Mel Brooks is a beloved American actor, known mostly for his comedic character roles.

Before making films like Young Frankenstein and winning the rare quartet of trophies (Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, Tony), Brooks had another important role. While studying psychology at Brooklyn Colley, he was drafted to fight in World War Two. As a combat engineer with the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion, 78th Infantry Division, Brooks had the dangerous but vital job of defusing land mines.

He also fought in one of the most important battles of WWII, the Battle of the Bulge. Although his time in combat was likely a horrifying and difficult experience, Brooks moved on after his discharge from the Army and went on to share his comedic genius with the world.

His skill at defusing mines was left behind for his skill of comedic timing. Brooks has made several jokes over the years about his time fighting the war. Perhaps his best use of comedy to make a statement about the war, though, was in directing the film The Producers.

The satirical film takes on Hitler and combines Brooks’s comedy chops and his knowledge of the hell of war in a hilarious way. Had Brooks not been so good at defusing bombs, we might not have been laughing quite so much in all the years since WWII.