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Irving Mayer

PVT in 406th Engineer Combat Co

Military occupational specialty: 533 (demolition specialist)


Born 1923 in NY, Died 1959

County of residence at enlistment: Kings County, NY
Other residence(s): Brooklyn, NY in 1942; Dover, NJ
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
College education before the war: Pratt 1 year
College education after the war: Pratt
Notes: BS in mechanical engineering from Pratt
Source: Special Order 19, 23d HQ, Camp Forrest, 7 April 1944; Bernie Mason Company A, B Roster; bio info from The Ghost Army by Beyer/Sayles; photo from Mayer Collection, GALP Archive

Irving Mayer was born on November 19, 1923, in Brooklyn, NY, the older of two sons. His father had been born in Poland, and his mother in Romania.

Like a number of other Ghost Army soldiers, Irv attended Pratt Institute. During his freshman year, he attended an on-campus presentation from Army recruiters. The need for intelligent, creative men to form a top-secret, tactical deception unit, resulted in his enlisting in the 23 HQ Special Troops.

He'd been drafted on June 30, 1942, at which time he was working at Singer Manufacturing in Bridgeport, CT. He enlisted on March 13, 1943.

Along with the other 155 men of the 406th Combat Engineers Company, he was trained in real combat and provided perimeter security for the Ghost Army. During Operation Brest, Irv grabbed and tossed a live grenade from his crowded transport, possibly saving his friends in the 406th from severe injury.

After the war, Irv returned to Pratt and graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. He then went to work on military weapons during the Cold War. Starting in 1953, he and two scientists based at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey developed the first nuclear weapon that could be utilized by infantry. The Davy Crockett nuclear warhead system was deployed in West Germany as a first-time defense against a possible Russian invasion through Berlin.

Irv and his wife Sandy became the parents of two sons: Kenneth and Robert. They made their home in Dover, NJ.

He died on August 17, 1959. Two years later, in May 1961, President Kennedy sent a letter to the three inventors (which was accompanied by a cash award; Irv's was presented to his widow) acknowledging their service to the country and "significant contributions to the defense of the United States."

Irv is buried at Mount Sinai Cemetery in Randolph, NJ.


1940 census

1942 draft card

1942 enlistment record

1959 Find a Grave record

1961 article in Army Research and Development, a monthly newsmagazine, re the Davy Crockett project

Ghost Army website, biographical details

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