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

Combat Duty Begins

During some "city fighting" in a small town (I don't remember the name of it?) I was moving forward, hugging the side of a building wall, and as I stealthily approached a solid wooden doorway facing me, a German soldier suddenly opened the door, raising his machine pistol toward me... I instinctively fired my M1 "from the hip" at his chest, as he was only about 8 feet away, before he could fire his Schmeisser (MP 40) machine pistol! I was surprised by a tremendous spurt of blood from his chest, some of which splashed onto the front of my "Ike" jacket and bloodied it. Another GI, a few yards behind me, shouted to me thinking I'd been hit but I told him I was OK. I later thought I might have had AP (armor-piercing) rounds in my M1 clip which could have easily gone cleanly through his rib cage, heart, or the aorta itself, at the very instant of his heart's contraction (systole)? Anyway, the shock of my first sight of him gave me an instant "fear pain" which luckily did not prevent me from firing instantaneously! Thank God! However, seeing his blood on me afterward made me feel nauseous. After I stopped trembling, I realized how happy I should be to have fired first!

When we captured a Luftwaffe airbase near Gotha, we found 12 brand new Focke-Wulf 190-D fighter planes without a drop of gasoline in their gas tanks. I suddenly understood why we hadn't undergone any Luftwaffe strafings for quite a while.... had the Germans totally used up their aviation gasoline? We found 400 Cases of French Veuve-Cliquot champagne taken from Reims by the Luftwaffe. We also found a great number of top quality Luftwaffe officer's gray leather overcoats with what appeared to be collars made of real, gray and white wolf fur! I couldn't even find one to fit me!

While we were in an OP (observation post) behind some bushes, on a hillside overlooking a meadow on our right, near Grafenhain, we heard a "firefight" in progress but could see only a group of Germans with 2 machine guns firing towards a target on our right but not within our field of view. I asked the other scout, who was my partner and who was holding the sound-power phone, to call our Battalion Commander, a Major whose nickname was "Butch", (we had reeled out our own direct line to the Battalion HQ!) to ask permission for me, "Brandy", to fire upon the German machine gun nests. (Note that scouts were not supposed to fire at the enemy and give away our position unless we were fired upon!)

It looked like there were about 7 or 8 Germans manning the guns that were pinning down our riflemen and it was an excellent "target of opportunity" since the German machine gunners hadn't seen us yet as we were behind some bushes. My partner told me that "Butch" said it was a platoon from "F" Company, and I should certainly do my best to help out the platoon. I immediately fired twice in succession, between the bushes, killing 2 German gunners with "helmet" shots, (it was less than 100 yards) then immediately rolled sideways down the hill to a new location behind another bush, fired again at another of the gunners but must have missed! I was ready to fire again after that but couldn't aim as carefully, as one of the Germans, having noticed us on the hill, began firing his rifle upwards towards us making me duck my head below his line of fire. We called "Butch" to report that the "firefight" was still going on because we heard both rifle and German machine gun fire. (Note: German machine guns fired almost twice as fast as ours and could easily be identified!) I don't remember when it stopped, because "Butch" recalled us to pull back from our OP on the hill. When we got back "Butch" told me he would recommend me for a medal (unspecified) for "taking out" the 2 Germans which my partner had corroborated. As the promised medal never materialized I remembered my Company Commander's words back at Camp Butner!

We learned later that Staff Sergeant William M. Guest, who had taken over the platoon after the platoon leader had been killed, had advanced all alone and killed the rest of the German gunners himself, while being simultaneously practically shot to pieces! He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, for his self sacrifice in saving his platoon! (I remembered being acquainted with him back in Camp Butner when he told me, as I was Jewish, to change the "H" (Hebrew) on my dogtags to "P" (Protestant) in case I was captured, which I did! He said there were rumors that when the Germans captured American soldiers who were Jewish, they sent them to a concentration camp instead of a POW camp!) I never realized he would turn out to be the most heroic soldier of the 89th Division! I guess his kinfolk didn't bother to bring him home as he has been buried these past 50 years in the US Military Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands. The fact of his having been decorated with the second highest medal the United States can bestow, the DSC, was not even chiseled after his name on his headstone!


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