CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Returning to Germany during World War II as an intelligence agent with the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA, Jewish American Frederick Mayer, 92, is credited with leading daring spy missions, blowing up trains, impersonating a German officer and negotiating the surrender of Innsbruck, Austria, as Allied troops approached the city in 1945 near the close of the war.
Mayer, who has lived in Charles Town since 1977, fled Nazi Germany for America with his family in 1938.
“Going back to Germany meant that I was able to use my knowledge of the country and their way of life in bringing an end to the evil regime that was in power,” Mayer said. “I didn’t consider myself a spy, but rather a reconnaissance scout.”
Being fluent in German was very important for his work during that time and he believes the United States needs men and women with a command of foreign languages to serve the nation today.
“It is of the utmost importance to have dependable people available [who are] fluent in foreign language to protect our country,” he said.
Mayer will be on hand for a public interview and question-and-answer session following a special screening of the award-winning documentary “The Real Inglorious Bastards,” Monday at 7 p.m. at the West Virginia Culture Center as part of the “Holocaust Remembered — Witness and Legacy” lecture and arts series.
The film, based on the Patrick O’Donnell book “They Dared Return: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany,” is true to the historical facts, Mayer said.
“I would not lend my name to anything not factual,” he said.
Mayer also will be presented with several awards Monday for his service to country, service that may have been overlooked in years past due to the secrecy of his missions.
Upon learning of Mayer’s service, Sen. Jay Rockefeller presented him with 10 medals for distinguished service in a ceremony last year.
“My good friend, Fred Mayer, is an extraordinary human being and a true American hero,” said Rockefeller. “Despite his selfless, courageous actions as an OSS operative during World War II, Fred is remarkably humble. I’ve been honored to get to know him over the past few years and help share his story with the world.”
Rockefeller also wrote President Obama asking for a presidential commendation for Mayer.
“His selfless patriotism and unique service to the United States merit the highest recognition, and I hope your staff will give him all due consideration for an award of presidential commendation,” Rockefeller wrote.
Mayer’s return to civilian life working at General Motors was short-lived. He was tapped to serve in a Voice of America radio station in the Philippines shortly following the war.
“One day I got a call from Charles Thayer, the director of the Voice Of America, who had been my [commanding officer] in the OSS,” Mayer said. The Philippine station supervisor had resigned after a bombing, he explained.
Mayer worked for VOA for the next 30 years.
“While on home leave in 1972, I picked up my daughter, Claudette, at Georgetown University in Washington and we drove through the panhandle of West Virginia,” he said. “Falling in love with its beauty, I bought some land and contracted for my house to be built near the Shenandoah [River] — all within one week.”
He still serves his community today, driving a Meals on Wheels van to deliver food to shut-ins throughout Charles Town.
“I am no more a hero than every other soldier who was fighting in this war,” he said.
An interpretive dance performance to the theme from “Schindler’s List” by members of the St. Albans Studio of Dance will precede the movie screening. The audience is encouraged to participate in the Q&A session afterward.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: “The Real Inglorious Bastards”
WHERE: West Virginia Culture Center
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
For more information on this and other events in the lecture series, contact event Co-Chairwoman Helen Lodge at 304-925-8828.
Reach Marta Tankersley Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1249 or follow @MartaRee on Twitter.