Join The Navy - Cmdr. Charles Brendler

Cmdr. Charles Brendler 1898-1965 Charles Brendler was born in 1898 and joined the Navy at the age of 15 in 1913. His enlistment began in two peculiar ways, as he was living in New York City at the time and auditioned on board the USS Florida, anchored in the New York Harbor. Brendler was the only musician to pass the physical, but had to hide his age, telling the recruiters that he was 18 years old. While serving on the Florida, he ended up seeking out clarinet teachers at the various foreign ports where the ship would dock. Brendler's assignment on board the Florida ended up being the only such assignment of his career when, upon his re-enlistment in 1917, he was transferred to the Navy Yard Band to fill a clarinet vacancy. Brendler remained in this band for the rest of his career. Brendler became the Leader of the Navy Band in January of 1942, took the rank of Lieutenant and soon after began making his mark. With the nation locked in the middle of World War II, Brendler took the opportunity to take advantage of the many musicians who were facing the draft. Brendler requested and was given an extra allowance of 14 members to the Navy Band, bringing the total number of musicians in the organization to 90, a number that became permanent in 1945. A number of notable big band and orchestral musicians of the day joined the Navy Band. As a result, the Navy Band could now play for dances, formal concerts, other governmental functions and funerals at Arlington Cemetery. During this period of time, the Navy band's involvement with Arlington Cemetery increased, as they were there nearly every day honoring Navy personnel. For all of the highlights of Charles Brendler's career at the Navy Band, the tragedy that he was unable to erase from the minds of the musicians occurred near the end of his tenure. On February 25, 1960, 19 members of the Navy Band were killed in a plane crash over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including Assistant Leader Lt. Fultz. The transport plane collided with a Brazilian commercial airliner, marking the largest tragedy in the history of the Navy Band. The Navy Band was in the middle of a diplomatic mission to South America in support of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In an effort to ward off the spread of communism to South America, President Eisenhower traveled to South America as part of "Operation Amigo." The Navy Band accompanied the President to provide whatever support might be needed. While still in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Brazilian President invited President Eisenhower to an unplanned reception at the U.S. embassy in Rio de Janeiro. The Navy Band was asked to provide "semi-classical music," for the reception. A small chamber orchestra was assigned to the event. The transport plane carrying the musicians never reached its destination, however, as it collided with the Brazilian airliner in the heavy fog over a bay outside of Rio de Janeiro. A devastating tragedy to the families and anyone close to the Navy Band, the effects would be felt long afterwards as the Navy never replaced the instrumentation lost. Cmdr. Charles Brendler's service in the Navy Band eventually came to an end in 1962 after a number of extensions allowed him to remain in service up to age 64. At the time of his retirement, he had served an astounding 49 years in the Navy, nearly all of which was with the Navy Band. He also became the first Navy musician to be given the rank of Commander. His leadership through World War II and the early days of the Cold War saw an expansion from 76 to 134 musicians. With 20 years as Leader of the Navy Band, he had served in that capacity for just a little less time than his predecessor, Lt. Charles Benter. These programs were originally broadcast between 1954-1956

This recording is part of the Old Time Radio collection.