Married: Gladys Ryan
Bernard Brown was a Saranac Lake police officer, and a war hero as a result of an extended battle on Bougainville, in the British Solomon Islands in World War II. He was a son of Howard H. Brown of 158 Lake Flower Avenue.
According to Howard Riley's column in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise of 1/26/2013, in 1943 Bernard Brown, one of 150 soldiers from the Parish Honor Roll, had been "adopted" by David Brown, a student at St. Bernard's School, to pray for each morning and night.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, January 25, 1997
Grand Marshal Brown was born in Saranac Lake on June 23, 1913, and has lived here since then, except for two years during World War II, when he served in the Marine Corps. Brown is a 1932 graduate of Saranac Lake High School, where he played football for two years. After graduation, Brown worked a number of odd jobs until 1936, when he became a member of the village Police Department. Brown was a member of the department for six years, but gave up the job upon enlisting in the Marine Corps in April 1942.
Brown achieved the rank of Marine sergeant, and he served a tour of duty in the South Pacific where he spent some time as commander of a machine-gun squad. A battle at Bougainville (the biggest island of the Solomon chain) on Nov. 1, 1943 made the Saranac Lake native a hero in the eyes of many, including the United States government. Brown and the four-member squad he commanded were greatly outnumbered but after a two-hour battle in the jungle, the Marines had prevailed.
Accounts of Brown's squad's heroics were depicted in a number of newspapers and other publications printed during that time. As a result of that battle, Brown's actions earned him the Conspicuous Services Cross and plaques of recognition from Marine Corps Commandant A.M. Gray in 1988, and New York Governor Mario Cuomo in 1992.
Upon returning to Saranac Lake after war's end. Brown worked as a lineman for the Paul Smith's Light & Power Company, which was purchased by Niagara Mohawk in 1966. Brown was employed by both companies until his 1975 retirement.
Last June, Brown was inducted into the Saranac Lake High School hall of fame. He was married for 41 years to the former Gladys Ryan of Saranac Lake, who died in 1978.
Brown, once an avid outdoor sportsman, can sometimes be seen these days contently hunting around town — with his camera.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 11, 1998
War hero revisited
SL man's efforts are recounted in comic book
By ALEXIS SCARPINATO
SARANAC LAKE - Due to a Marine named Bernard Brown, there is no demand for super-heroes in Saranac Lake.
Bernard A. Brown was born in Saranac Lake in 1912 where he later married Gladys R. Brown. In 1936 he got a job in the Saranac Lake Police Department lasting for six years until 1942 when Brown enlisted in the United States Marines.
Before Brown headed off to battle, he attended Basic Training on Paris island and Combat Training in Samoa for two months. Little did Brown know that he would later become a war hero in 1943.
During the Battle of Piva Forks in Bougansvilte; he led four other Marines in fighting against the Japanese in a 90-minute siege. The squad was stationed in a foxhole, at the bend in the Piva River where they were attacked by 75 Japanese soldiers. With not enough room in the foxhole for all five of them, Brown remained in the open to launch grenades at the Japanese while his four other men manned the machine gun. Brown said, "I was on one knee. I looked at him, he looked at me and all of a sudden dirt was flying up,... snipers."
Twenty-four grenades were propelled at the enemy force with exact timing and skill, for they explode 5-7 seconds after the pin is pulled. If the grenade is thrown too soon, the enemy soldier could pick it up and throw it back before it expires.
The 2,000 shells that were counted from the machine gun, along with Brown's grenades, were used to destroy 74 of the 75 Japanese soldiers. A long silence was heard, which told the five uninjured Marines that their day's work was done. They crossed the line of war to walk among the dead Japanese soldiers in order to evaluate the damages. Brown and another soldier retrieved a star off the helmet of a dead soldier as a souvenir. They had won the battle.
During Brown's time in battle, he was celebrated as a hero in various places across the country and graduated up to platoon sergeant, and even gunnery sergeant months later.
Brown was recognized and received many honors in his lifetime. Nov. 10, 1985 was declared Sgt. Bernie Brown Recognition Day in Saranac Lake. An issue of a war comic book called "Heroic Comics" was devoted to Brown. It clearly described the well known incident involving the death of the 74 Japanese soldiers.
Brown considered himself a strict sergeant who did things by the book. He was even known to be called "Regulation Brown" by fellow Marines. Many people think of war as frightening, but Brown said, "I was too busy to be scared."
From the service, Brown feels the lesson he appreciates most is discipline. "That's what I learned in battle and the reason I kept going back" said Brown.
He not only experienced fascinating battles, but also fascinating coincidences. The number 13 was weaved into his life many times. A man named Douglas Ripley researched and wrote a story "Believe it or Not" regarding this strange occurrence. He wrote, "Bernie was born 1913; was overseas 13 months, 13 days; left Guadalcanal Oct. 13 in boat 13; landed at Bouganville at landing barge 13; was evacuated on Jan. 13 to a hospital ship and assigned to bed 13." Later he began working at the Paul Smith's Electric Light and Power Company on Nov. 13, 1946. In order to maintain tradition, the news even presented his story on page 13.
On Sept. 12,1988, Brown received a letter from the U.S. Marine Corps Commander A.M. Gray giving him great thanks and praise. His greatest award of all was presented to him on June 9, 1992. It was the Conspicuous Service Cross which is awarded to those who have performed great service to the public. A few years ago Brown served as the Grand Court Marshall in the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Court.
With the battle 55 years past, he still has occasional blurry dreams of the war, waking up in a sweat. Even with these night-time images, Brown said, "I'd do it all over again."