennel. Since his days on “Hogan’s Heroes,” Clary became somewhat of a soap opera regular.
He has made various appearances on “The Young and the Restless,” “Days of Our Lives,” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” His last TV appearance was in 2001 for a short film called Matisse & Picasso: A Gentle Rivalry. That same year, Clary wrote a memoir, From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary.
Ivan Dixon As Sgt. James (Ivan) ‘Kinch’ Kinchloe
Dixon played the groundbreaking role of James Kinchloe, an African American man who served as Hogan’s second-in-command, even though he was technically outranked by other members of the crew. The United States Army Air Forces Staff Sergeant was largely responsible for radio, telephone, and other forms of communication. Having a black actor perceived as a leader was a huge step forward for TV in the 1960s.
Dixon passed away in 2008 but spent his years following “Hogan’s Heroes” appearing in various shows including “Magnum, P.I.” and “The A-Team.” He also showed up in the 1987 TV series “Amerika.” His final role was an appearance in the TV series “Father Dowling Mysteries,” in 1991.
Larry Hovis As Sgt. Andrew Carter
Hovis played the role of Andrew Carter, a United States Army Air Corps Technical Sergeant. He was responsible for bomb-making and renowned for his chemistry skills and the intricate explosive devices he crafted. While he was brilliant, he was also a bumbling idiot who often forgot what he was mixing together, which caused a fair number of accidental explosions.
Hovis continued to act until 2002 when he appeared in his final role as a doctor in Lone Star State of Mind. From 1971 to 1972 he appeared in a few dozen episodes of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”. Hovis passed away in 2003.
John Banner As Sgt. Hans Schultz
John Banner played the role of Sergeant Hans Schultz, a good-hearted man, husband, and father of five. Schultz would regularly realize that inmates of his Stalag 13 were planning mayhem and would famously declare, “I see nothing! I hear nothing! I know nothing!”
Following the end of “Hogan’s Heroes” he played the role of Uncle Latzi on the short-lived series “The Chicago Teddy Bears.” His final appearance was as Max Ledbetter on “The Partridge Family” in 1972. Sadly, Banner died on January 28, 1973.
Kenneth Washington As Sgt. Richard Baker
Kenneth Washington played the role of Sergeant Richard Baker. He joined the cast after Dixon made his exit from the show at the end of the fifth season. He was another African-American radio expert who led the underground communications center. Much like Kinchloe, he was well-liked and trusted by Col. Hogan. Washington is one of only two living cast members remaining in 2016, along with Robert Clary.
Much like his co-stars, Washington continued to stick to his TV roles in the years following the show’s finale. He appeared in several episodes of “Police Story” from 1974-1977 and made guest appearances on various shows and TV movies including “A Different World” in 1989. That would mark his last acting gig.
Richard Dawson As Cpl. Peter Newkirk
Richard Dawson played the group’s con-man, magician, forger, tailor, and safecracker, among many other roles. He was known for his various impersonations that ranged from Adolf Hitler to Winston Churchill. He was also notorious for dressing in women’s clothing on several occasions in order to trick the Germans. Dawson passed away in 2012, but not before having one of the most successful post-“Hogan’s Heroes” career among the entire cast.
Following the show, he appeared for five seasons on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” He also appeared on nine episodes of “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” before taking a gig hosting the popular game show “Family Feud.” He parodied his “Family Feud” persona as character Damon Killian in the hit movie The Running Man in 1987.
Bob Crane Insisted That Veterans Approved Of The Show Before He Signed Up For His Role
In the years before he became a successful actor, Bob Crane served in the Connecticut Army National Guard. His service began in 1948, and he was honorably discharged in 1950.
So, before he agreed to play Colonel Hogan, Crane had veterans watch the series trailer and give their approval. He donated many hours to support American troops and he wanted to do right by them. He even hosted an episode of “Operation Entertainment.”
The Show Was Originally To Be Filmed In An American Prison
When Albert S. Ruddy was creating “Hogan’s Heroes” he set the show in an American prison. It wasn’t until he learned that NBC was developing “Campo 44” in an Italian jail that he changed the script in its final location.
His commentary for the “Hogan’s Heroes” series DVD revealed that it took him just one day to change the show’s setting to WWII Germany. Changing a set is much simpler than moving an entire production in real life!
Richard Dawson Wanted To Use A Liverpool Accent
When Dawson auditioned for the show he wanted to play the role of Hogan, however, he couldn’t pull off the American accent. When he was given the role of Cpl. Newkirk he attempted to use a Liverpudlian accent.
The network said nobody could understand him so he went with a Cockney dialect. He did get his “I told you so” moment with his network bosses when Beatlemania swept the United States.
The Actors Playing The Four Main German Roles Were Jewish
Klemperer, Banner, Askin, and Caine played German roles but they were all, in fact, Jewish. The first three actually fled from the Nazis during WWII. Most shocking though may be the fact that Robert Clary was actually detained at a concentration camp and twelve of his immediate kin were taken to Auschwitz.
This fact wasn’t lost on the actors, with Klemperer admitting that if he could portray the role of Richard III he could play a Nazi.
General Burkhalter’s Mercedes Was One Of Only Three In Existence
General Burkhalter rolled around camp in a very flashy Mercedes-Benz W31. Only 57 of the black and gray convertibles were ever produced. Fifty-four of those were destroyed after the war. One was owned by the Spanish monarchy, and the other was turned into a fire engine.
In 2009 a classic car collector offered three W31s for sale in the U.S. for $9 million. One of them allowed passengers to stand up while riding.
The Show’s Tagline Was Suggested Sarcastically
If you watched the show, you know that the tagline was “If you liked World War II, you’ll love Hogan’s Heroes!” Comedian and author Stan Freberg sarcastically suggested that tagline during an interview with Bob Crane in 1965. “Shall we say, ‘If you liked World War II…you’ll love Hogan’s Heroes?'”
Freberg dryly asked. “No, let’s not say that, no,” said Crane. But shortly afterward, it became the show’s actual tagline.
A “Hogan’s Heroes” Album Was Released And Featured WWII Songs Sung By The Cast
Many fans may not be aware that an album was released which features WWII songs being sung by Clary, Dawson, Carter, and Kinchloe. The foursome sang some of the most popular songs from the 1940s. In the liner notes, they wrote: “Would you believe World War II was funny?”
Song titles include “This Is The Army Mister Jones,” “Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square,” “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” “This Is Worth Fighting For,” and more.
The Theme Song Actually Had Lyrics
When the show aired it featured an opening and closing theme song that didn’t have any lyrics. For the show’s soundtrack Robert Clary, Richard Dawson, Ivan Dixon, and Larry Hovis formed their quartet of singing Heroes.
“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 questions, We make suggestions, That’s what we’re heroes for.”
An Underground Steam Room Was Nearly Added
Stalag 13 was already an outlandishly huge facility with its long weaving tunnels and its various trap doors. At one point there was talk of giving the prisoners access to an underground steam room. The idea was eventually shut down for being too implausible.
In a 1966 episode, “rusted-out plumbing collapses the emergency tunnel just as Hogan needs to get four Underground leaders out of Germany, so he creates a health spa.”
That Horrible Violin Playing Was Far From The Truth
The bumbling Colonel Klink would regularly play the violin on the show and it always sounded like nails on a chalkboard. It became a hilarious recurring gag. In reality, Klemperer was a classically-trained and rather accomplished violist and pianist.
In fact, his father, Otto Klemperer, was one of the key conductors of classical music in 20th-century Germany and has been called “the last of the few really great conductors of his generation”.
Bob Crane Married Klink’s Secretary
Many actors who work together end up in romantic relationships, which also happened in “Hogan’s Heroes.” Bob Crane married his second wife after meeting her on the set of the TV series. He married Patricia Olson, whose stage name was Sigrid Valdis and who played Colonel Klink’s secretary Hilda from seasons two through six.
Crane’s first wife was his high school sweetheart, Anne Terzian. They had three children together: Robert David, Deborah Anne, and Karen Leslie.
Here’s Some Interesting Character Background
Before he joined the war, Sergeant Schultz was, surprisingly, in the toy business. He apparently served as the president of a successful toy manufacturing company. Colonel Klink led a pretty boring non-war job existence, serving his time as a bookkeeper. You just never know what people were doing before being called to war.
The business, called the Schotsy Toy Company, is mentioned in the Hogan’s Heroes episode “War Takes a Holiday.”
Tear Down The Set? Nope. They Just Blew It Up
The popular TV series was filmed at the Desilu Productions’ RKO Forty Acres backlot. After filming had completed on the series, the 1974 exploitation film Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS took its place and the set was destroyed by an explosion.
“Hogan’s” producers didn’t mind the explosion, as it saved them the cost of demolishing the set. In the final scene, the prison camp is actually set on fire.
From The Start This Fact Was Known About Klemperer’s Character
Werner Klemperer was offered the role of Colonel Klink but he only agreed to take the role when he was assured by the show’s creator that Klink would never succeed in his schemes.
He signed on immediately after he was given the assurances he sought. The “Hogan’s Heroes” producers were true to their words, as Klink never did succeed in a single scheme he hatched. That was a solid agreement!
A Frosty Reception To Filming
To avoid any continuity issues the show’s creators decided from the start that there would always be snow on the ground and frost on the windows. That meant the actors had to film with scarves and winter coats, even when it was 90 degrees outside.
Most of the show’s scenes were filmed during the hottest Southern California summer months, which was quite uncomfortable for many of the actors to deal with.
A Leather Jacket With An Interesting Story
Bob Crane wore a very famous leather jacket on the set of “Hogan’s Heroes.” It was the same coat worn by Frank Sinatra during the filming of Von Ryan’s Express. That very coat again made an appearance in 2002 when it was worn by actor Greg Kinnear in the movie Auto Focus.
The jacket was auctioned off by Christie’s in 2009 along with Crane’s military-style Elbeco shirt and a set of attachable military pins.
The Show Fell Victim To “The Rural Purge”
The show aired its final season from 1971 to 1972. It was removed from the air in what has become commonly known as “The Rural Purge.” That was a time when shows were canceled because networks believed they were being watched mostly by rural audiences.
Other TV shows hit by the purge included “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” “Hee Haw,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Mister Ed,” “Lassie,” and “Petticoat Junction.”
The Wedding Ring That Was Hidden
Actor Larry Hovis must have been madly in love with his wife. Throughout the entire TV series, he refused to ever take off his wedding ring. To avoid showing that his character was married in real life, he decided to wear gloves and otherwise cover up his ring finger for most of his performances.
It’s pretty admirable that Hovis was so devoted to the ring, and it’s impressive that the showrunners went out of their way to help him cover it up.
Most Night Time Scenes Were Filmed During The Day
Apparently, there were not a lot of night owls in this crowd. The show’s directors used something called a “Day for Night” filter on their cameras. That filter allows for day shoots to look like night. That type of filter made it easy to shoot whatever type of scene was required at any time of the day.
As time went on, film stocks and video cameras improved in light sensitivity, making this type of shooting pretty uncommon today.
Two Actors Appeared In All 168 Episodes
Two actors appeared in all 168 episodes. Bob Crane, who played American Colonel Robert Hogan, and Werner Klemperer, who portrayed German Colonel Wilhelm Klink, were the only regulars who managed to show up in every episode of the popular series.
They were not surprisingly also the show’s biggest stars and lynchpins for most of the show’s plotlines. However, IMDB also lists Banner as Schultz, Dawson as Newkirk, and Hovis as Carter as having appeared in every episode.
Salt And Paint Had This In Common
As mentioned, it was supposed to be wintry where the show was set, which was problematic for the warm California climate where things were actually filmed.
The snow on the roofs during the first several seasons was made out of salt. By the time the fourth season rolled around the show’s producers found a more permanent solution, using white paint to give the illusion of snow. By the sixth season, most of the snow seen on the set was made out of paint.
Bob Crane On The Drums
Bob Crane provided the drums on the theme song for “Hogan’s Heroes.” He was a talented drummer who got his start on the skins when he was just 11 years old. He had his drumsticks on him at all times and would drum to relax in his dressing room.
Crane even showed off his formidable skills in the third episode which was titled, “Flight of the Valkyrie” and again in the season six episode titled “Look at the Pretty Snowflakes.”
Full Names Only, Please
Two characters on “Hogan’s Heroes” were always referred to by their full names. Those characters were both African American. The characters were Kenneth Washington, who played Sergeant Richard Baker, and Ivan Dixon, who took on the role of Sergeant James ‘Kinch’ Kinchloe.
The rest of the characters were referred to by either of their names throughout the series. Interestingly, there’s a season four episode called “No Names Please.” It was the one hundred and first episode of the series.
What Professions Did LeBeau Claim To Have Worked?
While it was eventually revealed that LeBeau was a chef prior to his time at the prison, he made a lot of claims about his past work. He claimed to be a chemist, then a dance instructor, a dress designer, and even an art student. He claimed fake jobs to trick the German soldiers. He also revealed that his father worked in a railroad yard.
Robert Clary, who played LeBeau, later said, “We had a great crew, and I enjoyed the six years we were together.”
The Show Was Very Popular In Syndication… In Germany!!!
The popular American TV series became a hit in Germany. The title for the show was changed to “Ein Käfig voller Helden,” which means “A Cage Full of Heroes.” Newkirk has a stutter in the German version because his British humor didn’t carry over well for a German audience.
His character, in turn, was more comical. Some of the German soldiers were also given their countries equivalent of a redneck accent.
The Show Shared A Connection With M*A*S*H
Speaking of the German version of the show — it had to be translated into the countries own language and many of the same voice actors who dubbed the popular war-time TV show “M*A*S*H” were used to dub “Hogan’s Heroes.”
Here’s a fun activity for all you fans out there. Watch both shows in German if you have the time and you can probably figure out which voices carried over for both shows.
There’s A Book About The Show
There is surprisingly very little written about the TV show. Apparently, the actors and actresses involved were not too focused on bringing any stories to light. However, Brenda Scott Royce did release the sole biography of the TV series.
Her book is titled, Hogan’s Heroes: Behind the Scenes at Stalag 13 and it’s available on Amazon and through traditional book retailers. It contains interviews with some of the show’s stars and crew.
There Were Comic Books Written For The Show
The show aired during a golden period of comic books, so it makes sense that the TV series would receive the comic book treatment. Nine comics for the series were released between 1969 and 1973.
As with most out-of-print books and publications, you can find the books in used condition on eBay and other sites, including Amazon and specialty comic stores, for varying prices depending on the condition.
Let’s Not Forget About The Ladies
Though there were far fewer actresses than actors on the set of Hogan’s Heroes, they certainly deserve a mention. Arlene Martel played a love interest of Hogan’s, a French Underground agent named Tiger. During the series, Hogan rescued Tiger from the Gestapo on two different occasions.
Marya, the “White Russian” spy, was played by Nita Talbot. She went on to receive an Emmy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her part on the show.
Another Female Role, Frau Gertrude Linkmeyer
Actress Kathleen Freeman portrayed General Burkhalter’s sister, the dowdy Frau Gertrude Linkmeyer. The photo here shows Freeman on the show.
“Hogan’s Heroes” took on a very serious subject matter, at a very serious time in the world’s history. The show did so with a level of humor that resonated with millions of viewers. It’s one of those rare shows where even interesting facts about its production seem less interesting than the actual characters and scenarios it presented on a weekly basis.