World war ii flier finally gets overdue recognition – news – northwest florida daily news – fort walton beach, fl american public university school code

Before there were navy SEALS, special ops teams for the air force, army and marines, and before there was an official organization of professional spies, there was the OSS.

OPELIKA, alabama — orrin “boody” brown will turn 98 on april 4 and still looks like he could climb into the bombardier’s seat of a B-24 bomber, much as he did in the 1940s during world war II.

It’s just that, a secret, he says, and the U.S. Government gave him a medal last week in a congressional ceremony for being good at keeping secrets.

Before there were navy SEALS, special ops teams for the air force, army and marines, and before there was an official organization of professional spies, there was the OSS.B-24 bomber

The office of strategic services was created to conduct secret operations during world war II, and because its mission was declared top secret, it wasn’t until 50 years after the war that brown could tell his family and friends what he did during the war.

Brown earned a degree in aeronautical administration. He applied and was approved by the military for the aviation cadet program, eventually becoming commissioned as an officer and being assigned to bombardier duty in charge of dropping bombs and payloads from bombers.

His first duty station was in north carolina, where he was assigned to a squadron that patrolled the coast hunting for enemy submarines and escorting allied ships.Brown said

Then in early june 1943, things began to change. “we somehow had our aircraft replaced by the B-24ds,” he said, as if still surprised almost 75 years later.

“we were soon ordered to britain,” brown said, and their initial duty was to patrol for submarines there, in the waters between great britain and france. It was a bloody war zone.

The enemy fighters may have noticed that this newer model of the american B-24 bomber had front-mounted guns, and not particularly spoiling for a fight, the planes closed in and the first 12 moved away.

“he came in and made an attack,” brown said.Army marines but the pilot approached from the rear and continued his flight forward of the B-24 after making his attack run. That proved to be a mistake.

“the last we saw of it, he left a plume of smoke and went into a dive, and that was the last we saw,” brown recalls, still unsure of why the other 12 didn’t re-engage and take down the outnumbered bomber.

Perhaps they were out of fuel and ammunition from previous action. Perhaps they were student aviators and their instructor was just shot down. Perhaps it was the surprise of the forward gun mounts or a more important mission.

During the attack, however, the B-24 was hit hard and lost its no. 4 engine.Army marines “it was just windmilling,” brown remembers. “the pilots shut it down, and we made an emergency landing in england,” near the famous white cliffs of dover.

A different type of mission soon awaited the veteran and battle-ready crew, however, and it would present additional dangers beyond deadly air-to-air combat.

British prime minister winston churchill had earlier in the war charged his own secret agency, the special operations executive known as SOE, to “raise hell with hitler,” so that the germans would be distracted, especially leading up to D-day and the planned allied invasion to retake continental europe.B-24 bomber

Britain’s royal air force, already famous for its defense of the island nation in the battle of britain, which was fought over the skies of london, had two squadrons assigned to secret missions with the SOE.

“we were going to be doing night flying, on clandestine missions,” brown said. “our aircraft were modified, painted a solid black with no markings on them.”

The front gun was removed, as well as the bottom gun turret, as the B-24 was engineered to make low-level drops of material and personnel, something different from its previous high-altitude bombing design or submarine hunting over the sea in daylight.Army marines

There were code names for male spies and resistance fighters dropped, and for females, who also were dropped, all at low altitude in efforts to avoid detection and ground fire.

Containers, which the air crews seldom knew what was inside, were dropped from only about 400 feet in altitude. Secret agents and fighters were dropped from only 600 feet, brown said.

“we wanted to get them on the ground as quickly as possible. We also wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible,” he said, given that every flight was made far behind front lines and deep into enemy-controlled territory.B-24 bomber

Flashlight codes were used on the ground by the resistance groups alerted and expecting the incoming air drops. Brown remembers when the flashing signals didn’t match the code.

“it was the germans on the ground and they had taken the site,” he said. “they were trying to trick us into making our drop. The pilot would pull out and we’d go away.”

Brown still has a deep respect for those on the ground in the resistance movement whose lifeline depended on his air crew and others like it making successful drops, and the secrecy that was required to protect them.

It was someone in belgium inviting him to a ceremony.B-24 bomber brown didn’t fully understand the conversation nor the ceremony, but he nonetheless agreed to attend and felt honored. He was more honored when the belgium government presented him with a medal representing one of that nation’s highest honors.

Further, and perhaps even more meaningful to brown, the family of one of the resistance fighters brown had helped on the ground participated in the ceremony.

Much like it had done in keeping other top secret programs off record for half a century, such as the navajo code talkers and their role with the war’s only never-broken secret code, the U.S.B-24 bomber was slow to shed light on these heroes and their brave efforts.

Congress on dec. 14, 2016, approved an act that called for a gold medal to be created honoring those who served in the OSS, an agency long gone but not before spawning various contemporary agencies, from the CIA to special-op military units, all critical to america’s defense today.

Wednesday afternoon inside the capitol in washington, D.C., brown, said to be the only surviving member of the original, first carpetbagger squadron, was among the few war world II veterans on hand to accept the honor in a congressional ceremony.Army marines

House speaker paul ryan (R-WI), senate majority leader mitch mcconnell (R-KY), and house democratic leader nancy pelosi (D-CA) took part in the bipartisan ceremony.

Brown left active duty at the end of the war, but he remained a reserve and committed to service for 20 years. He retired a lieutenant colonel.

Troy turner is editor of the opelika-auburn news. He has a deep background as a military-history writer, including as author of the book “colorado’s lost squadron.” he can be contacted at tturner@oanow.Com.