Veteran stories: Finding his place in the middle

KAI-HUEI YAU STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERNovember 9, 2013 

PASCO -- It's not hard to find Pat Brown. Every morning at 6 a.m., he unlocks the doors at St. Patrick Catholic Parish in Pasco for Mass, as he's done for more than 25 years.

A few hours later, he's running the dice game Ship, Captain and Crew nearby at American Legion Post 34.

Brown, 91, is one of three surviving original members of Merrill's Marauders, the nickname given to the Army's 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) during World War II.

Of the 3,000 who started, only about 200 made it out of Burma (now called Myanmar) alive.

The unit's mission was to disrupt Japanese supply lines and communication, marching 1,000 miles behind the front in the deep jungle to do so.

"You get leeches all over you, parts you won't even mention," he said.

He laughed at the 1962 movie starring Jeff Chandler as Gen. Frank Merrill.

"Halfway through the movie, everybody was in clean clothes, shaved, everything else. No way possible," he said.

They wore the same clothes during their eight months in the jungle. Food and ammunition were scarce and they relied solely on air drops for resupply.

"If the wind blew that way, the Chinese got it; if the wind blew (the other way), the Japs got it. If the wind didn't blow, every once in a while, we got it," he said.

The campaign left mental scars, particularly the memory of a "young kid" who attacked him with a bayonet.

"When he hit me, I squeezed the trigger ... the look on his face haunted me for years. I'd wake up in the middle of the night dreaming of his face in front of me," he said.

That was the only story he told his wife, Elsie, of his war experiences from 1942-45 because his screaming would wake her too, he said. He threw away all of his military memorabilia when he returned home.

"If you've ever been through anything like that, you wouldn't want to think or talk about it or even remember it," he said.

Elsie died about 30 years ago from cancer. Their five surviving children are scattered around the country. One son, Mike Brown, lives in Burbank.

Mike tried to get him to move out to Burbank, he said.

"No way, Jose," was Brown's reply. "It's too far to walk from Burbank into here. ... I'm a block and half from church and a block and a half from the bar.

"I'm sitting pretty."

 

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service