OLEAN, NY – Charles A. Brown, a 95-year old World War II veteran who served as a private first class with the 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery, will receive the French Legion of Honor Medal Friday at 2 p.m. in a ceremony at the Olean Community Church, 145 S. 26 St., where Mr. Brown is a member.
The presentation will be made by French Honorary Consul Pascal Soares on behalf of the government of France for Brown's valor and bravery shown at Normandy and during successive campaigns that contributed to the liberation of France.
Brown had been drafted into military service after graduating from high school in 1943. Following his basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Brown qualified as a cannon crew member and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 258 Field Artillery. He was deployed in early 1944 aboard the RMS Queen Mary to Scotland for the planned invasion of Europe.
Brown and his regiment landed on Utah Beach in Normandy in early July 1944, moving to their first battle positions near Saint Come-du-Mont. Brown was assigned to the battalion fire direction center for what has been recorded as the first fire mission of the war for the 258th Field Artillery.
Brown fought through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany with his battalion, which supported the 30th Infantry Division's push through the Siegfried Line using direct and indirect fire; the 9th Army's crossing of the Rur River as part of Operation Queen in November 1944; the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944; 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 fought in four countries, crossed nine rivers, destroyed 34 German pillboxes, and fired a total of 33,902 rounds.
In May 2018, Brown participated with soldiers in the 258th Field Artillery in the fielding of new guns for the battalion, by pulling a lanyard to fire the first round of the new howitzer for the battalion.
Also in attendance at the Legion of Honor ceremony will be New York Sen. George Borrello (District 57), Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, (District 148), Lee James, field representative for U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (District 23rd); Capt. Steven Kerr, commander and operations officer of the New York Army National Guard, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery, and Maj. Brian Napier, executive officer 1-258 Field Artillery at New York Army National Guard.
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