The Quiet American Hero: Inspiration for ‘The Real Inglorious Bastards’

MAYEROn the outskirts of a sleepy West Virginia town lives 92-year-old Frederick Mayer. His current life is fairly peaceful—he still chops wood nearly every day and volunteers with Meals on Wheels.

But this ninety-something’s life hasn’t always been so simple.

During World War II, he led one of the greatest missions of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Mayer’s incredible story provided the basis for my book They Dared Return: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany.

Now, a new History Channel film, The Real Inglorious Bastards, returns to the true story chronicled in the book and captures Mayer’s amazing exploits in historically accurate detail.

On May 7, an invitation-only screening of the film will open the GI Film Festival with a Congressional Reception at the U.S. Capitol Building to honor the veterans of the mission, including Mayer.

Mayer, who is Jewish, and his family fled Germany at the onset of the war, barely escaping the holocaust. But unlike other refugees, Mayer decided to return to German-occupied Europe to strike back at the very individuals who imprisoned some of his family members in concentration camps.

He parachuted into the Third Reich, where he impersonated a German officer, blew up trains, sent back intelligence on Hitler’s bunker, and even accepted the surrender of Innsbruck, Austria. Mayer was motivated by a powerful combination of hate and love—hate toward the Nazis and love for America.

Mayer originally volunteered for the U.S. Army, but they rejected him as an “enemy alien.” However, the OSS, the forerunner to the CIA, saw Mayer’s potential and recruited him to join its ranks. He entered their German Operational Group (OG), precursors to the U.S. Army Green Berets, an elite team of commandos that would operate…

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