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

Infantry Basic Training, Camp Wolters, Texas

Camp Wolters was a large Infantry Replacement Training Center and I suddenly realized that I was destined to be an infantryman! I decided to learn everything possible about my new profession to increase my chances of surviving the war and took Basic Training very seriously. Among other things, I found that I could shoot the Garand M1 rifle like I was born to it! Actually, even though I was right handed, my left eye was dominant and I had to fire the M1 from the left, and would not have been able to shoot well in "rapid fire" if we'd had to use the old Springfield M1903 bolt-action rifle. As a matter of fact, I qualified as "Expert" and my score included 16 "bullseye's" out of 16 shots fired from prone position on the 500-yard line not withstanding that it was drizzling that very afternoon and I had to intermittently blow raindrops out of my rear sight to keep from blurring my view of the target. A Colonel, on duty as range training officer, asked my name and said in the last 2 years of his being in charge of this range he'd never seen anyone shoot 16 "bullseye's" out of 16 shots at 500 yards, rain, shine or otherwise! He was suspicious enough to telephone the target-pit detail to see if anyone knew me and was "fixing" my score! Apparently the sergeant in charge of the pit detail explained that the were from another training battalion and had no idea who's targets they were serving! The Colonel was surprised that any one could shoot this well and ventured a guess that I must be from Kentucky and had done a great deal of hunting. I said I was from New York City and had never gone hunting! {I never let on to anyone on the rifle range that I was a college boy from Brooklyn, New York, and had never owned even a "BB" gun when I was a kid!} Of course, back in our training barracks that weekend I had breakfast served to me in bed by the mess sergeant and was presented with 3 cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes. Little did I know that those cigarettes would only reinforce my smoking habit, which would make me so ill in my later years.

Actually, while in Basic Training I was tagged with the nickname, "College Boy", by the training-cadre Corporal, a mean-spirited guy who was always threatening us with extra duty for the slightest infraction of his 'nitty-gritty' rules. We finally planned to surprise the Corporal with an adventure he'd never forget. We decided to see if we could "humanize" him a little and pay him back for making us scrub the barracks floor with toothbrushes, and for causing us to be denied a weekend pass to town for some minor reason. One Saturday night, during summer, while the platoon sergeant was away off-base, at about 0200 hours, prearranged by all of the trainees in the barracks, four of us picked up the Corporal's bed very quietly, with him in it, sleeping-off a beer binge so very soundly, carried him out into the very center of the huge battalion quadrangle and left him there! Most of us had awakened and dressed long before the bugler sounded "mess call" at about 0800 hours (The usual 0500 "reveille" was not sounded on Sunday morning!) and gathered at windows and doorway, and also outdoors, to watch him. A few seconds after "mess call" sounded the Corporal stirred, opened his eyes and seeing the bright blue sky, suddenly sat up in bed, wide-eyed, dressed only in his underwear, appeared confused, quickly covered himself with his blanket and began running towards our barracks, leaving his bed still out there! Other enlisted men and non-coms walking by towards the mess hall snickered and laughed at him. I think he later complained to the Company Commander, who was a decorated combat veteran of North Africa, and a good egg, and who gave all of us a lecture about never doing such a thing again (with a tiny twinkle in his eye). It was rumored that the Corporal had received a more severe lecture later because he appeared more mellow after that and we came to realize that he was just a 'diamond in the rough'. Incidentally, we found out the Corporal, who had graduated from the Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia, though no mean feat in itself, was not a combat veteran as were most of the other training cadre non-coms. Maybe he had tried to make up for this self-imposed feeling of inadequacy by being especially tough on us!

I went through all the standard difficulties of infantry basic training, e.g., the machine gun and barbed wire infiltration course, 2 runs over the full-combat style obstacle courses every day; 32-mile forced marches, 10-mile speed marches, 2-mile double-time marches, (Note: all marches were performed with "winter" full-field equipment, full 3-day's rations, overcoat, extra boots, rifle and bayonet, etc.), interspersed with many hours of push-ups and other calisthenics, hand-to-hand bayonet-fighting drills, "dirty fighting" classes, close order drills, map reading, night patrols and night maneuvers, etc.; all in the Texas semi-arid 105-degree desert by day, and 45-degree desert by night! Our officers and non-coms, who were mostly combat veterans, used to say that this training would make us so "ornery" we'd be "able to chew razor blades and spit nails!!" It seemed to give us a lot of confidence in our fighting ability, and also tended to obscure the fact that death is ever-present on the battlefield in spite of our newly found "toughness."


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