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Rockefeller honors WWII veteran Frederick Mayer

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., placed a statement in the Congressional Record and wrote a letter to President Obama asking for a presidential commendation for World War II veteran Frederick Mayer, a resident of Charles Town.

As an Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, operative, Mayer posed as a German officer behind enemy lines in Austria. Despite being captured and tortured by the Gestapo, Mayer helped negotiate the surrender of Innsbruck in 1945, avoiding a final battle there.

In the letter to the president, Rockefeller called Mayer "one of the unsung heroes of World War II."

"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, now 92, was born to a Jewish family in Germany and fled to the U.S. after the Nazis came to power. He enlisted in the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was recruited to join the OSS — the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency — based on his bravery, skills and knowledge of the German language. His assignment was to pose as a German officer in Austria and collect military intelligence and help organize elements of the Austrian resistance.

He was captured by the Gestapo, the German secret police, yet refused to give up sensitive information despite being brutally tortured. Instead, using his German language skills, he convinced his captors to arrange a meeting with senior Nazi leaders in Austria. As Allied forces advanced into the heart of Europe, Mayer convinced the Nazis to surrender Innsbruck, a key post in Austria.

"His bravery, remarkable in any context, is even more noteworthy given his willingness to return to enemy territory, not far from his childhood home he was forced to flee," Rockefeller wrote. "He did this to help win the war, and he did this in service to the United States … I hope your office will be able to honor Mr. Mayer in a special way."

Rockefeller's full letter to Obama is available on his Senate website.