James L. Brazell, Dan True, R.E. Bob Smith

Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.

James L. Brazell
Date of birth: Sept. 21, 1925
Dates of Service: April 1944 to March, 1946
Hometown: Portales
Lives in: Clovis
Theater or location of service: Europe: Germany, Austria, Holland, Yugoslavia
Branch:Army
Rank: Private 1st Class
Unit and specialty: 8th Armored Division, 7th Armored Infantry Battalion.
After discharge: Clovis

In his words: Armored infantry battalions moved fast through Europe, covering a lot of ground as Brazell recalls.

He was a recipient of the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a presidential citation among other medals.

“War is hell, they should wish no one would have to go to war but sometimes we have to do this anyhow,” Brazell said.

His memories are difficult for him, he saw a lot of men, his friends, maimed and killed.

He crossed the “Dragons Teeth” of the Siegfried line between France and Germany, crossed the Rhine river with tanks riding on pontoon boats and marched through countless towns and villages.

He said he remembers every one of them.

He remembers (the Germans) always had snipers hiding in churches, towers and grain elevators.

On one occasion, incoming 88-millimeter shells hit his half track and another truck in front of them.

He recalls the unit’s Bugle was on the seat of the other truck. When it was hit, “the Bugle went 60 feet in the air. “

“We never had a Bugle after that,” he said.

Still taking fire, two of his buddies in the half-track with him were hit.

Grabbing each by an arm, he pulled them out so they could get medical help.

One of his most horrific experiences came about when he and two of his friends went up on a hill and were shelled by their own artillery.

“One of the guys was on the ground, about 20 feet from me on my left, while the other was on the ground about the same distance on my right. Both got killed.”

On March 29, 1945, Brazell’s unit charged a town in Dorston, Germany. As they entered the village, he was hit in the right thigh.

A German woman had fired a tracer round through the window of her home, hitting him as he passed.

“She didn’t make it,” he said.

Brazell was treated in the field by a medic and then sent to Austria, after which he was sent to Belgium to heal and recuperate.

Despite all he experienced in war, Brazell holds true to his belief that it had to be done.

“I believe that anyone who has fought in a war will tell you that he’d rather fight them on their soil than on our soil — everyone of us have made a difference so our children can feel safe in our country.”

Dan True
Date of birth: Dec. 8, 1924
Dates of service: June 1943 to February 1946
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Lives in: Clovis
Theater or location of service: Europe and the Philippines.
Branch: Army
Rank: Tech Sergeant
Unit and specialty: 78th Division, 587th Signal Depo, Chief of teletype
After discharge: Mattoon, Ill.

In his words: In uniform three weeks after graduating high school, True, like so many others, found himself in the midst of a war and putting life on pause.

To this day, True doesn’t understand how he ended up missing the Battle of the Bulge.

For some reason his captain chose to transfer him to another unit. “The captain didn’t make it” he recalls.

His unit, the 78th Division, had a two-thirds casualty rate in the Battle of the Bulge.

True still feels that he was fortunate because of his captain’s unexplained decision.

He was transferred into a high-tech company where he found himself surrounded by MIT graduates and feeling a bit outclassed as a mere high school graduate.

At that time the unit was involved in radar which was “very, very secret. A word you didn’t even say.”

True discovered his role was to perform KP duties for these men.

Not satisfied with KP duty and determined to be more, True worked tirelessly to be placed in the teletype unit.

Once he managed to get into teletype school, he broke all teletyping speed records and achieved the highest grades, he said.

While everyone else was out drinking, he was in the barracks studying late into the night.

In the end, the youngest among his peers, he found himself the new section chief.

While in Europe, for entertainment, True and his buddy Elliot Gray, both “aviation nuts,” would often catch flights on C47s to a fighter base in France so they could see the fighter jets.

It was on one such jaunt that he recalls the captain of the plane walked back during the flight to announce that the Germans had surrendured.

After Hitler surrendered, True was allowed a furlough home and was then sent to the Philippines.

Looking back, he said the German surrender was actually depressing because it wasn’t an end, but the “beginning of the second half.”

“For a 20 year old, it looked as though life wouldn’t begin until we were 30 years old,” he said.

The invasion of Japan was looming around the corner for the already weary American troops.

True meet General Paul Tibbets, pilot of the B-29 “Enola Gay” that dropped the Hiroshima bomb. “I shook his hand and I thanked him for my life,” True said.

R.E. Bob Smith
Date of birth: Jan. 12, 1925
Dates of service: 1943 to 1946
Hometown: Clovis
Lives in: Clovis
Theater or location of service: Pacific
Branch: Army
Rank: Tech sergeant
Specialty: Combat medic
After discharge: Clovis

In his words: While on a boat in the China Sea, Smith’s unit encountered a typhoon.

Their top-heavy boat was in constant danger of capsizing during the storm, tipping as much as 40 degrees.

Anyone who went to the deck of the ship had to tie themselves to the boat so they would not get tossed overboard.

Smith said the men had to sleep in hammocks to prevent rolling out of bed.

World War II profiles are compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail:
sharna_johnson@link.freedom.com