Looking back on service: Craig man one of the last remaining local WWII veterans
He didn’t have many friends when he joined the Marine Corps in the early 1940s.
“I didn’t have no friends but the cooks and bakers,” said 94-year-old Craig Marine veteran Gerald “Tuffy” Brown Jr., whose first job in the Corps was a cook.
“I needed that 21 bucks a month they was paying,” Brown said from his home off Colorado Highway 13.
For a teenager, $21 per month back then was a decent salary. Brown recalls being a bit older than 15, but not much.
“I was probably 16,” Brown said. “I went in when I was 16 and told them a lie.”
Brown recalls much of his training was on the island of Saipan.
“They sent us over there to train, had sort of a boot camp there,” Brown said. “You joined up and they sent you down there and you were lucky to be there 30 days before they shipped you out.”
At first, he settled into the work of serving fellow riflemen their food.
“We had a lot of guys coming through and they had cake. I made a big ol’ cake,” Brown recalled one story. “This one guy was giving somebody a bad time and asked, ‘Hey, cooky, can I have two pieces of cake?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ So I flipped my ol’ bayonet out and cut his in half. He didn’t think that was too funny.”
But as time wore on, Brown said he became a .50 caliber machine gun instructor. Brown fought alongside Marines during WWII’s Pacific campaign, and was wounded during the fighting.
“Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima was the last one,” Brown said. “They had us all lined up for Japan proper and then Tojo chickened out. We had the ships lined up ready to go. The Japs all decided they had enough and signed the treaty.”
Brown’s son, Herald Brown, also of Craig, said his dad didn’t speak much about his time in WWII.
“He kinda kept it to himself,” Herald said via phone Thursday. “He would never talk about it. The grandkids got him to talk about it when they had school projects and reports and stuff.”
Herald says his dad saw war like few have.
“They stormed that beach and he was in the mix over there,” Herald said.
Herald said his dad worked hard in the oil fields after returning from war.
“He worked a lot — worked seven days a week in the oil field getting money for the family,” Herald said.
It was a different time to be a kid — especially one of Brown’s children — who have since spread across the U.S. They include Kevin and Wanda in Craig; Sue Foster of Mesa, Arizona; Debbie Lund of Minnesota; and Gerald Gresham of Rio Vista, Texas.
“You weren’t going to get away with the kind of stuff kids get away with now,” Herald said of his childhood with his dad.
Brown hates rice now due to his time in the Pacific.
“He had to live on that stuff over there,” Herald said. “He didn’t much care for rice.”
Brown wants the next generation of Americans to prevent another world war.
“They better get their stuff together and don’t let it happen,” Brown said. “You can’t wait and wait. That’s the way I see it.”