CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Sen. Jay Rockefeller is seeking a presidential commendation for a West Virginian whom he calls an "unsung hero" of World War II, a German-born Jew who joined the U.S. Army and helped organize the resistance in Austria.
Rockefeller issued a statement for the congressional record Friday and sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting recognition for 92-year-old Charles Town resident Frederick Mayer.
Mayer posed as a German officer behind enemy lines in Austria while working for the Office of Strategic Services. He collected intelligence and helped organize the Austrian resisters. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo, but later helped negotiate the surrender of Innsbruck in 1945.
Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said that prevented a battle that could have cost countless lives.
Mayer showed "selfless patriotism" and performed a unique service for his country, the senator said.
Mayer was born to a Jewish family in Germany and fled to the U.S. when the Nazis came to power.
He enlisted in the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was recruited to the OSS for his bravery, skills and knowledge of the German language.
When he was captured, he refused to give up sensitive information. Rather, he used his native tongue to convince his captors to arrange a meeting with senior Nazi leaders. The subsequent meeting led to the surrender of a key Austrian post.
"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," the letter tells the president. "I hope your office will be able to honor Mr. Mayer in a special way."