Heroes of the Road: Truck Driver Guarded Infamous NAZI War Criminal

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Truck driver James Dabbs remembers guarding one of the most significant war criminals in history: Rudolf Hess. Hess was there at the origin of NAZI power– he was the one to transcribe Adolf Hitler’s ultimate work of propaganda, Mein Kampf, which persuaded millions to join in the atrocities of World War II.

Hitler and Hess rose to power together– their machinations helped bring about the death of fifty million human beings, including the horrors of the Holocaust. Hess wielded terrific power in the Third Reich, flexing his unswerving loyalty to the Fuhrer as third in command.

Hess was also there at the end–  he was the last living NAZI war criminal. He remained unrepentant to the end declaring that if he could stand at the brink of the beginning of the war, he would not change anything that he did. The linked video is in German, but Hess used the Nuremberg trials to declare his unyielding devotion to Hitler.

Dabbs remembers guarding this infamous, hardened war criminal at Spandau Prison in Berlin, alongside the Soviets and the British. Hess was the only prisoner there, as the world’s powers straddled between two great wars: World War II and the Cold War. 

The Cold War was gripping the West, and in an effort to intimidate the Soviets, American guards had to be six feet tall. Dabbs says, “It was all mind games.” He remembers that he was ordered to place risers in his boots to raise his five foot, nine inch frame up to meet the height requirement.

Dabbs remembers that Hess was a bit of a sneak– he would try to talk to the American soldiers to get them in trouble with the Soviets, and Hess would try to talk to the Soviets to get them thrown off duty by the Americans. “It was all mind games,” Dabbs repeats. And they were games Hess was still attempting to play.

After guarding such a notorious criminal at Spandau prison, Dabbs now enjoys the freedom of trucking, and he most enjoys seeing the country he helped serve. He’s trucked through Yellowstone several times, and he loves the West.

In particular, he loves the snow capped mountains. But those snow caps are often part of the most dangerous part of driving: Northern blizzards. As he navigates, his military earned nerves of steel still serve him well: he has sometimes faced white out conditions trucking through the Dakotas.

Dabbs appreciates the respect his carrier Sunset Logistics shows him, “I’ve been with the Gainey family for 23 years. They’re honest, and it’s like a family. Just like the military.” He also likes the autonomy they give him to complete his mission, the respect he receives. “They assign me a load, and I do it. I don’t have anybody micromanaging me.”

He also likes hanging out with the other veterans that work for Sunset. “We band together.” The “military is the biggest family in the United States. We’re all brothers and sisters.”