The Nazi Who Infiltrated National Geographic

A propaganda program in Nazi Germany featured a commentator who called himself Paul Revere. He was an American who lauded the Hitler and the Nazi party in English six nights a week. Americans could monitor the show on short wave radio, and were shocked when the broadcaster eventually identified himself in May of 1941 as Douglas Chandler, a contributor to National Geographic magazine. In fact, he had photographed a 47-page article about Berlin a few years earlier for the magazine, which eventually became an embarrassment to the Nation Geographic Society.  

At National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., a memo was circulating among top editors with a newspaper clipping from The Washington Post: “Nazi ‘Paul Revere’ Proves Former Baltimore Man.” Letters began pouring in from magazine subscribers who had been listening to the disparaging broadcasts, in which Chandler had boasted about his employer while repeatedly railing against its leadership.

“I couldn’t have been more surprised if it had been the Annual Report of the Ladies’ Benevolent Society being ripped to ribbons!” wrote one concerned reader, who had heard the magazine mentioned a dozen times. “This is what I am curious about—how did the Nazis come to have such a spite against the ‘National Geographic’?”

Both National Geographic and the FBI had already been investigating Chandler’s Nazi ties. But now, with his radio reveal, the American public discovered that a National Geographic writer had—loudly—taken up the Nazi’s cause.

Now, National Geographic tells the story of Douglas Chandler, his relationship to the magazine, and how he became a traitor to his country.

(Image credit: Douglas Chandler/National Geographic)

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