Hogan’s Heroes: Season 1, Episode 1: “The Informer”

Welcome to my summary of Hogan’s Heroes, which ran on the CBS Television Network from 1965 until 1971 and starred Bob Crane as Col. Robert Hogan, USAAF (US Army Air Force), Werner Klemperer as Col. Wilhelm Klink, Kommandant of Luftstalag 13, a Luftwaffe prison camp, and John Banner as Sgt. Hans Schultz, Sergeant of the Guard at Stalag 13. We’ll talk more about the other characters as they arrive.

This first episode was intended as the pilot for the series, and was filmed in 1964, before CBS began broadcasting in color (which is a story in itself), so it was filmed in black and white. The remainder of the episodes were in color.

Episode cast:

  • Bob Crane – Col. Hogan
  • Richard Dawson – Newkirk
  • Robert Clary – LeBeau
  • Ivan Dixon – Kinchloe
  • Leonid Kinskey – Vladimir
  • Werner Klemperer – Col. Klink
  • John Banner – Sgt. Schultz
  • Stewart Moss – Olsen
  • Larry Hovis – Lt. Carter
  • Cynthia Lynn – Helga
  • Noam Pitlik – Wagner
  • Leon Askin – Col. Burkhalter

The Germans have captured a new prisoner, Wagner, apparently an American sergeant but in reality a spy whose job is to watch what the prisoners are up to and report any funny business to Col. Burkhalter.

What’s going on, of course, is that the barracks where Col. Hogan, senior POW officer, lives is the nerve center for what Hogan calls "Traveler’s Aid": escaped prisoners come to Stalag 13, where they’re given clothes, forged identity papers and counterfeit money and connected with a submarine which takes them to England to be reunited with their units. One such prisoner is Lt. Carter, who has been brought into camp by a ruse where prisoner Olsen, whom Hogan calls the "outside man," escapes and trades places with him, then Carter is captured in Olsen’s place. When ready, the escapee leaves via Oscar Schnitzer, the veterinarian who switches out the dogs.

Wagner is assigned to Hogan’s barracks, where Hogan questions him about the unit he was with and asks after several members of the unit. Hogan immediately ascertains that Wagner is a spy ("there’s a petunia in our patch," as he tells Newkirk) and tells everyone not to talk to him.

Unfortunately, they neglected to tell Carter, who was asleep when the order went out, and LeBeau reports that Wagner has left the barracks and made a beeline for Klink’s office. They have Klink’s phone tapped and the coffeepot in Hogan’s quarters set up as a speaker (that is, if no one makes coffee in it), and they overhear a call between Wagner and Col. Burkhalter where Wagner says that he has proof that the prisoners at Stalag 13 are helping other prisoners escape. Carter, Newkirk, and LeBeau all try to take the blame for it, but Hogan appears unruffled, in the mood to eat the meal LeBeau has prepared.

Hogan decides that the best way to deal with it is to show Wagner everything. He blindfolds the spy and he and LeBeau lead him to the entrance in the dog kennel, but convinces him that the door to the tunnel is under the water tower. Once in the tunnel, Wagner is shown the countefeiting operation, the machine shop that builds souvenir lighters in the shape of Lugers, the steam room and barber shop (where Helga, Klink’s secretary, gives manicures), and the radio room, where Hogan arranges Carter’s pickup with the submarine. Through all this, Wagner steals some of the confederate money and a sample Luger lighter.

The next morning, Burkhalter arrives, and this is what happens…

Between the time the pilot was filmed and CBS purchased the first season, Leonid Kinskey dropped out, believing that the show wouldn’t run a full season. They made Larry Hovis a full-time member of the cast, playing Sgt. Carter (a demotion, but the producers felt sergeants were easier to relate to than lieutenants), believing that no one would notice the difference. Sometime between the pilot and the second episode, they promoted Burkhalter to General, perhaps because they realized that he held the same rank as Klink, even though he was Klink’s superior. We’ll discuss that second episode next. See you then!

7 thoughts on “Hogan’s Heroes: Season 1, Episode 1: “The Informer”

  1. Odd seeing that the first episode was in black and white. Didn’t realize the pilot was filmed so far ahead of the series. A very solid first episode.

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  2. I remember this episode which is kind of similar to Stalag 17 with the mole being Peter Graves. It is so funny and I love Werner Klemperer

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    1. It was based on a lot of those movies, “Stalag 17,” “The Great Escape,” “Escape From Colditz,” etc. They were able to combine all of them and add comedy, and the series was a success. It ended at the right time, too: by the end of the 6th season they had done just about everything they could do with the series.

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  3. I watched this the other night. It surprised me that they didn’t set up Hogan and how they got there more but they just dived in…they did explain on the way. The writing on this show is really good.

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