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Veteran Fred Fretheim silently served

WWII veteran Fred A. Fretheim led an adventurous life as a clandestine agent, yet few know of his work. The longtime Bloomington resident kept silent until the end. Since Fred’s passing in 2012, his son, Gregg, has been on a mission to share what his father did during his 28 years as an officer in the U.S. Army. He served in the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) as an Office of Security Services (OSS) agent—in other words, a spy. 

In January 1942, Fred was among the first WWII troops to land in Ireland, as British Spitfires jetted above in an aerial salute. He served in Europe, the Middle East, Morocco and at Fort Snelling, ascended to the rank of major and encountered the legendary General Dwight Eisenhower along the way. Through it all, Fred was lucky enough to see gunfire only once overseas. Even luckier still, in a remarkable close encounter, he was not taken prisoner in the Russian Zone of Berlin.

Among his many assignments, Fred was particularly proud of his role in Operation Paperclip, targeting SS Major Wernher von Braun. The U.S. vied against the Russians to capture the famed V-2 missile scientist first. Fred helped capture von Braun and his rocket team. Von Braun went on to work on Explorer 1, the first U.S. space satellite and Saturn V, the launch vehicle that boosted the Apollo spacecraft to the moon.

Many of the artifacts Fred collected during his worldwide travels are housed at the Bloomington Historical Society. An impressive compilation of a life’s work comes to life in military medals, awards, uniforms and other artifacts. His remarkable story pays tribute to the honorable service so many gave to their country during WWII and beyond. 

Fred’s wife, Gloria, resides in Bloomington.