Veterans….. We’ve Thanked You Less than You’ve Deserved
by Cate Murway
Veterans Day was originally called “Armistice Day” when it was proclaimed an official US holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in November 1919. It is observed every year on November 11th.
So, there is still time. Time to locate and recognize a veteran, time to say thank you for serving, thank you for stepping forward when others stepped back. Thank you for the historical significance you've made. There were 16,112,566 individuals in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, but so few veterans are left to recount their experiences.
Without the sacrifice of our brave armed forces there would be no liberty. Look them directly in the eye and tell them that their heroic efforts in defense of freedom and liberty were not fought in vain.
We are safe because of the innumerable who were strong enough to put themselves in danger. We must thank these almost invisible heroes for what have remained their virtually unspoken valiant feats. Their riveting accounts of their dedicated sacrifice are far more meaningful than any contrived fiction. Movies have nothing on reality.
If you were to pass aging World War II veterans on the street, they would probably resemble the other graying, bespectacled elderly. But, like so many of the daring military, though they seldom talk about it, they can still tell one heck of a story.
Silent heroes live among us.
Chief Petty Officer Neil Elbert Brown, Sr. [namesake of his maternal grandfather, Elbert Joel Howe] willingly shared a small exhilarating account of his true dramatic adventures and harrowing dangers while he served in the US NAVY between 1940 and1946. He accomplished incredible things and endured awful things. For the most part, he and the multitude of brave Americans pretty much kept it to themselves. They just faded back into the fabric of a comfortable civilian life.
Let us be thankful for such men and women. As often stated, “The price of Freedom is Never Free”.
Neil E. Brown was raised in DeRuyter, NY [named after Dutch Admiral Michiel Adriaenszoon De Ruyter] by his parents, Mary Veronica [Howe] and Marine Corps Private Neil Marion Brown, along with his late sister Carol and his three brothers, the late Fred and Robert; and the youngest, David who still resides in DeRuyter, NY.
His father was stationed on the Battleship Wyoming (BB-32) during WWI, the lead ship of her class of dreadnought battleships. He raised his family for almost 50 years working as a flagman and then as a conductor on the New York Central Railroad Company. The NYCRR, symbolic of progress and goodwill ambassadors across the country, served much of the industrial parts, as well as being a major passenger railroad. Jobs were kept by seniority and his dad constantly lived in fear of being “bumped off”. The Depression deepened and frustrations mounted and they “ate a lot of hot dogs and hamburgers”.
“Buddy, can you spare a dime?” In 1932, Congress gave an "adjusted universal compensation" to the veterans for their military service and for wages they had lost while serving the country in combat. His father’s sister owned some acreage around a lake at the reservoir. Neil’s father bought all the lumber left from the demolition of a local hotel and he built a cottage on the property near the lake and they lived there for almost 5 years. Neil still keeps a piece of the lumber in his garage.
They had no electricity or refrigeration. Cooking and warmth were provided by the wood range in the kitchen and a round oak stove in the parlor. Creativity was key. His father bought a hind quarter of beef for just $.07 cents a pound and left it to freeze on the porch. His grandfather raised chickens and supplied them with eggs. They finally had some electric when Mr. Brown bought a 32 volt generator.
“I did regular kid things growing up.” Neil delivered the Syracuse Herald- Journal, “the clean and wholesome paper for the family”, to the homes around the six miles of lake. He loved to fish and pick buckets of tart red thimbleberries for his grandmother so she could make jam. Creamed chipped beef, "Stew on a Shingle", on toast or potatoes was an especially favorite meal.
He spent all 12 grades in the same class at his school. Neil graduated from the one building public DeRuyter Central High in 1940. “I majored in getting out!”
He enlisted in the Navy on September 4, 1940 and was sent first to The Naval Station Newport, R.I. (NAVSTA Newport) before shipping out to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard (MINSY) in Vallejo, CA.
“I was at sea.”
One week later he was in Pearl Harbor. They were keeping eight boilers running at 475°, making sure they didn’t produce smoke, and guarding the ships. “We had visual contact with three or four Japanese destroyers where they shouldn’t have been, so we left.”
All their possessions had to be thrown overboard so there was no identification remaining in case they had to abandon ship. “Five years and nine months. It was interesting.”
The USS Boise saw extensive action during World War II. Its 35 months in the Pacific and Mediterranean waters earned the ship 11 battle stars. The light cruiser’s motto came to be “A One Ship Fleet” after a night of battle on October 11, 1942 when the USS Boise alone sank 6 Japanese ships.
“We were shot up pretty bad one night protecting the Marines in the Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre.”
Were you scared? “Damn right! Savo Island was the scariest ever and the second was trapping the Japanese in the Philippines.” The sea battles took place every few days, with increasing delays on each side to regroup and refit.
Cruiser Boise's forward 6-inch ready ammunition was detonated by a pair of 8-inch hits from Furutaka, killing everyone inside turrets number 1 and number 2, disabling her, though the magazine crew kept minimum amount ammunition exposed and probably saved the ships from worse fate; perfectly-timed flooding also prevented further explosions aboard Boise. Neil worked in the boiler room. “We lost 107 men.”
The USS Boise (CL-47) made her way to the Philadelphia Navy Yard to undergo repairs.
It was there that Neil met his wife, Dora Mary [Rocchi] at a party on West Oak Lane. “Her parents owned the Rocchi Deli on Temple Road & Upsal Street.
He smiled as he remembered. She said, ‘That’s the man I’m going to marry’ when she met me”.
Neil and Dora were married July 14, 1945 in Saint Raymond Church, a large stone barn on Nolan Farm. He and his late wife have a “handful of children”, Neil E., Jr., Maria, Michael, Thomas and Deborah, ten grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
The repaired Boise left Philadelphia, departing for the Mediterranean, arriving at Algiers, Algeria acting as a cover and fire support ship for the Amphibious Battle of Gela during the Invasion of Sicily. The Boise carried General Douglas “Dugout Doug” MacArthur on a 3,500 mile tour of the Philippines and Brunei Bay, Borneo battlefront before returning to San Pedro, CA. MacArthur traveled aboard the light cruiser watching as the ship was nearly hit by a bomb and torpedoes fired by midget submarines.
Neil reminisced, “He always smoked a corn cob pipe.” Boise was decommissioned in July 1946.
There was no fanfare when the soldiers returned home. Neil only remembers hearing some sirens and horns when they were on the bus on their long trek back.
The Browns’ first home was in Lacey Park before they relocated to Warminster, PA. Neil found local work with McCloskey & Jennings (Plumbing & Heating) and then with Guy M. Cooper, Inc. “I was a jobber; mostly repair work.”
He learned to drive in a 1928 or 1929 Franklin, a luxury brand, upscale automobile of the H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company [1893-1934] that fell victim to the Great Depression.
His first car was a 1941 black Chevy.
Hershey bars were $.05 when they became his favorite.
Hershey's supplied American troops in Europe and the Pacific with more than a billion special "Ration D" or "Tropical" chocolate bars that did not melt in the hot and humid Pacific theater.
As a youth, before television, radio was the dominant home entertainment medium. Neil would sit in front of their Sears & Roebuck wooden radio with its neatly turned spindle legs and listen to Major Bowes Amateur Hour. It was the radio’s best known talent show where untalented performers were quickly dispatched by the sounding of a loud bell or a gong. He also remembers listening to the records of Paul Samuel Whiteman [1890 –1967], an American bandleader and orchestral director, and the bandleader and violinist, Gaetano Alberto "Guy" Lombardo [1902 –1977]. “My music was Guy Lombardo!”
Neil sorely misses Dora.
His dog, “Smokey” keeps him company. He makes weekly jaunts to eat and chat with friends at Daddypops Diner in Hatboro. Injured knees keep him from riding a motorcycle, a bike or a horse. “Not sure which one bothers me most”, he laughed.
Our Nation cries out for heroes and role models of strength, character, and inspiration. We must not allow the passing of time and fading memories to obscure those very heroes we need so badly, from our consciousness.
THANK YOU…………….. We’ve Thanked You Less than You’ve Deserved.
Looking for Veterans for a “Spotlight”. Email email@example.com
Shay Joseph Devlin Sr. of Warminster died suddenly Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. He was 31.
He was the son of Thomas R. and Deborah A. (Brown) Devlin; step-son of Rebecca Devlin; father of Siobhan and Shay Joseph Jr.; brother of Kyle and Ryan; grandson of Neil and the late Dora Brown, and also Raymond and Joan Devlin.
Relatives and friends may greet the family 9:30 a.m. Thursday, at St. Joseph's Church, Easton and County Line Roads, Warrington. Funeral liturgy will be 11 a.m. Interment will be in St. John Neumann Cemetery, Chalfont.Louis Swift Plunkett Funeral Home, Hatboro
David K. Brown, 75, of DeRuyter, passed away December 21, 2015 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse.
He was born in DeRuyter and retired after 33 years at Carrier Corp. in Syracuse.
David was a 43-year member of the Tioughnioga Fire Dept. in DeRuyter, was a member of Ruritan, and was a member of the DeRuyter Masonic Lodge 692.
Surviving: his daughter, Kathy (Keith) White of DeRuyter; sons, Keith (Judy) of Auburn and Terry (Betty) of DeRuyter; brother, Elbert of Philadelphia, PA; grandchildren, Kaleb Brown, Cameron and Kelsey Brown, Matthew, Aaron and Evan White.
He was predeceased by his wife, Judy in 1999.
The funeral service will be Tuesday, December 29, 2015 at 11 a.m. at Smith Funeral Home, DeRuyter. Burial will be in Hillcrest Cemetery, DeRuyter. Calling hours were Monday, December 28, 2015 at the funeral home from 4 to 8 p.m.
Contributions may be made to the Tioughnioga Fire Dept. or DeRuyter Ruritan.
Neil E. Brown Sr. of Warminster died Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. He was 95. He was the husband of the late Dora (Rocchi) Brown, and the father of Neil E. Brown Jr. (Deb), Maria Brown, Michael Brown (Fran), Tom Brown and Debbie Devlin. He was the grandfather of ten and great grandfather of eight. Mr. Brown was a proud U.S. Navy veteran of World War II. Relatives and friends may call from 9:30 a.m. until the funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. Friday, at St. Joseph’s Church, County Line and Easton Roads, Warrington. Interment will be held at St. John Neumann Cemetery in Chalfont. In lieu of flowers, donations to Abington Hospice, 225 Newtown Rd., Warminster, PA 18974, would be appreciated. Louis Swift Plunkett Funeral Home, Hatboro