By Sgt. Richard Mayfield, New York GuardDecember 20, 2018
NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. -- Members of the New York Army National Guard's 1st Battalion 258th Field Artillery honored one of their own from World War II during the annual St. Barbara's Ball on Dec. 7.
Former Army Pfc. Charles A. Brown, 94, an Olean, New York, resident, who served in the 258th Field Artillery in Europe in 1944 and 1945, was honored with the Military Order of St. Barbara during the dinner.
The Ancient Order of St. Barbara is presented to Soldiers who have served in the field of artillery and represent those values of dignity and self-sacrifice that St. Barbara demonstrated even unto death, explained Lt. Col. Marc Lindemann, commander of the 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery.
St. Barbara has been the patron saint of artillery since the Middle Ages.
The battalion gathers annually to present the Order of St. Barbara to those Soldiers who have contributed most to the Field Artillery career field in the New York Army National Guard.
Brown said it was an honor and privilege to be reunited with Soldiers from his battalion after 74 years, he said.
"Receiving this award at the St. Barbara's Ball, I felt like a king at the White House and the men and women of the 258th are sharp and professional," Brown said. "I will remember this night always."
When Brown served in the 258th Field Artillery, the battalion was equipped with self-propelled 155mm howitzers. It was one of only five such units in the entire theater.
"The speed, accuracy and devastating power of American Artillery won confidence and admiration from the troops it supported and inspired fear and respect in their enemy," wrote Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower on the impact of artillery in the war.
For the battalion, the presentation to Pfc. Charlie Brown was the centerpiece of the evening, Lindemann said.
"Members of the Ancient Order stand above their brethren of the Honorable Order in terms of conspicuous lifetime service on behalf the United States Army or Marine Corps Field Artillery. The men and women of the New York National Guard salute Private First Class Brown and congratulate him on this outstanding honor," he said during the award presentation.
Brown was drafted into military service after graduating high school in 1943. Following his basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Brown qualified as a cannon crewmember and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 258 Field Artillery. He deployed in early 1944 aboard the RMS Queen Mary to Scotland for the coming invasion of Europe.
Brown and the regiment landed on Utah Beach in Normandy on July 1-2, 1944, moving to their first battle positions near Saint Come-du-Mont. The following day, Brown, assigned to the battalion fire direction center, recorded the first fire mission of the war for the 258th Field Artillery.
Brown fought through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. His battalion supported the 30th Infantry Division's push through the Siegfried Line using direct and indirect fire, supported the 9th Army's crossing of the Rur River as part of Operation Queen in November 1944, the Battle of the Bulge in December, the XVI Corps crossing of the Rhine River near Wesel, Germany, and the Battle of Magdeburg, site of German synthetic oil production on the Elbe River.
His last day of combat was May 4, 1945, outside Magdeburg, approximately 150 kilometers southwest of Berlin.
In 302 days of combat, Brown and the rest of the 258th Field Artillery had fought in four countries, crossed nine rivers, destroyed 34 German pillboxes, and fired a total of 33,902 rounds.
Brown's contributions to the accomplishments of the 258th Field Artillery continued this year with his participation in the fielding of new guns for the battalion, the 155 mm towed howitzer, the M777A2.
Brown joined the battalion during annual training in May 2018 at Fort Drum, New York, to pull a lanyard on the first round of the new howitzer for the battalion.
"They made me feel like I was still a part of the outfit," Brown said of the experience. "Receiving the invitation to fire the first shell from the new howitzer at Fort Drum was a very proud moment for me."
"Pfc. Brown continues to be a credit to the U.S. Army, the Field Artillery community and the 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment," Lindemann said. "The Ancient order of Saint Barbara is the highest honor that an artilleryman can achieve. This was very well deserved."
The battalion also presented the medal to eight additional Soldiers, recognizing their service in field artillery. They were: Capt. Steven Kerr, Command Sgt. Maj. Edwin Garris, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Taylor, 1st Sgt. Jason Ericksen, Sgts. 1st Class Jamar Griffin and James Reynoso, and Staff Sgts. Edwin Caba and Michael Malave.