Mark Josiah Brown, Jr.
U.S. Air Force, Air Weather Service & Lieutenant Colonel
World War II and Korean War (1940-1963)
1 Army and 2 Air Force Commendation Medals
Mark Brown is proud to say that he has served twenty-two years for his country. What started out as an opportunity for graduate education at what Brown considers “the number one technical school in the country” grew into a solid career in the United States Air Force. His service broadened his horizons due to his deployments around the world and the valuable knowledge he gained in the fields of meteorology and aviation. Now an accomplished, retired husband and father of three, Brown can say he has lived the best of both worlds, both that of the military and civilian lifestyles.
Born in Framingham, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1919, Brown grew up with his mother, father, and two older brothers. His mother was a housewife, his father was a clothing commissioner in Boston, and one of his brothers had served in the military as a colonel. Upon graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in physics and looking for a job, Brown discovered that MIT was offering a special opportunity where the college paid students to enter the air corps and learn about meteorology. Attracted to the idea of a paid education, Brown applied and was accepted into the program as one of the forty-nine students out of three hundred applicants.
His family’s reaction to his acceptance was seemingly nonexistent, “not objected, not applauded.” At this point in time, joining the Air Force had no significance since it was a year before World War II had actually begun. Nonetheless, Brown took the offer, feeling both nervous and excited. In fact, when he first arrived, he doubted his ability, “wondering if [he] could hack it; it was a pretty rigorous education.”
For nine months, Brown studied at MIT as a member of the Air Corps, now known as the United States Air Force, for graduate training in meteorology. The course combined a two-year program into one year, which entailed four-hour lectures in the mornings and four hours of lab work in the afternoons for five days a week. The pay was one hundred twenty-five dollars a month, a substantial amount of money at the time.
During this educational program, there was plenty of technical training in the field of meteorology, yet there was no military training. However, he was ranked as a flying cadet and later command pilot due to his experience in flight school. He and his fellow cadets were all happy with their situation and proud to be part of an elite group. However, Brown does not consider his education to be of service to his country. “We were really students—no uniform—just students going to college.” Little did he know, a year later he did nothing but serve his country, for World War II had begun, and he was deployed around the world.
After his first assignment at MIT, Brown was deployed to places such as Guam, Panama, Ecuador, Japan, Alaska, Oklahoma, and Kansas as a weather officer over a course of twenty-two years. He performed services such as running weather stations, piloting, performing staff duties “like anybody else,” inspecting the air, and commanding weather squadrons. He considered each one of his assignments to be equally important. “Twenty-two years, you didn’t sit still very long,” he chuckled. He had no breaks except for minimal leaves during which he visited his girlfriend in New York and celebrated the holidays with his family. The overall experience was more positive than negative because he suffered no injuries and received several awards for his additional service. These awards include one army commendation ribbon and two air force commendation ribbons. “The rest [of the awards] are for, as we call it, just ‘being there.’”
Finally, after about twenty-two years in the Air Force during both World War II and the Korean War, Brown was released from service at the Hamilton Airport. “I said goodbye,” remarked Brown. He felt great and was excited to retire from the military and return home. When he returned, he was received by his fellow Americans with what he perceived to be jealousy. Upon his return to civilian life, Brown entered a new career path, working for nineteen years in marketing and industry.
Although he is now busy with his nonmilitary life, Brown is reminded of his service through reunions and organizations. The Air Weather Service hosts reunions every other year, and he has attended one in Colorado and another in Florida with his wife, a former World War II WAVE. There he has enjoyed reconnecting with his lifelong friends who served with him. As for organizations, Brown is a charter member of the Air Force Association and takes part in the Military Office Association.
While he is pleased to be a part of two military organizations, Brown is more satisfied with his service in the United States Air Force. The war experience was mostly positive, and he has little to say of challenges or negative experiences. At most, his service took a toll on him physically through the harsh weather conditions of different frontier locations. “I was never in a position of getting shot at that I know about,” Brown recalled. The closest he got to danger was an avoided plane crash. Brown was trying to land a plane in Florida at night, but another plane started landing beneath him. “Had we hit each other, we’d be dead,” said Brown.
But he’s not dead. In fact, he is very healthy, vivacious ninety-two year old man, and he is here to share his advice and knowledge from his experiences in war. When asked if he thought his service was justified, Brown responded, “I don’t call it a sacrifice, but I do think my actions were justified. We were hoping to win the war; that’s what we all tried to do as best we could and get it over with. I enjoyed the air force life and was good at it.… However, it didn’t make a militaristic person out of me.” As for Brown’s outlook on World War II itself, he believes “we were attacked and did right.” His advice for future generations is that “we owe a duty to our country. If you’re willing to get ordered around and get organized and take the world seriously, the military is a good way to do it.”
All in all, Brown is a genuine man who did what he loved for the sake of his country. He took his passion of flying and turned it into a career for the benefit of others. When asked if there was anything else he would like to add regarding his military involvement, Brown happily concluded, “Flying is dangerous, but it’s also a great deal of fun.”
Interviewed by Gabriella Aversa and Kathryn Khalvati on June 24, 2011