Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky and graduated high school in 1944 at age 17. He grew up in Brooklyn with his widowed mother and enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduation. He placed high on his intelligence test and was placed in the elite Army Specialized Training Program.
He was sent to Virginia where he studied combat engineering. After only 12 weeks of training the program got shut down due to complaints that the ASTP was taking the best military men away from battle. He was shipped to Oklahoma for basic training and sent to Europe in late 1944.
He was assigned to the 1104th Engineer Combat Group just in time to participate in the Battle of the Bulge. He later said he wasn't in the heat of the battle, though. The division continued and built bridges over rivers and created access for other military divisions. Mel's main job was to deactivate land mines.