World War II Veteran discusses his time in the service

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 8:58 PM EST
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Ninety-seven-year-old Ray Brown is a South Parkersburg native who served in World War II from 1943 - 1945. He and his five friends at the time all enlisted together after they turned 18 and graduated high school in January of 1943.

Brown said during that time, you didn’t have a choice. At the age of 18, you had to enlist, but it was a waiting game until you got called up.

“My job was a radio operator and they didn’t need me and somebody didn’t have time to go out and they said ‘well I don’t have any money I can’t go’ I said sarge I got the money and he said you wanna go three days and back to London again and I said yeah I liked London,” Brown said.

Brown was in the 17th airborne division, which fought in the Battle of the Bulge against the Germans.

“January the 7th 1945 at Bathstone we went into our first day of battle against the Germans and the snow was up to our waists in places,” Brown said. “You just had to, you had your underwear on, it was long johns, and a jacket and your combat jacket. I threw mine away because it got too heavy. We lost 2/3 of our company the very first day of battle.”

Brown said his company started the day with 150 men. By the end of the first day of battle, about 40 remained.

Later on, Brown went to a hospital in France for 54 days to treat his frozen feet, which reached all the way up to his knees, for which he earned a Purple Heart.

The 17th airborne was disbanded in July of 1945. Originally, all the men from the 82nd airborne were put into the 17th airborne; however, when they returned to the States, everyone was discharged.

When he returned home, Brown returned home to help his dad on the farm, but after a couple of months, Brown wanted a change. He applied for jobs all around until he got a call at Sears where he worked for the next 39 years. Next was to find a place to live, and he decided to build a house on two lots of land he purchased on Division Street where he would live for the next 55 years.

When asked if Brown would go back into the service….

“Yes, I would do it again! I mean because I didn’t know anything by doing it. If I was to ever go, I believe in America and I love it.”

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