Another aspect of the hyphenated European-American involves the American Office of Strategic Services (“OSS”). Less well know is that while the 506th and the rest of the Allies were fighting from the beaches of Normandy and the Mediterranean the largely unknown/unsung British trained operatives of the American OSS were fighting behind enemy lines with the Special Air Service, Special Operations Executive, and local resistance. (Note: Most American Special Forces have their origins and/or were trained by the British). Primarily recruited from groups of recent European immigrants for their local knowledge and language skills the OSS agents proved invaluable to the Allied cause. Among the many remarkable stories, two in particular highlight the essence of the value of America’s diversity and the power of its universal ideals that are the foundation of the American dream. (The following are just summaries. To learn more about the complete stories check out the sources listed at the end.)
Operation Greenup: Frederick Mayer and Hans Wynberg were Jewish refugees of Nazi Germany and Holland respectively. They teamed up with Franz Weber a Germany army officer that became a “deserter-volunteer” OSS agent. In March 1945 these three men nearly died being inserting into Nazi controlled Austria as they ended up parachuting onto a glacier. Narrowly escaping that ordeal they proceeded to spend approximately 3 months behind enemy lines with support from Weber’s anti-Nazi family prior to being discovered. In that short time they learned of Hitler’s secret bunker in Berlin, infiltrated a Messerschmitt Me 262 factory, and shortened the war on the Italian front. After Mayer was captured and savagely beaten and tortured he practically singlehandedly engineered the surrender of the Austrian state of Tyrol and its capital city Innsbruck ahead of the Allied advance in Italy. After the war, Mayer and Wynberg both returned to the US. Mayer went on to work for General Motors and Wynberg earned his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin. Weber returned to his native Austria and entered public service.
Greek-American OSS Agent Helias Doundoulakis was sent to the port city of Thessaloniki in his native Greece where he reported on Axis troop movements and shipping. Notably, his US issued wrist watch nearly led to his capture were it not for some quick thinking on his part. His efforts resulted in multiple successful air strikes against German targets in and around the city. His presence was eventually discovered by the Germans and he narrowly evaded capture. After the war he became a civil engineer and helped design the lunar space module used on Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s trip to the moon.
We invite you to learn more through the following sources….
Sources: (Mk II does not earn any commission from the following links which are provided here solely for your convenience.)
Before we started this research project in support of Cruxible we considered ourselves well read and informed about WW2. If you are anything like us your ignorance isn’t the result of any fault of your own. It is a byproduct of the economics of entertainment and some racism of the past. These aren’t stories that historically would have appealed to a large enough audience to be profitable from a business perspective. In other cases the stories were suppressed in order to maintain the social status quo at the time and then largely forgotten in the intervening years. This series is not about diminishing the value of the stories you know, but about presenting a more complete picture.
We will do our best to present the facts as we have found them. We don’t expect our conclusions to be controversial based on what we have found in the books we are highlighting but expect some of them to be surprising. The broad outlines of what we are saying are true but for the sake of time we will not be able to footnote/document every detail. We choose books as our primary sources but also are supplementing that information with background information from documentaries done by reputable sources. We purposefully chose works that were published rather than relying on Wikipedia or other quicker online resources because these books and documentaries have been researched, in many cases by professional historians, and unless noted have been verified.
The topics that we will touch upon will make people uneasy but the reason why we chose this medium to do this is because it is gives everyone the privacy to review and reflect upon the information at their own pace. Kindly try to keep the following in mind: a) racism and discrimination is a human condition, we are all susceptible to its appeal b) we as humans have all been responsible for doing terrible things to each other at one time or another just some happen to be more recent and better documented c) this is about reminding ourselves of the past so that we cherish the good and learn from our mistakes and d) this series is not about assigning guilt or fault. We don’t expect to solve the problems plaguing society but we do hope to lower the temperature and make discussion more productive.