By Anna-Claire Terry
Opelika is a veteran-studded city with many riveting stories about military service to be told. One of the most unique stories is the one of Orrin “Boody” Brown IV and his service in World War II.
Brown was 21 years old when he applied for the U.S. Army’s Aviation Cadet Program in the summer of 1941, shortly after graduating from Auburn University with a degree in aeronautical administration. He graduated from cadet school as a bombardier and was commissioned second lieutenant. He was called to active duty in 1942.
A bombardier’s job is to drop bombs from a space in the nose of an aircraft under the nose gunner. It is the nose gunner’s responsibility to operate the latches on the bomb racks.
However, Brown’s experience as a bombardier is rare.
“Part of the uniqueness of my story is I completed combat and never dropped a bomb,” Brown said.
Upon his graduation, Brown was assigned to a bomb group composed of three squadrons based out of the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina.
Instead of bombs, Brown dropped leaflets over France. The propaganda sheets scattered over French cities by Brown’s plane urged people to join the French resistance against Germany.
Brown also made drops of supplies and agents trained for sabotage to the resistance in several European countries.
In 1943, Brown’s squadron was ordered to England. Brown tells chilling stories about the years of 1943 and 1944.
Shortly after being sent to England, Brown’s squadron encountered 13 German J.U. 88 planes while flying a mission near the French coast.
“It just so happened that the D model of the B-24 was the first to incorporate twin .50 caliber machine guns in the nose,” Brown said. “One of the 13 would fly around us and fire a flare, and when it did, the other 12 started an attack on us. As soon as our nose gunner opened fire with that machine gun, they would break away.”
Brown said this cycle of events happened about three times in the same attack.
“Finally, the plane we assumed was the leader, pressed an attack and did get one hit on us with a 20 millimeter cannon and knocked out our number four engine,” he continued. “But we’re sure that we shot him down because the tail gunner saw him going down in a big plume of smoke.”
Brown said his group ducked into a cloud bank and circled around for a few minutes.
“When we came out, the 12 German planes were nowhere to be seen,” he said. “We assumed they were rookie pilots who decided they better get back to France.”
Later that year, Brown’s squadron became the nucleus of a bomb group that flew night missions and made drops in occupied Western Europe. He recalled the solid, dull black planes used for the night missions.
One of his most prominent memories was his D-Day mission. Brown’s crew was alerted to fly a mission in England on June 5, 1944 – the eve of D-Day. The group was briefed on the D-Day plan, and they entered France using a different route for their mission that would not take them where the invasion sites were going to be.
“I made a drop in the south of France, and we came back out hitting the French Coast just as day was breaking on D-Day,” Brown said. “I saw a fleet in the channel, and I was glad to be in the air instead of down there with them.”
Brown said the war and combat did not affect him much mentally.
“I was very fortunate,” he said.
He completed his tour in June of 1944.
Having lived in Opelika for most of his life, he returned and started a family. He and his late wife, Barbara, were married for 54 years and had three daughters, 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Boody worked for Alagasco for ten years as Chief Clerk and office manager of the Opelika office. He then joined Botsford-Knight Insurance Agency for the remainder of his working career.
In 2000, Brown received a phone call from Belgium at 3 a.m. one morning. A teacher at a high school there was interested in the Belgian resistance and learned that Brown made a drop to a site in Belgium to assist the resistance and Belgian Secret Army. There was a book written about a war hero and the resistance. Some information provided by Brown was used in the book, and he was invited to the publication party in Gent, Belgium. He accepted the invite and boarded a plane.
At a dinner party for the publication of the book, it was announced that the Belgian Secret Army would be presenting Brown with the Belgian Cross, in recognition for loyal service.
He even had the opportunity to meet a man who actually witnessed the drop over an open field on a farm so many years ago.
According to Brown, his time in the military matured him and taught him to appreciate other cultures and other people.
“I really learned to appreciate life because it can be fleeting,” he said.
Brown and his family recently celebrated his 95th birthday.