WWII veteran receives war medals, 67 years later
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 65 years after he was captured and tortured by Nazis near the end of World War II, Frederick Mayer, 92, of Charles Town, received 10 medals Saturday for his wartime service.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who presented Mayer with his medals, said that Mayer hadn't received the medals in part because his mission had been cloaked in secrecy.
Mayer, a German Jew, immigrated to the United States with his family in 1938 after Hitler rose to power.
About a year after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Mayer enlisted in the U.S. Army and eventually served in the Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor to the CIA.
Working for the OSS, Mayer returned to Nazi territory and used forged papers and a German military uniform to live for three months behind enemy lines. Mayer worked in Innsbruck, Austria collecting intelligence and organizing a network of anti-Nazi Austrians.
Mayer was eventually betrayed by one of his contacts, arrested, interrogated and tortured.
As American troops approached, Mayer, while still in captivity, arranged a meeting with Nazi commanders and was able to help convince them to surrender Innsbruck without a final battle.
Rockefeller recently lauded Mayer in the Congressional Record. He also wrote to President Obama asking for an award of presidential commendation and a letter of recognition for Mayer.
In the Congressional Record, Rockefeller cited a written assessment from Mayer's commanding officer, written May 31, 1945.
"Technical Sergeant Mayer parachuted into enemy occupied territory and remained there for three months," the report reads. "Mayer exhibited not only the highest degree of courage under constant risk of his life, but remarkable qualities of leadership and organization which made it possible for him to ... arrange the surrender of Innsbruck to American Troops."
Rockefeller also said that Mayer exhibited incredible bravery, selfless patriotism and is "one of the great unsung heroes of World War II."
The ten medals that Mayer received Saturday include the Prisoner of War Medal, the Legion of Merit and the World War II Victory Medal.
Reach David Gutman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5119.