Melvin F. Brown

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Record 254/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Collection Winnebago County Historical Commission
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Description Gelatin print of Melvin F. Brown.
Year Range from 1942
Event World War II
Year range to 1943
Medium Photographic Paper
Notes Bust view of Melvin F. Brown. He is wearing a service uniform and hat.
Melvin F. Brown was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on May 20, 1908 to William and Anna Brown. He was one of nine children. He worked for United States Motors Corporation in Oshkosh. He married Eleanor Shirley Hurtley on July 1, 1944. Three of Melvin’s brothers were also in the Army during World War II. Gordon entered the Army on July 15, 1941 and served with the 28th Infantry Division. He saw action in France, Belgium and Germany earning the Purple Heart with first bronze oak leaf cluster. Oscar entered the Army Air Corps on April 30, 1942 serving with the 1927th Signal Company in the pacific theater. Harry served in the Army as a Medic. The eldest brother, Roy, served in the Army during World War I. Wesley was given an exemption as the family already had four brothers in the service. Their father had passed away on May 8, 1939 leaving Wesley to help support their mother. Melvin entered the Army on September 29, 1942. After boot camp he was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. By May 1944, he was at Camp Phillips, Kansas and in August he was at Camp George G. Meade in Maryland at the Replacement Depot. Eventually, he was assigned to the 7th Armored Division 48th Armored Infantry division Company A and shipped to England in August 1944. In September he was sent to France with the advancing American army that had
just liberated Paris. Melvin had attained the rank of Private First Class as a rifleman. In late September the Allies were planning for an attack into Holland, code-named Operation Market Garden. A little know part of the battle occurred in the town of Overloon. It was the only tank battle fought in the Netherlands. The area west of the Maas River is referred to as the
“de Peel”. It is an area of woods and swamps that are especially muddy in autumn. At the end of September a lot of rain had fallen, so traffic had to stay on previously established roads. The American objective was to move through Overloon and advance on to Cologne, Germany. The 7th Armored Division commander, Lindsay Silvester, thought it would not be necessary to
send reconnaissance patrols through the area as he thought Overloon would be an easy objective. The Germans had regrouped and refortified in the area building excellent defense lines and mined the area thoroughly. The area was defended by German paratroopers and SS. The attack began on September 30th at 1630 hours with 7th Armored division 48th Armored Infantry Battalion Company B swinging north and Company A moving directly to Overloon. In a few minutes the Germans opened fire with 88mm shells knocking out the leading American Sherman tanks and stopping the advance because the disabled tanks were blocking the road and American infantry could not advance either due to intense German fire. On October 1 the Americans tried another attack in the rain. This time the Americans met elite German SS troops. The Sherman tanks of the 7th Armored Division ran into a minefield and 88 mm
fire from German Panther tanks. On October 1 Melvin Brown was reported missing in action from company A. The British 3rd Infantry division relieved the American 7th Armored Division on October 8 and the battle raged on until October 14. By this time the village of Overloon was completely destroyed. The Americans had gravely underestimated the German firepower and fighting tenacity. In all, the 7th Armored Division lost 35 Sherman tanks and more than 450 men killed or wounded. Pfc. Melvin Brown was listed as missing in action until October 28, 1944. The exact circumstances of his death are undocumented, but the official
cause of death listed by the Army is a shrapnel wound to the head. Melvin was buried in the United States Military Cemetery Henri-Chapelle, Belgium on October 25, 1944. It was assumed he was killed on the day he was reported missing, October 1, 1944. Several attempts were made shortly after the war by Melvin’s widow and mother which went mostly unanswered. Someone in the Netherlands sent a letter to the Brown family after the war giving some information on Melvin’s death. It mentioned he was killed on Kamphoffwag (this is a street in Overloon). The letter has been lost in the time since it was received. The only personal effects returned to the family were a Red Cross sewing kit, 2 razors and a few coins. In 1947, the family requested that Melvin’s remains be returned to his family for burial in his
hometown of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. On November 12, 1947 Melvin’s remains were returned to Oshkosh and buried in Peace Lutheran Cemetery on November 13, 1947. Melvin’s widow moved to Oakland, California shortly after the war and died there in 1977.
Melvin’s death had been forgotten by most until the spring of 2004 when the Brown famliy was contacted by Andreis van der Graaf of Nieuwport, Netherlands. Andries friend, Bert Assendelft found one of Melvin’s dog tags in 1969 in an open field near the village of Baexem in the Netherlands. He held on to the tag and tried to find the family the tag belonged to in late
2003. With the help of Andries, and Niek Hendrix in the Netherlands, Wesley Johnston of the 7th Armored division and Jon Strupp we were able to piece together Melvin’s story so his ultimate sacrifice for his country is not forgotten. One mystery that remains is how the dog tag got from Overloon to Baexem as they are about 30 miles apart.
Object ID P2005.20.78
Object Name Print, Photographic
People Brown, Melvin F.
Print size 5" x 7"
Subjects Portrait photographs
World War II
United States Army
European Theater of Operations
Tanks (Military science)
Title Melvin F. Brown
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009