Tonight on the Military History Channel (Sky 531 and Virgin 236) is The Real Inglorious – a gripping look at the incredible dangers faced by the Jewish spies behind Operation Greenup, one of the US’s most successful intelligence-gathering operations of World War II.
Greenup was an American OSS opertation, involving three young agents who were air-dropped into the Austrian Alps in the closing months of World War II. Their mission was to gather intelligence on Nazi activities in the Innsbruck area. The agents included two recently naturalized OSS enlisted men and an Austrian-born Wehrmacht officer who had deserted and then volunteered for this assignment.
Franz Weber, the former German officer, was selected to join the team to take advantage of his personal contacts and knowledge of the area. Born in Oberperfuss, near Innsbruck, he had numerous relatives and acquaintances nearby. He proved quite effective in obtaining transportation and getting the team into safe houses. Hans Wynberg, a Dutch-American, was assigned to the team as the radio operator.
The team leader, Frederick Mayer, became a very effective spy, obtaining very detailed and reliable information about German industry, transportation nodes, and even specific locations of Nazi leadership. As a result, many of the industrial and transportation installations described by Mayer were destroyed by strategic bombing.
Both Wynberg and Mayer were Jewish, a fact that makes this story all the more fascinating. Although he and a brother had been sent from Holland to America in 1939, Wynberg’s parents and remaining brother were killed in Auschwitz. Mayer’s family (including his father, who had been decorated with the Iron Cross in the First World War) had managed to leave an increasingly hostile Germany before the outbreak of war, in 1938.
Mayer was quite a risk taker, assuming the identity of a German officer and later transforming himself into a French electrician working in a German military plant. His luck ran out when he was captured by the Gestapo. Mayer successfully withstood the interrogation and beatings without divulging the names and locations of his fellow agents. Fortunately for him, the thousand-year Reich began to fall apart rapidly. The US Army’s 103d Infantry Division was closing in to striking distance of Innsbruck. In an interesting role reversal, the Gestapo agents and local Nazi officials began to be concerned for their own well-being. A deal was struck with local Nazi leaders that allowed Mayer to meet oncoming US Army forces and coordinate the surrender of Innsbruck.
The Real Inglorious Bastards website
The Real Inglourious Basterds: Why Britain’s secret Jewish commandos were far more heroic than the Nazi scalpers in Tarantino’s new film (The Daily Mail)