By Sol R. Brandell

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

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

At University of Paris

In mid-September, I was awarded a scholarship by the French Government, via the Army Education Program, to study music at the Conservatoire National de Musique, part of the University of Paris. The scholarship had originally been offered to the 82nd Airborne Infantry Division but as it required the candidate to have had at least 3 years serious study of instrumental classical music and to be able to speak French fairly well, no one in the 82nd was apparently in a position to take advantage of this offer and it was shifted to the 89th Infantry Division. Luckily, a friend of the T/SGT, in Division HQ came across my military records and notified me that I was qualified to attend this school on TDY if I wished.

I think that the Platoon Sergeant, finally realizing that all his efforts to get me promoted during the course of training, and subsequently during combat duty, had come to naught, had told his friend to try to get me at least a Corporal's job in Regimental HQ, and away from our Company Commander, so that I would go home with 2-stripes instead of the 1-stripe I had! Of course, I accepted the chance to study music in Paris and even though I never made corporal, was at least happy to get away from our Company Commander! I packed up my stuff and was promptly entrained at the Rouen railroad station the next day. I was off to Paris!!

I was billeted in the American Pavilion, part of the Cité Universitaire, on Boulevard Jourdan, located in the southern outskirts of Paris. My student participation comprised going to class on Monday and Thursday afternoons from 1300h to 1700h every week for about 4 months, after which I was to return to my original unit. Also, I received weekly, a 7-day "Metro" pass and a 7-day meal pass good at any US Army-authorized restaurant in Paris. Soon after I'd checked into the American Pavilion, I was invited to a dinner party held at the Danish Building nearby where I met and became friends with Roch and Olaf de Mautort, who lived at the Danish Building, right near by. They had Danish first names because their mother was a Danish duchess, or princess? Later, they invited me to dinner at the home of their father, the Vicomte de Mautort, in the city of Versailles. The dinner was served in a room which was reminiscent of The Great Hall in the Main Building of the City College in New York. It suddenly dawned on me that I was in the 50 feet long and 30 feet high dining hall of an ancient castle with 5 or 6 heraldic banners suspended from the ceiling on each side of this 30 feet long dining table! When earlier we had first approached the Mautort home from the street side in the dusk of evening I had seen the dark fitted-stone walls and the large oak doors but didn't realize the enormity of the interior of this ancient building (about 500 (?) years old). Roch told me this was his father's "Paris townhouse" and that the family had an ancestral estate in another part of France. It was like something you might see in a Hollywood historical movie: the colorful heraldic banners, the ancient wrought-iron chandeliers, the fantastic silver platters, the beautiful porcelain dishes, etc. Later, on my way home to the Cité Universitaire, I thought how lucky I was to be able to speak French! (Note: I visited Olaf Tillette de Mautort in Paris in 1973, after I'd completed a business trip to the United Kingdom. Also, we've been intermittently corresponding via airmail since World War II!)

The course of study at the conservatory comprised a class in the theory of music, a class in harmony, and a series of lessons in playing the 4-manual church organ, in the beautiful Student Chapel, which was part of the Maison International, of the Université de Paris. (Note: The Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris, of course, was a part of the Université de Paris) The teacher who gave me the organ lessons was so dedicated that I learned to play the first movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" in about 4 weeks!

(Of course, at the very beginning of the first organ lesson, she asked me where and when I'd studied music. I told her that I'd studied piano with Norman Masloff at the Julliard School of Music, in New York, for about ten (10) years, and had also studied harmony with Sir John Barbirolli (who at the time was a visiting professor) at the La Follette School of Music, in New York, for about six (6) months. Later, when Norman Masloff insisted that I was to make my debut before my 17th birthday, in 1941, as a concert pianist, and was to play several Chopin works at Town Hall, in New York, I came down with such a terrible case of "stage fright" that I'd decided to quit the piano and accepted a scholarship to the City College of New York to study electrical engineering, which I thought would be very practical as I loved mathematics! Of course, Norman Masloff never forgave me for what he considered to be a terrible "sin"! I felt that I just didn't have the courage to play in public again, remembering my terrible stage fright, when I had to play a solo recital, comprising some difficult Chopin works, in the auditorium of Abraham Lincoln High School, in 1940, before my 16th birthday.)


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