Jewish American Sergeant takes Innsbruck single-handed.
Updated: Jun 15
After escaping from Nazi Germany and with the majority of his family already deported to Auschwitz, Frederick Mayer decided to join the US Army; a decision which would make him a legend within the ranks of the OSS.
With his multilingual abilities, Mayer was attached to the German Operation Group; an elite team of spies who worked deep behind enemy lines and provide intel to the OSS.
In 1944, he was sent to North Africa by ship. However, there was some sort of miscommunication and he ended up being dropped off in the wrong port. He quickly improvised and began selling some surplus gear to the locals, using the money from the sales to buy train tickets to the nearest OSS station, which was in Algiers.
After a few months, he was transferred to Italy, where he parachuted onto a 10,000 ft glacier in freezing temperatures and the dead of night near the Austrian border in order to avoid enemy troops. Mayer walked all the way to the bottom and then disguised himself as an injured German Officer, staying inside a hospital where he would listen to their conversations and radio back to the OSS.
He later changed his disguise and pretended to be a French electrician and continued to hide in plain sight until he was captured by the SS.
Despite the beatings and torture, he never gave out the names and maintained that he was working alone.
During that time, another captured agent was shown Mayer`s photo, and he told the Nazi agents that Mayer was a very important man, knowing quite well that Mayer was only a Sergeant.
Mayer was thus invited to dine with Franz Hofer, who was the governor of the Alpine Redoubt, and he was able to convince him to surrender to the US.
He told him that the Nazi supremacy was coming to an end and surrendering to the Allies would be in his best interest. Hofer therefore surrendered to Mayer and declared by radio that Innsbruck was an open city. Thus, the entire city was surrendered to a Jewish American Sergeant on May 3, 1945.
Perhaps the most interesting fact is that he forgave the Nazis who had tortured him, despite having a perfect opportunity to avenge what they had done to him. He is quoted as telling one of the soldiers who was pleading with him to spare his family, “who do you think we are, Nazis?”
Frederick Mayer was awarded the Legion of Merit and a Purple Heart and lead a quiet life in West Virginia until his death in 2016.