Brownfield, Albert R. Jr. (811th)

Albert-R.-Brownfield---PhotAlbert R. Brownfield Jr.

Biography:  Albert Ray Brownfield Jr., known as “Ray” or “Brownie”, was born on March 29, 1915, six miles from the nearest town in Terry County, Texas.  He was delivered by a midwife who arrived in a horse and buggy at the ranch house.  He was the son of Albert Ray and Allie Dee Brownfield.  When he was nine, the family moved to the town of Brownfield, TX, where he attended public schools.  He completed high school and junior college at the New Mexico Military Institute.  He entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1935 as, then freshman, Congressman George Mahon’s first West Point appointment.

Service Time:  Ray graduated in 1939 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, Field Artillery, in the U.S. Army. With the United States’ entry into the Second World War, then Captain Brownfield was assigned to the newly formed 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  He became its commanding officer in 1943, led it to Europe in 1944 and across France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany and Austria from September 1944 to May 1945. The 811th held the southern hinge of the U.S. Army during the Battle of the Bulge, mounted the only two major counter-attacks in the first day of fighting, held its position during eight days of continuous German attacks, destroyed an estimated 100 German tanks, and on December 26, held the left flank of the U.S. armored column that broke through to, and relieved, the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne.

The 811th spearheaded two attacks that penetrated the German Siegfried Line, liberated a POW and a concentration camp in Germany and accepted the surrender of a German field army at the end of the war. Under his command, the 811th was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its war service. Ray himself earned the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action at Mullerthal, Luxembourg, on Dec. 17, 1944, and the Soldiers Medal for Heroism at Laakirchen, Austria, on May 12, 1945.

Following the war, Ray Brownfield commanded units in Japan, Alaska, and North Carolina. He was promoted to Brig. General in 1966 and served more than two years in the Vietnam War as Chief of Operations, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and later Assistant Division Commander of the 4th Infantry Division.

I was recently contacted by Aircraft Commander, Warrant Officer William “Bill” Roberts. He  fondly remembers General Brownfield as a very special person and a man he truly respected. Bill recalls one situation and related the follow story:

Albert R. Brownfield Last flight 2 Edit“General B. loved to keep convoys moving. If a convoy was moving too slowly or having a problem, we would fly out and he would survey the situation. Sometimes, we would fly low level beside the convoy and then continue low level, checking the road ahead for any possible problems. He was great at sizing things up. If he spotted a remedy from the air, he would radio the suggestion to the ground commander and in a short time, the convoy would be underway.

One morning we took him up North of Kontum, to a convoy whose lead truck had hit a mine and blocked the road. After surveying the situation he came on the intercom and asked if I could hover over the lead truck so he could direct traffic. I put us about six feet over the truck and General Brownfield climbed out on the skid of the Huey. He hung on the cargo door frame with one hand and started waving his free arm directing the second truck with the other. He waved for the rest of the trucks to follow. With General Brownfield hanging out on the skid, we led them down off the road to the level edge of a field, then around the blown up truck and at the first possible place they could safely climb back up on the road, we stopped and General B. Waved them back up on the road. In just a few minutes, the convoy was underway. I had never seen a General do that, before or since.”

The photo of General Brownfield, shown above left, was taken on the occasion of his last helicopter flight with Bill and their crew.

General Brownfield recommended Bill for the Distinguished Flying Cross, for another action they were both involved in, which required Bill to land and take off again in a precarious firefight between U.S. and the North Vietnamese Army troops. Bill also received a personal letter of commendation, just prior to the General’s retirement. In the the entire time Bill served under Brownfield’s command, Bill said, “he never ordered me to do anything, but would always ask if I could do something, then he would let me figure it out and do the rest. It was such a great feeling to know the confidence he placed in me. The others were passengers and we took good care of them, but he was very special.”

General Brownfield retired in 1969 as Deputy Inspector General of the U.S. Army and at the rank of Brigadier General. Following retirement, he served as Chief of Staff (CEO) and later Commander in Chief of the Military Order of the World Wars, a national veterans organization.

In 1939, he had married the former Virginia Edgerly Goodwin, who was the daughter of Samuel Rivington Goodwin and Pearl Estelle McCure. Over the next 15 years they had four children, Barbara, Ray III, Bill and Betsy. Virginia passed away in 1972, and then in 1974, Albert would marry the former Naomi “Cissy” Campbell Amick, who had been born in Belllevile, Texas, and was the daughter of Howard Elmo Campbell and Nadine Kathryn Reisner. Cissy had been married previously to Lon Gilbert Amick but he had also passed away in 1972.

The new couple returned to Albert’s native Terry County, Texas.  There, for the next 30 years, he ran the Red Onion Farm that his father and grandfather had run before him.  He played a prominent role in his community, supported local veterans and was active in the Texas Masons. There is a statue dedicated to him in the City of Brownfield’s memorial park.  Ray passed away on Dec. 13, 2009, in Liberty, Missouri. At the time of his death, he left behind his wife, Cissy, his children mentioned earlier, his stepchildren, Lon, Alice, Anne, Eugene, John, ten grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on February 24, 2010.