Albion Central Schools Veterans History Project
Charles Avery Brooks
CHARLES AVERY BROOKS: BIOGRAPHICAL & MILITARY SERVICE INFORMATION
- Birthplace: Albion, New York
- Place of Residence*: Albion, New York
*at time of interview
- Wars of Service: World War II
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit/Division/Regiment/Ship: 94th Artillery, 325th Ordinance Ammunition Company
- Date of Birth: July 12, 1916
- Method of Induction: Enlisted
- Service Dates: 5/06/1942 - 12/7/1945
- Place of Service: England, France
Mr. Brooks volunteered for military service when his brother, Bob, was drafted. Mr. Brooks was accepted into the U.S. Army despite hearing problems caused by a broken eardrum. He and his brother both reported to the Rochester draft board and were assigned to the 94th Artillery, a unit that operated tanks.
For their training, the two brothers traveled back and forth across the United States. They spent about 13 weeks at Fort Niagara, New York, followed by a summer in Pine Camp, New York (which was renamed Fort Drum after World War II). Sometime around December of 1942, they were shipped to Tennessee for maneuvers and spent another 13 weeks there. Then they were off to the Mojave Desert, near Needles, California. Finally, they went to Bowie, Texas until the fall of 1943, when they were sent to Boston, Massachusetts. After having Christmas dinner in Boston, they were shipped by boat to England. The journey took them about 12 to 14 days, and they celebrated New Year’s Day on the boat.
To protect themselves from enemy submarines, their ship traveled as part of a convoy of other boats, which zig-zagged across the Atlantic Ocean to make it harder for the German subs to find them. Finally, they landed in Devrizes, England, where they waited to learn when and where they would be sent to fight the Germans.
Being so close to the Atlantic Ocean coast, Devrize was always foggy and wet. The constant mist made it very difficult for Mr. Brooks to keep his clothes dry.
While in England, the army sent Mr. Brooks to a hospital to see if they could fix his eardrum. Unfortunately, nothing could be done to improve his hearing. While he was in the hospital, his brother, Bob, and two other men from their unit visited him. The four soldiers were concerned that, if Mr. Brooks had trouble hearing some of the orders given in the tank, it might lead to other problems. Finally, the four agreed that Mr. Brooks should be transferred to another outfit where he could still serve our country despite having poor hearing.
Mr. Brooks was transferred to the 325th Ordinance Ammunition Company, a unit that handled ammunition (bullets, shells, etc.). He and his new unit crossed the English Channel into Normandy, France about 12 days after D-Day, the major U.S./Allied invasion of Europe. One night shortly after landing in France, he remembers sleeping in a trench about 10 miles inland while off-duty when German planes tried to bomb his company’s supply of ammunition. He ran to the storage areas and stayed in close to the buildings. The German bombs shook the roofing shingles loose, causing them to slide down off the sides. Unlike modern shingles, the shingles on these roofs were large pieces of slate rock and could seriously injure anyone whom they hit, so Mr. Brooks had to press himself tightly to the buildings to keep from being hit.
While working with the 325th Ammunition Company, he had one of his most memorable experiences. He was ordered to go to a French train station that the Germans had bombed in order to help unhook and move train cars that were loaded with gasoline and ammunition. Mr. Brooks rode to the depot in a tank (the driver was told to just drive up the train station steps and drive the tank straight onto the train tracks). At the station, Mr. Brooks had to crawl under train cars and unhook their couplings so that an MP (a military police officer) could move the cars away to safety. By doing this, he managed to help save much of the ammunition and all of the gasoline, which was very useful in the war effort.
He also remembers another tense situation, when he was in charge of captured German prisoners, who were assigned to work with his Ammunition unit, sorting and stacking the Allied ammunition. Ammunition had to be stored in a certain way, and army rules said that you couldn’t put too much ammunition and gunpowder in one place, for safety reasons. For the most part, these captured prisoners did what they were told, but in one case, when they had stacked ammunition in the wrong place, Mr. Brooks had to tell them to move it. Needless to say, the captured Germans didn’t want to do the job a second time, and were starting to become annoyed. Mr. Brooks did have a carbine rifle, but he didn’t have any bullets for it, so naturally, he was worried that the Germans would rebel against him. Luckily, another soldier came over and helped make the Germans to finish the job.
In addition to Mr. Brooks and his brother, Bob, who both served in Europe, other members of their family were involved in World War II in the Pacific. In Asia, Mr. Brook’s brother, Keith, served in the “SeaBees” [CB’s], the construction battalion, a unit that built airplane runways, hangars, shelters, and other needed structures. Mr. Brooks’ other brother, Dean, also served in the Pacific, after the war was over.
But the member of Mr. Brooks' family who was perhaps most affected by the war was his sister, Ruth, who was captured by the Japanese during the war. She had been a missionary on the island of Borneo, trying to spread Christianity in southeast Asia, when she was captured. While a Japanese prisoner, Ruth was treated poorly…the Japanese even forced her to sleep in a pigpen! Although Ruth survived the ordeal, her husband, whose health had diminished during his captivity and who returned to missionary work in the Pacific after the war, was severely weakened by the experience and later passed away because of it.
Mr. Brooks returned home from service on December 7th, 1945, the fourth anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and his mother’s birthday!