ASTP and Pre-Med at University of Cincinnati, Ohio
I was enrolled directly into the 2nd quarter of the Basic Engineering Course, comprising 3 quarters, because even though I would have been otherwise qualified to be placed directly into the 1st quarter of the Advanced Engineering Course, which also comprised 3 quarters, I lacked a course in Inorganic Chemistry in my previous college work. I was told that when I'd completed 'Basic Engineering 2', I'd then go directly into 'Advanced Engineering 1', thereby skipping 'Basic Engineering 3'! It was near the end of this very quarter that news came through that the Engineering portion of ASTP was to be shut down because the need for engineers had dwindled while the Army's need for physicians and surgeons had increased tremendously due to the sharp increase in combat casualties. This caused the Army to request all the ASTP and Army Air Corps Ground School students at the university, a total of about 450 enlisted men, to take a Medical Aptitude Exam, Professional Form 20. Two days after completing this exam I was summoned into a large conference room, containing a combination of about 14 civilian physicians and Army Medical Officers, including a colonel, who addressed me as "Cadet Brandell" and informed me that I'd attained the 2nd highest score, i.e., 298/300, or 99.33%, of all those who'd participated in the examination, and that I was one of the top 40 Pre-Medical School candidates selected to be enrolled in the University of Cincinnati in the accelerated Pre-Medical Course of study comprising 3 college quarters (Note: School comprised about 8-10 hours of class and/or labs a day with additional homework and study hours in our dormitory each evening). We also had physical education classes, including fencing lessons. After our first fencing lesson our civilian fencing instructor, saying he saw in my fencing style that I'd had previous exposure to fencing lessons, which I'd had in high school, selected me to be his assistant, and I was excused thereafter from all other physical education classes.
After having completed the previous 2nd quarter of the Basic Engineering and also completing the 2 quarters of the Pre-Med course, and having recently commenced the 3rd, and final quarter of Pre-Med, I was advised via the Red Cross that my father had died suddenly in mid-September (?) 1944. After a 3-day emergency leave, plus travel time, to attend my father's funeral, and after I'd returned to UC, while I was still in "shock", I read an Army poster on a hallway bulletin board asking for volunteers, with some minimum eyesight requirements, for the Infantry, and offering a choice of theater of operations! I thought about this for quite a while, and then decided not to continue with the 3rd, and final, Quarter of the Pre-Med course and volunteered to return to the Infantry, choosing the ETO, even though the Unit Adjutant said, after checking my records, I had already been enrolled in the University of Tennessee-Nashville Medical School, based on my 96% average for the first 2 quarters of the Pre-Med Course! I'd even had a "blue star", signifying "Honor Student", embroidered by the Army on the left cuff of my uniform "blouse", which paralleled the "gold star" worn on the collar by cadets at the USMA for the same reason. He tried to dissuade me from leaving school saying I would be of much greater value to the Army as a medical doctor than as an infantryman (but, I thought would I be of that much greater value to myself?) and when I insisted, he filled out a form and asked me if I was sure I knew what I was doing, to which I replied, "Yes, sir.", and signed it. He shook my hand and wished me good luck! Maybe I had a "death wish" because of my father's sudden death, because he and I had been very close? Maybe I felt guilty that I'd been enjoying such a relatively "soft" civilian-type life in Cincinnati while other Americans were fighting, and dying, all over the World? Maybe I hankered to accept the challenge of armed combat and wanted to see what it was really like? Maybe I was just plain crazy? To this day I've never understood precisely why I did it. Although I wouldn't do it again now, I have never regretted it, and am still more proud of my combat service, than I am of my academic and professional achievements, such as they may be, and, having been lucky enough to survive some fierce battles, I think it mellowed my entire outlook on life, and made me a better person! (I don't think most people can understand how fragile life can be on the battlefield unless they experience actual infantry combat themselves, i.e., you'd have to "walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." a few times to get the "feel" of it!)