In early May 1945 when U.S. soldiers liberated Hitler’s mountaintop stronghold in the Bavarian Alps, a paratrooper from Casper, Wyoming, walked away with some of the most sought-after war memorabilia in history.
Two albums embossed with the Nazi swastika and believed to be filled with photographs of some of the world’s most notorious war criminals were brought back to Wyoming, where they collected dust in a Casper basement for several years.
According to an investigation conducted by a military historian for The History Channel, one the albums included the initials “AH” on the cover. The albums were shown to a few people in Casper, mostly children, over the years and were last seen in Portland, Oregon, in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
Alton More of Casper died when the car he was driving struck a horse in Natrona County in 1958. He was 38 and a salesman for Folgers Coffee at the time of death.
A ‘Master Scrounger’
During his military service from 1940-1945, More was known as one of the “master scroungers” of Easy Company, an airborne division of the U.S. Army documented in the HBO series about World War II, “Band of Brothers.”
More parachuted into Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944, fought in the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of the Bulge and was one of the first soldiers to liberate Adolf Hitler’s mountaintop stronghold known as the Eagle’s Nest.
According to accounts from his brothers in arms, More quickly learned the art of pilfering the spoils of war during his time in Europe.
Inside the Eagle’s Nest, a $30 million chalet with a gold-plated elevator, More found two albums that contained numerous photographs of Hitler and Eva Braun, the mistress Hitler married shortly before both of them killed themselves April 29, 1945.
The albums are believed to contain photographs of many members of the Nazi Party and other photographs that could shed light on the largely unknown personal life of one of history’s darkest villains. Military historians say the albums are among the most sought-after pieces of World War II memorabilia.
Kept Them Hidden
After acquiring the albums, More went to great lengths to protect them from a French Army general and at least one U.S. Army officer who knew he had them. According to Brad Meltzer, a military historian who conducted the History Channel investigation, More hid the albums underneath his cot at night and in the passenger seat of the Jeep he was driving over the several months he spent in occupied Germany in late 1945.
The mystery of what happened to those albums is the focus of Season 1, Episode 2 of “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History” series.
Easy Company commanding officer Major Dick Winters helped More protect the albums by making More his Jeep driver. Winters is the central figure in the Stephen Ambrose book “Band of Brothers” and the HBO miniseries with the same title.
According to Meltzer’s investigation, the French were interested in recovering the albums because they were believed to contain photographs of the French June 25, 1940 surrender to the Germans at Compiegne, France. The French were forced to surrender at the same spot where the Germans surrendered to France on Nov. 11, 1918, at the end of World War I.
The History Channel report states that a French officer was sent to recover the albums from More in Germany sometime in late 1945. A confrontation ensued, weapons were drawn and the French officer went away empty handed.
More’s run-in with the French general sheds light on the fact that the French army didn’t want the surrender photos “to ever see the light of day,” Meltzer said.
They Weren’t Seen Much
More’s granddaughter Kim McAbee told Meltzer that she can remember seeing the albums only a few times.
“I don’t know how many people actually saw them,” McAbee said. “He didn’t talk about the war. He didn’t care to relive it.”
After More died, his widow, Emma Jean Barnhill, moved to Portland, Oregon, and took the albums there. The Oregonian newspaper in Portland later published an article that included some of the photos, including “candid shots of Hitler and Braun.”
The newspaper also published photos of a visit to Germany made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1937.
After the newspaper article was published, McAbee said Barnhill sold the albums to a man who promised to write a book with Alton More as the hero. The albums have not resurfaced since that time.
“It sounded like a good thing to do with them, but the book never came to fruition,” McAbee told the History Channel. “As of today, they have fallen off the face of the earth. Nobody knows where they are.”
According to records kept by the Natrona County Historical Society, the car crash that claimed More’s life happened when the car he was driving struck a horse. The crash happened 17 miles west of Casper on U.S. Highway 26. More is buried in the Highland Cemetery in Casper.
Editor’s note: Natrona County Historical Society and historian MH Hennagin provided numerous records and information for this article. Robin Everett of the Wyoming State Archives also contributed records and information. The full episode of "Brad Meltzer's Lost History" is available on Amazon and other streaming services.