Operation Dupont

'Dupont' was a US special forces operation to parachute an Office of Strategic Services party into the Wiener-Neustadt area of Austria on an intelligence-gathering mission (13 October 1944/5 May 1945).

The plan was for four men (one American and three Austrian) to parachute into the area of Wiener Neustadt, about 25 miles (40 km) to the south of Vienna. It was here that there was a major chokepoint of the German transportation system supplying the Italian front and the Rax Werke, a key German aviation facility, and also, it was believed, that the Germans were building a major defence line against an Allied advance from the south.

OSS planners thought that the Allies might be able to marshal a resistance movement around Wiener Neustadt from among the many anti-Nazi Austrians believed to live in the area. The US forces also had no local source of intelligence from this region, and believed that a successful penetration of Wiener Neustadt and the surrounding country could yield an important quantity of intelligence.

The OSS team was led by Lieutenant Jack Taylor of the US Navy. When the USA entered World War II in December 1941, Taylor was a 33-year old orthodontist practising in California, and joined the US Navy as an officer and initially served on a submarine-chaser. Based on his considerable pre-war experience as an open-ocean sailor, he was transferred to the OSS to serve in that organisation’s maritime training section as an instructor in boat handling, navigation and seamanship. He then went on to qualify in the use of the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit (LARU) and was assigned to the first Underwater Swimmer Group trained for operations in northern Europe. Before his planned deployment to England, however, his experience in small boat operations found another application, and he was transferred as the first OSS Maritime Unit representative in the Middle East. Over a 15-month period, his achievements were considerable in the landing of agents and the delivery of ammunition and supplies to advance operations bases in the Nazi-occupied Greek Islands and mainland, and into Yugoslavia and Albania, including near capture on one occasion.

With the war in Europe entering its final phases, it was recognised that there were no known partisan groups or resistance movements in Austria to supply the Allies with information, and the area of Vienna was selected as the first priority for the infiltration of an OSS team. Taylor was selected to lead three volunteer Austrian ex-prisoners of war on the first US operation into Austria.

On 13 October 1944, the four-man team was infiltrated by parachute from a British Consolidated Liberator four-engined bomber manned by a Polish crew. To minimise the team’s exposure to searchlights and anti-aircraft batteries, the jump was conducted during the dark of the moon from an altitude of only 400 ft (120 m), without the benefit of a ground reception committee or ground lights, and with absolutely no circling. The plan was entirely atypical as a result of the extremely hazardous nature of this operation.

After evading the Germans for more than six weeks, the team was captured and interned in a Vienna prison. After being tortured and interrogated for more than four months, Taylor was transferred on 1 April 1945 to the Mauthausen concentration camps. He was scheduled for execution on 28 April, but three days before this a friendly Czechoslovak working in the political department burned his file. Several days later, Mauthausen was liberated by US forces and Taylor was set free.