Hitler’s smashed living room window at Alps retreat hits home with local man

Former Sgt. Fred Butts, who vacationed in Boca Grande, Fla. until his death, holds a sword he took from Field Marshal Hermann Goering’s Alps retreat in Bavaria at the end of World War II. Photo by Mark Futch

Mark Futch knew all about the smashed pictured window in the living room of Hitler’s Berchtesgaden retreat in the Bavarian Alps mentioned in a recent war story that appeared in the Sun.

Former Army Sgt. Fred Butts, an industrialist who vacationed with his family in Boca Grand, Fla. for years, was a good friend of Futch’s, owner of Boca Grande Seaplane. Butts was not only the first G.I. to go inside The Eagle’s Nest by breaking the Fuhrer’s window with his .45 pistol, but his exploits were printed in an Associated Press story that was published in papers through the U.S. at the time.

Ralph Coffin’s war story, printed in the Sun a few days ago, tells how he visited the German leader’s mountain retreat shortly after the end of the war in Europe. Coffin’s story struck a chord with Futch when he read it.

An accompanying picture shows Coffin standing in an opening where a huge window once provided a great view of the surrounding mountains. It was misidentified as taken at The Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s mountain-top retreat. It was actually shot in the living room of his home down the mountain in Berchtesgaden.

Futch called the Sun to tell the paper the rest of his story.

“I first met Fred while serving on the Board of Directors of the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association in Boca Grande 25 years ago,” the local aviator and fishing guide said the other day. “We got to be good friends while serving on the board.”

Futch said he was having lunch with Fred one day when he started telling him how he was the first G.I. to break into Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest above Berchtesgaden and ‘liberate’ a bunch of stuff.

Mark Futch works on a five-year rebuild of one of his single-engine Maule seaplanes he flies to provide customers aerial adventure in his Boca Grande Seaplane business. Sun photo by Don Moore

“’I took several dozen of his personal wine glasses etched with swastikas inscribed with the letters ‘A.H.’ for Adolf Hitler,’” Futch recalled Butts telling him. “He also confiscated Hitler’s embossed leather-bound personal phone book of all the Nazi leaders.”

Butts wrapped his treasure up in a bed sheet he took from Hitler’s bedroom and carted the loot away. He also took a gold-hilted sword from Field Marshal Hermann Goering’s home in Berchtesgaden. Somehow he got all the booty home unbroken after the war.

Much of this tale was explained in an AP story that appeared in papers shortly after the war. The headline above the story reads: Yank First to Reach Hitler Nest

Written by Louis P. Lochner the story says in part, “The first American soldier to reach the area was Sgt. Fredrick H. Butts of 306 Franklin St., Newton, Mass. He was followed immediately by Lt. Kenneth Johnson, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Lt. Leo Barber, Moultrie, Ga. and Lt. John Halady, Yonkers, N.Y.

“With two other American correspondents and this group of soldiers, I climbed up to the so-called ‘tea house’ where Hitler used to dream of world domination. We were amazed at its size and expansive appointments.

“The hideout (The Eagle’s Nest) was completely undamaged by Allied bombing and all of its appointments were intact.

“When we reached the chalet we first entered a circular living room 50 feet in diameter with walls as thick as those of a medieval fortress. It was constructed of mauve colored sandstone and had a circular oak table in the center 12 feet in diameter. Around the table were comfortable club chairs. Six windows afforded superb views in every direction. The ceiling about 14 feet high, had white oak beams.

“There was a huge fireplace of chocolate marble streaked with white. On the inside were figures of medieval knights on horseback and the inscription: ‘Built in 1938.’

“Directly behind the dining salon was the smoking room, with red leather chairs and walnut-paneled walls and ceiling.

“Behind the smoking room was the kitchen filled with the latest gadgets that would delight any housewife.

“Running parallel with the three-story building, one of whose stories was underground, was a veranda eight feet wide and 64 feet long with five arches where Hitler’s guests could drink with the most picturesque scenery in all Bavaria before them.

“There were immense wine and liquor cellars stocked with the finest of beverages, including cognacs dating back to 1832 and the rarest of French champagnes. There were also vast stocks of food.”

Several years ago Futch was vacationing in the Cape Cod area where Butts and his wife, Jill, lived during the summer.

Mark Futch (left) and Fred Butts leave the Cape Cod Airport one rainy day several summers ago. In the background Futch’s Maule seaplane can be seen. He owns Boca Grande Seaplane and flies customers around in his five-place single-engine plane when he isn’t working as a professional fishing guide on Boca Grande. Photo provided by Mark Futch

“I had lunch with Jill and Fred at their beautiful home on Cape Cod. He showed me all the things he had taken out of Hitler’s house, including Goering’s sword,” Futch said. “The food mentioned in the newspaper story was stored in a nearby cave carved into the mountain. Fred said the soldiers distributed all the food and wine to the residents of Berchtesgaden.”

Shortly before Fred died three years ago he retold his war story to his son and his family. Fred Jr. recorded his father’s war time recollections on a half-hour-long CD.

This story first appeared in print in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, September 23, 2010 and is republished with permission.

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