Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Elvis John Brassfield

This is a photo of the reverse side of the tombstone of Elvis John Brassfield, located at Union Cemetery, Jefferson, Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Since his wife is still living, I will respect her privacy by not posting the front of the tombstone with her details on it.

Elvis John Brassfield (1920-2006) was the son of Thelma Sarah (Hunt) and Floyd Gipson Brassfield.

I've been working on some details about his service during World War II, so I thought it might be appropriate to put some of that information with this post. According to his separation record, Elvis accrued 8 months, 24 days of foreign service during World War II. He participated in the following battles and campaigns: Southern France; Ardennes; Central Europe; Rhineland. He also flew on 35 combat missions while in the European theater.

Elvis enlisted August 29, 1942 and entered active service February 25, 1943 at Des Moines, Iowa. His military occupation specialty is listed as 612, Airplane Armorer-Gunner. He served in this capacity on B-24 Liberator aircraft, I have been told one aircraft was named "Asbestos Alice" and another was named "Patches." While deployed to Europe, he was part of the 700th Bomb Squadron of the 445th Bombardment Group in the 8th Air Force.

One interesting item about his war service was a mission that he fortunately missed. Elvis was slated to fly September 27, 1944 to bomb the Henschel Aircraft Plant in Kassel, Germany, but a twist of fate kept him on the ground. It would have been his 4th mission, but instead Elvis and the rest of the crew if the aircraft he was on were taken off the flight plan and spent the day in London instead.

The mission they missed is now infamous for being one of history's deadliest air battles and the worst combat losses that the 445th Bombardment Group suffered during the war. According to the Kassel Mission Historical Society, 35 B-24's from his squadron left England, but only 4 returned to base. 20 B-24's were lost in 3 minutes in a clash with German fighters. Each B-24 carried around 9 men that were either killed or wounded and captured after escaping from their damaged aircraft. Elvis was very fortunate to have missed the mission.

The reverse side of the tombstone reads:
Elvis J Brassfield
S SGT US Army Air Forces
World War II
Nov 7 1920 [symbol for the United Methodist Church] Mar 30 2006
Air Medal & 4 OLC
Presidential Citation
Here are a few notes about the somewhat cryptic things listed on the stone:
S SGT means Staff Sergeant.

According to the Department of Defense, the Air Medal is "awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the armed forces of the United States, shall have distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight." Apparently, an Air Medal was also awarded in the 445th Bombardment Group for every 6 combat missions flown. 4 OLC stands for four oak leaf clusters. Each Oak Leaf Cluster indicates a subsequent award of the Air Medal.

The Presidential Citation most likely indicates a unit citation for everyone in the 445th Bombardment Group, rather than an individual citation. According to Wikipedia, the 445th earned the citation for an attack on an aircraft assembly plant in Gotha, Germany February 24, 1944. It doesn't look like Elvis Brassfield went on this mission, but everyone in the bombardment group would have received this award..

Kassel mission links: