Staff Sergeant Horace C. Brown (1924–1945)

Horace Carl Brown (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareStudent
BranchService Number
U.S. Army12100425
TheaterUnit
EuropeanCompany “B,” 335th Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge (presumed)Operation Clipper, Battle of the Bulge, Operation Grenade

Early Life & Family

Horace Carl Brown was born in Wilmington, Delaware on February 25, 1924.  He was the son of D. Carl (1903–1952) and Beryl Vaughn Brown (née Doughten, later Young, 1904–1968).  When he was recorded on the census on April 2, 1930, Brown was living with his parents at 706 West 9th Street in Wilmington.  By April 23, 1940, the family had moved to what the census listed as Road 385 in the 11th Reporting District.  That street, located in unincorporated New Castle County on the south side of Newark, is now known as Reybold Road.  Brown graduated from Wilmington High School in 1941 and began attending the University of Delaware in Newark.


Training Stateside and Overseas

When Brown registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, he was described as standing 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 160 lbs., with brown hair and eyes. The State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record form filled out by his father indicated that Brown joined the Enlisted Reserve while he was a student at the University of Delaware.

Brown’s enlistment data indicates that he joined the U.S. Army in Newark, Delaware on October 24, 1942. A March 16, 1945 Journal-Every Evening article stated: “He was called to active duty in May, 1943, and given basic training at Camp Wolters, Tex.  Assigned to the Army [Specialized Training Program], he studied at Lehigh University until that program was stopped.  He was assigned to the infantry and was sent to Camp Claiborne, La., last March.  He went overseas in September [1944].” 

Jim Sterner, another soldier whose military career followed a similar arc to Brown’s, provided further detail about that process in a 2021 interview.  Both Sterner and Brown were in the Enlisted Reserve at University of Delaware and were called up in May 1943.  He recalled that they spent about a week at Fort Dix, New Jersey (getting uniforms and other administrative matters) before traveling to Camp Wolters.  Both took tests and earned scores that made them eligible for A.S.T.P., although Sterner attended Drexel University rather than Lehigh.  U.S. Army planners terminated the A.S.T.P. program in early 1944 due to projected manpower shortages.

It seems likely that Brown joined his final unit—Company “B,” 335th Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division—at Camp Claibourne, Louisiana.  At the very least, what is known of Brown’s movements closely match those of the 84th Infantry Division, known as the “Railsplitters.”  According to Theodore Draper’s 1946 book, The 84th Infantry Division in the Battle of Germany, the division “moved, on November 15, 1943, to a permanent home at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana”.  Draper added:

Early in April 1944 the 84th was strengthened materially by the assignment of 2800 former A.S.T.P. men.  They were distributed among the three infantry regiments and given five weeks special training.  As a group, their age and academic training made them welcome additions. 

Jim Sterner also joined the 84th Infantry Division in April 1944 (albeit a different regiment, the 333rd Infantry).  He told me that Draper’s book glossed over conflict between the older original members of the division and the younger, better educated former A.S.T.P. men.  At the beginning, Sterner recalled, the 84th was “two different divisions,” though he noted that in combat, “we became a unit in a hurry.”

The 84th Infantry Division moved up to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey late in the summer of 1944.  Shelby L. Stanton wrote in his book World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division 1939–1946 that the 335th Infantry Regiment shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation on September 29, 1944, arriving in England on October 10. 

Brown’s father wrote that his son was promoted from private 1st class to staff sergeant in Germany in October 1944.  Beyond the fact that the 84th Infantry Division was still in transit or in England during October 1944, that date might be off by a few months.  Although the rapid expansion of the U.S. Army during World War II meant that it was not unheard of for enlisted men to jump three grades at once, it seems more likely that Staff Sergeant Brown’s father skipped over some promotions when filling out the document, which only had space to list one promotion.  Jim Sterner expressed surprise at the date of Brown’s promotion.  Although he was in another regiment, he recalls that the former A.S.T.P. men weren’t promoted beyond private 1st class until the 84th Infantry Division began taking casualties in combat later that fall.


Combat in the European Theater

The 84th Infantry Division arrived in Normandy in early November 1944 and moved quickly to the front, by that point located at the fortifications known as the Siegfried Line along the Germany border.  Draper wrote that the 335th Infantry Regiment entered combat in the vicinity of Aachen, Germany on November 10, 1944.  The main body of the 84th Division went into action on November 18 during Operation Clipper against the Geilenkirchen salient.  A month of tough fighting followed.

On December 16, 1944, everything changed with the beginning of a new German offensive through the Ardennes that came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.  Though the men of the 84th Infantry Division had been making steady headway against the Siegfried Line, they were ordered south to help stem the German breakthrough in the Ardennes by defending the area of Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium.  Further fighting blunted the German advance, and the 335th Infantry Regiment supported the 2nd Armored Division in a counterattack beginning January 3, 1945.

84th Infantry Division infantrymen marching in Belgium during the winter of 1944–5. These men are form the 333rd Infantry Regiment rather than Staff Sergeant Brown’s 335th. (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, National Archives)

If he wasn’t already, by February 1944 Staff Sergeant Brown was a member of Company “B,” 335th Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division.  According to the 335th Infantry Regiment February 1945 after action report, as of February 1, 1945, the unit “was in a rest area in Belgium, reorganizing after completing operations in the Gouvy-Ourthe sector.”  Two days later, the regiment moved to Schaesberg in the Netherlands, only about ten miles from where it first had entered combat some three months earlier. 

The 84th Infantry Division’s next assignment was Operation Grenade, in which the U.S. Ninth Army crossed the Roer River and drove east to the Rhine.  Originally set to begin on February 9, 1945, the operation was delayed when the Germans intentionally flooded the area by releasing water from a pair of dams upriver.  The 335th Infantry Regiment used the extra time for training. 

On the morning of February 23, 1945, Operation Grenade began.  Advancing from the area of Linnich, Germany, the 335th successfully crossed the Roer and, along with the rest of the 84th Infantry Division, attacked north through heavy German resistance.  The regiment moved rapidly, capturing Houverath on February 25, and Golkrath and Hoven on the 26th, and Wegberg on the 27th.

The 335th Infantry Regiment’s after action report stated that on February 28, 1945:

The order was received at 1200 to move to an assembly area southeast of Waldniel.  At 1244 the 1st [which included Staff Sergeant Brown’s company] and 3rd [Battalions] moved from positions en route to the assemble area and encountered enemy small arms, machine gun, mortar and artillery fire.  After the enemy resistance was neutralized and the assembly area cleared, defensive positions were established, and preparations were made for continuing the attack without delay.

Draper wrote that it took Brown’s battalion “12 hours to clear out the whole city” of Waldniel.  The specifics of his death aren’t clear, but Staff Sergeant Brown was killed in action that day. 

During his service, Brown earned the Bronze Star Medal and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.  Staff Sergeant Brown was initially buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery Margraten in the Netherlands, but in 1949 his body was returned to the United States and buried at Gracelawn Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware.


Notes

Date & Location of Death

The Individual Military Service Record filled out by Staff Sergeant Brown’s father listed an erroneous date of death (March 28, 1945) and gave the location as Geilenkirchen, Germany (about 20 miles from where Brown was killed).


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Rick Bell for providing 335th Infantry Division documentation, to Jim Sterner for background information, and to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of Staff Sergeant Brown’s photograph.


Bibliography

Applications for Headstones, compiled 01/01/1925 – 06/30/1970, documenting the period ca. 1776 – 1970.  Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774 –1985.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_2421401755_0396-00763

“Beryl Brown Young.”  Find a Grave.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/137939270/beryl-young

Brown, D. Carl. Individual Military Service Record for Horace Carl Brown, circa 1946.  Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17851

“D. Carl Brown.” Find a Grave.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/137939271/d-carl-brown

Draper, Theodore.  The 84th Infantry Division in the Battle of Germany November 1944–May 1945.  The Viking Press, 1946. https://archive.org/details/84thInfDivBattleOfGermany

“Horace C. Brown.” Journal-Every Evening, March 16, 1945.  Pg. 14. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/58979017/horace-c-brown/

New Castle County 1940 census map.  National Archives.  https://1940census.archives.gov/search/?search.result_type=map&search.state=DE&search.county=New+Castle+County&search.city=&search.street=#searchby=location&searchmode=browse&year=1940

“Sgt Horace Carl Brown.” Find a Grave.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/50339479/horace-carl-brown

“Sgt. Horace C. Brown Rites to Be Thursday.”  Journal-Every Evening, March 22, 1949.  Pg. 27.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/58970352/staff-sergeant-horace-c-brown/

Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division 1939–1946.  Revised ed.  Stackpole Books, 2006.

Sterner, Jim.  Interview on April 3, 2021.

Taylor, Roger K.  “Action Against Enemy, Reports/After Action Reports 1 Feb – 28 Feb 1945.”  Courtesy of Rick Bell.

“U. of D. Student Killed Overseas.” Journal-Every Evening, March 17, 1945.  Pg. 11. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/58970633/horace-carl-brown-kia/

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531893_00597

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.  National Archives at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00546-00672

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954.  Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/703274641

World War II Army Enlistment Records.  Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland.  https://www.fold3.com/record/83571744-horace-c-brown

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947.  Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System.  National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_08_00001-00645


Last updated on July 23, 2021

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