RECOLLECTIONS OF A WORLD WAR II INFANTRYMAN
By Sol R. Brandell

An autobiographic account from 1st December, 1942, through 31st March, 1946
in the European Theater of Operations


Dedicated to the Memory Of
STAFF SERGEANT WILLIAM M. GUEST
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS (Posthumous)
Company "F", 355th Infantry Regiment, 89th Infantry Division
Killed in Action on 8th April 1945 near Grafenhain, Germany
Buried in the US Military Cemetery, Margraten, The Netherlands
Enrolled in the LEGION OF VALOR during April 1994.



Table of Contents
At City College of New York and Enlistment
Call to Active Duty
Infantry Basic Training, Camp Wolters, TX
Examination and Assignment to ASTP
ASTP and Pre-Med at University of Cincinnati, OH
89th Infantry Division, Camp Butner, NC
Overseas to European Theater of Operations
Combat Duty Begins
Discovery of Concentration Camps at Ohrdruf
Combat Duty Continues
V-E Day and Return to Normandy
At University of Paris
Occupation Duty at Linz-Urfahr, Austria
Second Return to Normandy and Return Trip to the US
Postscript

AT CITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK AND ENLISTMENT

When I had completed almost 1 years of electrical engineering at CCNY, with an "A" average (and would have been deferred from the draft as 'essential', i.e., an engineering student) and had concurrently completed almost 3 semesters of the Army Basic ROTC course, I decided to try to get into the Navy's V-12 Officer Training School because I had illusions of becoming an engineering officer in the Navy while doing my part in the war. I had my first taste of Navy anti-Semitism when the examining physician told me that for a man my age I had too many fillings in my teeth to be an officer in the US Navy. I then tried the Marine Corps, where a Major asked me to take a one-hour examination in math and physics; he seemed genuinely amazed when I returned the exam paper to him within 20 minutes. He graded the paper by comparing to an answer list and said my mark was 95% and immediately told me to go in for my physical exam! Naturally, this time I was more hopeful but then the examining physician found I had a pulmonary problem which prevented me from becoming an officer but they said I would be accepted as an enlisted man? This was obviously the Marine Corps version of anti-Semitism because having been very active, while at CCNY, in fencing, swimming, boxing, basketball and soccer in my spare time, without feeling any physical ill effects, confirmed my suspicions about Navy and Marine Corps anti-Semitism forever more!

Finally, I decided to see the ROTC Commandant at CCNY and simply enlist in the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC) on 1 December, 1942, my 18th birthday...(Note: This allowed me to actually complete my 3rd semester and be called to active duty after requesting same by my letter to the Army ERC) However, as I would have to be at least 19 (or was it 21?) I was told that I'd need my parents' signature before I could enlist at the age of 18...I fooled them by telling them that I was going to stay in school till I was called and would become an engineering officer which would be a pretty safe job.... therefore they signed and this allowed me to enlist on my 18th birthday...the ROTC Commandant had said I could continue at college and wait to complete another (the 4th, and last) semester of the ROTC Basic course and I could then be enlisted as a "line sergeant" (3-stripe) yet somehow I just couldn't wait! I had some madness driving me to fight in the war!

(I remembered from my younger days when I occasionally stayed overnight at the home of my Orthodox Jewish maternal grandparents, usually on the occasion of a Jewish holiday, my grandfather would arise at about 0500 hours. He would then rinse and towel-dry his hands, put on his prayer shawl, put one of the leather "tefillim" cubes on his forehead and the other cube on his left arm while wrapping the leather thongs to keep them in place. He would then recite the morning prayer in Biblical Hebrew. After completing this he would plead to the Lord, in Yiddish this time, to "impose a dark and cursed year on all of the German Enemy!!" {'Deutsche Sonim', in Yiddish.} I knew what he was saying as I could speak Yiddish reasonably well. I then asked him why he'd called upon the Lord to "curse the German Enemy...." in Yiddish instead of Hebrew? He answered that he wouldn't ask the Lord to do such a thing in Hebrew, because he'd have been too ashamed to do so in that language! His constant and tireless prayers made me hate the "German Enemy" as much as he did and was probably a good part of the reason I later enlisted!)

 

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