Dr. John Woodbridge and co-author Maurice Possley introduced their book, Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI’s Story of Courage and Faith to a packed audience at the Pritzker Military Library in downtown Chicago last night. The book tells the story of Ira “Teen” Palm, a soldier who’s attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler in the waning days of World War II could have cost him his life but instead resulted in the dictator’s golden pistol finding a home in Woodbridge’s house when he was a boy. In addition to the riveting narrative, Hitler in the Crosshairs reveals untold and little known details about the final days of WWII.
Woodbridge told the audience that he was watching the news one night when the ticker scrolled a note about Hitler’s golden pistol. Immediately Woodbridge recalled his dad owning a golden handgun that he claimed to have been Adolf Hitler’s. “How did my dad get Hitler’s gun?” Woodbridge wondered. After calling friends and family, he confirmed that indeed his father, pastor of a Presbyterian church, had owned the golden pistol and that a GI named Teen Palm had given it to him. Thanks to his wife’s memory of a meeting with Palm’s daughter, Woodbridge tracked down the GI’s letters from the final days of WWII and learned how this unassuming man–nicknamed “Teeny” as a baby because he was so small–tried to kill the murderer of millions.
As the Allied armies worked their way across France and Germany, the Nazi war machine was falling apart. But military officials knew that the war wouldn’t be over, no matter how much territory they controlled, until Hitler was dead or captured. The military had intelligence that Hitler may have fled Berlin. Fearing that he would hole up in the Alps, where he might be impossible to dislodge, Teen Palm and a handful of others attempted to intercept Hitler in his Munich apartment before he could escape to the mountains.
He was aided in this effort by a group of what Woodbridge calls, good Germans. These Nazi solders were actively working to overthrow the regime, and launched a revolt in Munich and the surrounding areas. This part of the story is little known today, even in Germany, says Woodbridge. This insurrection allowed Palm and his team to work theirway into the city. They burst into Adolf Hitler’s apartment with Palm leading the way. The rooms were empty except for a few souvenirs, including the golden pistol.
After the war and back in the US, Palm gave John Woodbridge’s father the gun as well as gold-lettered stationary. It was all eventually stollen from the family’s house. Woodbridge suggests his father’s showing off the gun probably attracted too much attention. The whereabouts of the pistol are now unknown, presumed to be in the hands of a private gun collector/dealer. In the 1980’s it sold for $140,000 at auction.
See the whole event at the Pritzker Military Library’s website.