OBITUARY: Titusville Resident Clarence Bauer, FBI’s Last Surviving Foreign Spy of World War II, Dies at 102
By Space Coast Daily // July 21, 2023
retired from civil service in 1972 and settled in Titusville were he lived until his death
BREVARD COUNTY • TITUSVILLE, FLORIDA – Clarence Bauer, the last surviving member of America’s secret World War II spy organization, the Special Intelligence Service (SIS), passed away on Thursday. He was 102 years old.
Established in 1940 as a branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the SIS served as the United States’ foreign clandestine intelligence group in the Western Hemisphere and was a forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency.
The service’s 350 agents conducted espionage, counterintelligence, and anti-sabotage operations in South America and the Caribbean. By the time the SIS disbanded in 1946, its agents had identified 888 axis espionage agents, 30 saboteurs, and dismantled 24 clandestine radio stations in addition to having disrupted Nazi war material smuggling operations.
After the SIS was disbanded, its region of operation was incorporated into the responsibilities of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency. Concurrently, the FBI would expand its own primarily domestic counterintelligence role to hunt spies and combat espionage.
Bauer was born in Buffalo, New York where took an early interest in radios. He built his first transceiver when he was 13 years old, and soon after established a network of amateur radio operators and transmission sites with fellow students. After graduating high school, he found work installing radio equipment in P-40 fighter aircraft at the Curtis-Wright factory on the shores of Lake Erie.
Recruited into the SIS in early 1942, Bauer was initially assigned to the RCA Building in New York, where the SIS operated the ‘Importers and Exporters Service Company,’ a cover business to hide the organization’s overseas activities.
By the end of the year, Bauer was summoned to Bogota, Columbia, where he conducted clandestine work to locate Nazi spy radio transmitters. His team’s biggest win was the apprehension of a German agent, which led to the identification of German agents working within in the United States. Bauer remained in South America until 1946.
After leaving the FBI in 1954, Bauer moved to St Croix where he maintained the island’s airport radio equipment and manufactured homes throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. During his time in the Virgin Islands, he was a pioneering amateur SCUBA diver and continued to advance amateur radio by conducting ham radio expeditions throughout the Caribbean. He retired from civil service in 1972 and settled in Titusville, Florida, were he lived until his death.
He is preceded in death by his wife, Maria, who he met in Puerto Rico during the war, and their son. He is survived by his daughter, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.