Thursday, October 21, 2010

Silver Star - Frank Brassfield

Silver Star medal
I spent a number of hours researching this one, but finally hit pay-dirt with a news article from The Waukesha Freeman. Here's what I found:

Frank B. Brassfield (1898-1987) was born October 21, 1898 in Indiana to Sylvine (Davis) (1862-1903?) and Preston Brassfield (1850-1911). According to the Waukesha Freeman article, Frank grew up in the Metropolitan Church association (MCA) orphanage in Waukesha, Wisconsin with three sisters Alice, Gail and Elsie following his mother's death around 1903. (Alice appears to have been a half-sister, having a different mother than Frank) The MCA was apparently pacifist and some used membership in that church to avoid being drafted into World War I.(1) The MCA apparently had ties to the Free Methodist Church. Despite this upbringing, Frank enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After the US entered World War I, Brassfield was a Bugler for part of his service in France. According to the Freeman, he became bored with the job and worked on machine guns instead.

Frank was awarded two Silver Star medals during World War I for valor in combat while serving in the Marines 6th Regiment. The Silver Star is the third highest medal in the US Military awarded for valor, behind the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor. At the time, the Silver Star was a newly created award.

On October 9, 1918, Brassfield was fighting in the Champagne sector in the Battle of Blanc Mont. For his bravery under fire during the battle, he was awarded the Silver Star. According to the citation, he was "bringing up machine gun ammunition through the enemy barrage."
Photo Croix de guerre recto

The Waukesha Freeman article from February 1919 says that France also awarded him the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) medal. The article describes his actions as
"Although exhausted, he volunteered to carry ammunition from the front line to an advanced post under violent artillery fire, thus permitting the machine gun to continue its action."
In a letter to his sister, reprinted in the Freeman article Brassfield says that it was awarded for action at Chateau Thierry which was in July 1918. However the citation is nearly identical to the Silver Star citation from Blanc Mont and the Clark book says he received a "SS CdG-P" at Blanc Mont. SS for Silver Star and CdG-P for Croix de Guerre. Whatever the case, he certainly served heroically under fire. According to the Freeman, the legendary Marine Major General John A. Lejeune personally pinned the Croix de Guerre on Brassfield during a ceremony in November 1918.

According to Decorated marines of the Fourth Brigade in World War I by George B. Clark p 123, Brassfield also received a Silver Star for actions in the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918. I have not been able to locate a citation for that Silver Star medal.

I'm not too clear on any of the details beyond that, but it appears that he died in January 1987. According to the Social Security death index, he last resided in Staunton, Macoupin County, Illinois not far from St. Louis, Missouri.

Using the relationship calculator, Frank Brassfield was a 3rd Cousin of Elvis H. Brassfield (Father of Floyd Gipson Brassfield). They are connected by John Brassfield, born 1735 in North Carolina.

Silver Star Citation for Frank Brassfield from

Frank Brassfield Croix de Guerre. The Waukesha Freeman. Waukesha, Wisconsin. Thursday, February 13, 1919. Page 1.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for hosting the public domain US Government image of the Silver Star shown above at left. Also, thanks to Wikimedia Commons user Paris75000 for the CC-BY-SA-2.5 licensed photo of the French Croix de guerre 1914-1918 shown above at right.