Television situation comedy about a gang of state prison inmates in Kansas who are paroled to work on the B-36 production lines around Wichita. It ran for six years (168 episodes) and was one of President LeMay's favorites. In its series finale (when The Big One was announced), former President LeMay did a cameo appearance as himself and insisted all the "Heroes" got pardons.
The basic premise is that a group of small-time criminals imprisoned at the Kansas State Prison got paroled to work at a B-36 plant. The plots were basically about how all the cons ran rings around the slighly dumb management while also helping the war effort.
The "Heroes" were lead by Robert E. Hogan, a confidence trickster and general con-man. Hogan (Bob Crane) was constantly getting involved in various scams and get-rich-quick schemes that somehow always ended up ine xposing a dastardly plan to interfere with or compromise B-36 production. The character was named by series creator Bernard Fein after his friend, the American soap opera and character actor Robert J. Hogan, who appeared in two episodes of Hogan’s Heroes. He was aided and abetted by James Kinchloe, another con-man and talented mimic who easily imitated people speaking over the radio or telephone. Another member of the "heroes" was a Cajun prisoner, Louis LeBeau (Robert Clary) a talented chef who had taken the precaution of befriending the factory's guard dogs. As a result, he was able to enter their compound through a secret entrance under a doghouse without the dogs raising the alarm. Peter Newkirk (British actor Richard Dawson) was the group’s conman, pick-pocket, forger, marksman, and occasional impersonator of police officers.
William Klink (Werner Klemperer) was an old-time aircraft producer, a bumbling self-serving bureaucrat who is simply unable to cope with the huge scale of the B-36 program. Used to factories building one or two aircraft a month, he was out of his depth. To make matters worse, he was of German ancestry and was under constant suspicion with efforts made to incriminate or even eliminate him. Hogan's Heroes was probably one of the earliest television shows to condemn such bigotry and many of the plots rotated around the "Heroes" trying to clear Klink (for whom they had an amused affection) of some imagined offense. Sergeant Schultz is a police parole officer who sympathized with the heroes and was known to repeat "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!” or, more commonly as the series went on, simply “I see nothing, nothing!” in order to avoid seeing anything that might cause their parole to be revoked.
Hannah (Cynthia Lynn, 1965 to 1966) and Hilda (Sigrid Valdis, 1966 to 1971) served as secretaries to William Klink. Both were portrayed as having an ongoing romantic relationship with Hogan. Both also assisted Hogan and his men in various ways, including providing tidbits of information or access to papers or equipment. Hilda was protrayed as a blonde and in several episodes was harrassed because of her hair color. This was another example of the series early stand against such bigotry.
Although the plots were far-fetched, there was a certain level of truth to them. For example, in the real world, all the B-36 final assembly lines were identical down to the positioning of posters on the walls and the location of trash bins. That way if a picture of one line did leak out, everybody who worked on any final assembly line would "recognize" it as theirs. This was repeated in Hogan's Heroes in one episode where the group found themselves in another B-36 assembly line where it took them some time to realize they were in a different plant. Also, one of the running jokes would be that they were in a bar or club when somebody started saying something they shouldn't and one of the"heroes" would administer a "knuckleburger " (hit the incautious speaker hard enough to shut him up) and throw that person out of a window - at which point the con's parole officer (Sergeant Schultz) would look into his beer and mutter "I saw nothing, nothing". This self-policing of the workers in the B-36 plants was quite commonplace.