Friday, June 16, 2017

WW2 Fallen - DFC Hero Robert Brazier, Battle of Midway

Aviation Radioman Second Class Robert Brazier and painting depicting his plane by Robert D. Fiacco.

Robert Boyd Brazier never had a chance to reach 101 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom. I normally profile the fallen on their 100th birthday, but I am making an exception for Robert for reasons that will be clear below.

He was born on June 16, 1916 in Tooele, Utah. By 1920 he was being raised by his mother who was living with her widowed sister who worked at the county infirmary. His father was living in Arizona. Robert was a single child. Ten years later his mom was living and working as a cook in a boarding house in Tooele and claimed to be a widow in the census. Robert was not living with her. His mom was working as a housekeeper in Salt Lake City in 1940. At that point in the census she claimed to be divorced. Robert's father had remarried and was living in California. 

Meanwhile, Robert was living in San Diego, at the time of the 1940's census, where he was a seaman at the US Naval Training Station. Prior to joining the Navy on October 6, 1939 he had completed four years of high school. Robert married Helen Squire on November 28, 1941 while his ship the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga was being refitted in Seattle.

By early 1942 Petty Officer Brazier was an aviation radioman second class who along with the pilot flew obsolete Douglas TBD Devastators for the Saratoga's Torpedo Squadron 3 (VT-3). When the Saratoga was torpedoed on January 11, 1942 and sent stateside for repairs, VT-3 was transferred to the USS Yorktown

The Yorktown was damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea but was patched up sufficiently at Pearl Harbor to participate in the Battle of Midway. This month we recognize the 75th anniversary of this pivotal battle that ended any chance for the Japanese to defeat the Americans. That is why I chose to honor one of the heroes from this battle.

On the morning of June 4, 1942 the Americans located the Japanese carriers first, giving them the advantage of a first strike. Petty Officer Brazier was the gunner on the Devastator piloted by Captain Wilhelm Esders. VT-3 spotted the Japanese carrier Soryu and the 12 planes flew in at low  altitude to drop their torpedoes. VT-3 had an escort of six F4F Wildcats, but it was not sufficient to ward off a couple dozen Japanese Zeros or more. The Devastators were too slow and too lightly armored. The torpedo bombers were shot down one after another until only two were left. Because the Japanese fighters were engaged with the torpedo planes, the American dive bombers were able to take out three of the Japanese carriers within 20 minutes.The fourth was disabled later that day.

Petty Officer Brazier was in one of the two Devastators that dropped their torpedoes (both missed) and got away. Cpt. Esders asked Brazier to switch the radio signal to pick up the homing beacon to the Yorktown. Brazier replied he was too wounded to do it but he somehow summoned the strength and switched the radio signal. Esders was able to fly them back to the Yorktown, but it was under attack from Japanese bombers so he turned away to try landing on the Enterprise. He ran out of fuel before he could get there and ditched in the ocean. Esders was able to pull Brazier out of the plane before it sank and the two waited in a raft to be rescued. Brazier died of his wounds before Esders was picked up the next day.

Brazier was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism during the Battle of Midway. The destroyer escort Robert Brazier, launched on January 22, 1944, was named in his honor.

Destroyer Escort Robert Brazier.

Robert is remembered at the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial. I don't know what happened to his wife after his death.

Thank you Robert for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Robert.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

To mark having over 100,000 visits to my project to honor the fallen of WW2 on their 100th birthdate, I created this video to share.

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