A real-life World War II spy thriller from a two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist.
Lichtblau (The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men, 2014, etc.) narrates the exciting story of Freddy Mayer (1926-2016), from his childhood in Germany before the rise of the Nazis to his escapades in the OSS. His family was lucky to escape from Germany, arriving in New York in 1938. After Pearl Harbor, he tried to enlist, hoping to use his German training as a mechanic, but he was rejected as an “enemy alien.” Soon, the need for able-bodied men eased the restrictions, and Mayer’s older brother was called up. Freddy appealed, and the draft board took him instead, allowing his brother to finish college. His dauntlessness, abilities, and outlandish maneuvers brought him to the attention of the OSS, and after months of training, he arrived in Africa in June 1944. His partner was Hans Wynberg, a Dutch Jew and Morse code expert. Frustrated at the lack of action, Mayer came up with audacious ideas for missions. While his superiors never doubted his motives, they worried that he had no limits. Finally, they engaged in a mission into the Austrian Tyrol, but there were no local resisters to meet their landing; they needed a guide. Thus Mayer was sent to a Nazi POW camp to find a German ready to turn to their side. He struck gold with Franz Weber, a German deserter born in the Alps. Mayer, Wynberg, and Weber ended up in Weber’s hometown, where some local citizens helped them. And that’s just the backstory. Recounting one of the most successful espionage missions, Lichtblau delivers the goods, shining a bright spotlight on a truly unique character: Mayer was aggressive, ingenious, and often disregarded the rules, to great effect.
An enthralling page-turner.