The history of war is full of heroes who displayed inexplicable gallantry and heroism under the most harrowing of circumstances. And then, there are just really funny men who did their part as the rest.
Mel Brooks once quipped, “I was a combat engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in this world are combat and engineering.” Mel Brooks would go on to become a famous movie star, writer, comedian, and producer. His films have become classics, and his humor has transcended generations to remain relevant today.
But if he hadn’t of been as skilled at clearing land mines as it turns out he was, the world would never have known the comedy genius of Mel Brooks.
A Rough Start in Brooklyn
Brooks was born Melvin James Kaminsky in 1926 Brooklyn to Jewish parents of German and Ukrainian descent. His father died at the age of two, and Brooks would grow up poor, small, and sickly in the rough neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
He often said he developed his sense of humor to spare himself problems – like a punch in the face. He would go on to graduate High School and attend a year of college before he was drafted into the Army in 1944.
An intelligent man as we would learn from his comedy, he ranked high in testing and was sent to the elite Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Located at Virginia Military Institute, he would be taught a variety of specialized combat tasks such as horse riding, saber wielding, and his eventual job of combat engineering.
However, the combat arms that was fighting the war overseas had a problem with some of its brightest recruits being kept out of the fight. After just 12 weeks of training for Brooks, the Army canceled the program, and he was sent to Fort Sill for regular basic training.
After training, Brooks would eventually be shipped to Europe in late 1944. Due to his reported high intelligence, his first duties were as a forward artillery observer. Making adjustment to outgoing artillery fire is hardly an easy task, and it takes exceptional knowledge with eyes on the target to do so with skill.
Eventually, he was transferred to the 1104th Engineer Combat Group just in time for the Battle of the Bulge. This last ditch effort by the Germans to push back the advancing allies would see over 250,000 German troops push into the allied lines. American speaking Germans had infiltrated the American lines wearing captured uniforms as they sabotaged communications lines and supplies.
It was under this chaotic environment that Mel Brooks would move to the front of the lines and take out German land mines.
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