Past, Present And Future
Frank And Benno
Two Detroiters meet by chance in the Army and become best pals.
I t was looking like a very dis-
mal Rosh Hashanah.
Benno Levi was part of
Company A of the 305th
Infantry Regiment, 77th Division.
The men, stationed on Guam, had
just fought in a terribly violent battle.
It was hardly a time for joy.
But it was Sept. 17, 1944, erev
Rosh Hashanah, and Levi was going
to services. He was- riding in a truck,
driving up Harmon Road on his way
to the chaplain's tent at division head-
-quarters, which was serving as a
makeshift synagogue. He was feeling
His buddies were pretty emotional,
too, and the holiday service, led by
Chaplain Barnett, really got to them
all, right in the heart.
Afterward, a bunch of the men
were on their way to their companies.
Levi, who today lives in Oak Park,
remembers feeling downright miser-
"I was very depressed," he says.
"My family was back at home, having
a celebration, and I was thinking, 'I'm
sad and lonely.' A few days before,
one of the guys had a banjo and was
singing, 'I'm sad and lonely and lone-
ly and oh, so blue.' That song kept
going over and over in my head."
Then someone mentioned
Levi, who lived in Detroit, where
Dexter Boulevard was at the heart of
the Jewish neighborhood, sat up. He
asked: "Are you from Detroit?"
"No," came the response. "I was
just visiting there. But that guy" —
he pointed to a short, stocky soldier
nearby — "he's from Detroit."
That guy. His name was Frank
Faudem, and Benno Levi was about
to meet one of the best friends he
would ever know.
But first, Levi simply had to get
into the Army.
To the rest of the world, Benno
Levi looked like any other American
boy ripe for military service. The
draft board found him, and Levi duti-
fully showed up and quickly received
a preliminary OK.
But the U.S. government wasn't
After Levi hadn't heard back from
the draft board for what seemed a
surprisingly long time, he learned that
he was being investigated by the FBI.
Levi was born in Germany and
come to the United States in 1935.
That made him suspicious, a poten-
tial "enemy alien."
Finally, though, he was declared
acceptable and was shipped off for
Levi, then 20, spent his first Rosh
Hashanah away from home at Camp
Walters in Mineral Wells, Texas. It
was 1943, and already the war was
beginning to turn in the Allies' favor.
Italy had just surrendered.
Levi began keeping a journal of his
life in the military, a journal he would
continue until he came home. He
wrote about his experiences during
the war, of course, but also about
what Winston Churchill was saying,
what the weather was like, how good
it was to have his first Coke in
At Camp Walters, Levi met
up with two fellow Detroiters,
Donald Shapiro and Harold
Gendler. Regardless of affilia-
tion back home, everyone
joined together for the Jewish
services at Camp Walters,
where the Army chaplain
spoke about preparing for
the dark days ahead and the
importance of keeping
Afterward, there was a
holiday lunch, prepared
by the local Jewish com-
munity. Some of the
Detroiters, friends from
Central High, sat
"It was a great
reunion," Levi says.
"Then we each went
our own way; and we would-
n't see each other again for
many years, if ever."
Levi's best friend during the
war, though, was a guy from
Detroit he'd never even known
back home, though they had
lived in the same neighborhood.
Frank Faudem was a star. He
was good looking, smart and ath-
letic. He was so good at sports, in
fact, that he had been the captain
of the Central High School baseball
team and already was signed up to
play with the Detroit Tigers after the
war. He also was a smooth talker.
The afternoon of the second day of
FRANK AND BENNO on page 50