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 Continues

Outside of a city, maybe Erfurt (?), another buddy and I, while on a scouting patrol, came upon a flat-roofed, industrial-type building which seemed to be about 25, or 30, feet high and had very few windows, which were painted black inside. We found a ladder to the roof on one end and got the idea to climb up and see if we could get a view of what the area looked like. After we'd climbed up the ladder we stepped very slowly and silently on the rooftop so as not to make our presence known to anyone who might be below. I noticed a skylight housing set up about 1 foot above the roof surface. Noting that a pane of the pyramid-shaped glass covering was missing, I carefully looked down through the open space and was suddenly surprised to see a bareheaded man in an SS uniform about 20 feet below sitting on a toilet and reading something, with his pants down below his knees and around his boots...I suddenly thought of my grandfather's daily morning prayer of a few years ago and decided to help God answer those prayers and at first thought I would shoot him right through the head...but then hearing the voices of other men, I thought there might be other SS men in the same toilet room? A sudden jolt of adrenaline told me that here was a "target of opportunity" I couldn't afford to let slip by!! I motioned to my buddy, putting my fingers to my lips, for him to be silent and handing him my rifle, while motioning again for him to move farther away, with my left hand I pulled the cotter pin out of the "pineapple" (fragmentation hand-grenade), that I'd taken off my belt with my right hand, putting the pull-ring and cotter pin into my left pocket, to avoid the clatter of dropping it on the roof, while holding down the fuse-lever with the thumb of my right hand.... my partner, now understanding exactly what I had in mind, wisely moved even farther away.....of course, by this time my heart was pounding from the tension as I lay down very low, as close to the roof surface as I could while supporting myself with my left arm and hand underneath me....I then released the lever and dropped the grenade through the skylight opening using my right arm in an arcing motion while simultaneously dropping my body to the roof surface and rolling as far away as I could! The grenade exploded within a couple of seconds...blew the remaining glass out of the skylight and, hopefully killed all the enemy below...the 2 of us, not having any automatic weapons, e.g., a Thompson SMG or an M3 "grease gun", had to get away as rapidly as possible as we couldn't chance a close-in firefight with a group of Waffen SS men especially if they might be armed with machine-pistols? Actually, no other SS men ever chased us and we made it back to our section leader, a brand new replacement 2nd Lieutenant, experiencing his 2nd or 3rd day in combat, and the other scouts, without any further incident! When my partner described to the 2nd Lieutenant what I'd done, he looked at my buddy and me quizzically, as if in disbelief, and said he would report our story to the Company Commander. It was on the tip of my tongue to offer to guide him back to the scene of our little action, which was not more than about 100 yards away, albeit by a somewhat circuitous route, but sensing his lack of self-confidence, I didn't want to put him on the "spot" in front of our group. As we were never questioned later about our rooftop incident I assumed that it was never mentioned to any other officers. Strangely enough, I never felt the slightest guilt at dropping that grenade on the SS trooper(s)? I did feel sorry, however, that they'd never known that a Jewish hand had done it! Was it the result of having seen, and smelled, the horrors of Ohrdruf? Should I worry about myself because I'd begun to consciously enjoy killing the enemy?

Late one afternoon in another town, while I was attached to "F" Company as a sniper (this was a part-time assignment, based on my expert rifle marksmanship record back in Camp Butner, when I wasn't needed for OP or patrol duty in the Combat I&R Section) a 2nd Lieutenant who was leading a squad from his rifle platoon, motioned to the squad to remain behind as he went ahead to reconnoiter an alley between some buildings, and was immediately ambushed by what appeared to be many Germans firing MP40 machine-pistols from upper floor windows (or roofs) of adjoining buildings. It was impossible, in this instance, to find another way to shoot at them without exposing ourselves, so we simply had to wait till nightfall to try to pick up and carry back his body. Our Staff Sergeant asked for 2 volunteers to get the 2nd Lieutenant 's body, and as my "rooftop" buddy volunteered, I felt I had to volunteer also, especially as the Lieutenant had been a USMA graduate! Luckily, it was a moonless night, so taking 2 GI blankets with us, we crawled about 15 yards next to a building wall, groping around in the dark, till we could feel his cold, wet and sticky body.... we never found his helmet.... we laid out the doubled blanket alongside as best we could in the dark, rolled his body over onto it, folded it over him and with each of us holding an end, carried him hammock-style, while we crouched as much as possible, back to our Staff Sergeant and the rest of our group!

When we got him inside the cellar, which was our immediate CP, and unrolled the blanket, we saw a bloody, sticky mass of flesh, bones, intestines, etc., inside and outside of what was left of his "Ike" jacket.... his face was unrecognizable and a small part of his skull, and brain, was missing! The Staff Sergeant, my "rooftop" buddy and myself gagged repeatedly and almost vomited.... we looked for some rags so we could wipe the wet and sticky blood and some intestinal (?) fluids off our hands and sleeves using some of our canteen water.... the Sergeant estimated the Lieutenant had been hit with at least 30 bullets (9mm Parabellum) to both his head and torso! Although, by this time I had seen many, many dead men during combat, I had never, till that moment seen a man so close-up who was so horribly torn, almost to pieces, as to barely resemble a human being! It was, literally, a shattering revelation that's impossible to forget, just like the piles upon piles of corpses in Ohrdruf. Thank God his wife, mother or other relative, would be spared all this visual agony by reading the simple statement, "Killed in Action", or "KIA", after his name!

I later wondered why our Lieutenant hadn't sent one of us plain infantrymen to reconnoiter instead of going himself? After all, my MOS was 761, i.e., scout-observer, and had he sent me, I'm sure I would have ended up exactly like he had?


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