Prisoner of War, Joseph Brown Jr., honored for his service during WWII
To memorialize Brown, who passed away in May 1999, a display now hangs in the Village of Lancaster Municipal Building commemorating Brown’s service and sacrifice to our country.
Before the display was unveiled, the National Color Guard held a ceremony, presenting Alice, Brown’s wife, with the American flag that has flown over the village during Brown’s life span. Also, the Patriot Guard Riders stood in front of the Municipal Building holding American flags to honor the fallen soldier.
The display was built by Lancaster resident Kenny Krug of Start to Finish Photography. It includes pictures of Brown, medals, news articles, and ribbons.
It is a tribute to a father, husband, and it also serves as a history lesson, said Village of Lancaster Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr.
“Young people will be able to learn a little bit about what it means to serve our country and come home from war and serve your community,” remarked Cansdale. “I didn’t know any of these things about [Brown] and it was wonderful to learn what a patriot he was.”
Daughter of Brown, Bev Schroeder, said nothing was ever done to honor her dad and this is long overdue. It really means a lot to her family and she thanked Cansdale and the village board.
Schroeder added she never knew what her dad went through in the war and didn’t find out until she was a little older.
“My dad never talked about it,” said Schroeder.” I did not know. I lived in the same house as this man for years and I did not find out what he went through until I was 20 years old.”
Brown was a member of the 803d Engineer Aviation Separate Group. He was helping build airfields in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded. Brown was taken prisoner and was kept at Clark Field building airfields for 13 months. Then he was relocated to the Japanese mainland. He spent the next 25 months working in a steel mill about 150 miles from Tokyo.
“He used to tell us that when they would serve them soup, he would pray that cockroaches crawled into his soup so it gave it some substance, because there was nothing in the soup,” said Schroeder. “If you look at the picture of him in the display of when he came home he was nothing but skin and bones.”
Brown was also given raw eggs to eat, which he and other prisoners had to stick a straw in to suck out the yolk.
“That’s what he lived on,” Schroeder said sadly.
In a local newspaper article published in 1991, Brown said they “used to sweep rice up off the docks, and it would end up with maggots and all sorts of things in it. But if you picked the stuff out, you’d be left with almost nothing. After a while, you would close your eyes and eat it.”
Brown lived in filthy and unsuitable living conditions. And when it came to clothing, just twice during the 38 months, Brown received a shirt and a pair of shorts.
“The rosary my mom is carrying in her hands is from my dad’s oldest sister, Deeda, and he took it with him,” said Schroeder. “My dad walked on that rosary because he was afraid if the Japanese found it they would take it.”
During his time as a prisoner of war, Schroeder said her father made up his mind and he was going to come out of this alive and he did. On Sept. 6, 1945, he was liberated when the American forces came back to the pacific region.
When he returned home, Brown married his wife, Alice, on March 23, 1946 and worked as a machinist for Scott Aviation in Lancaster for 30 years. The couple had three daughters, Bev, Barb Marasciulo, and Bonnie Salonis, who is deceased.
Brown was a member of the Depew V.F.W., the Knights of St. John, the Lancaster Fire Department Eagle Hose Company, and the fire department’s drum corp.
Brown is a true American solider whose commitment and bravery to our country will now be remembered years to come.
For those who would like to see the display the Municipal Building is located at 5423 Broadway, in Lancaster.