Jim Brand of Ventura Lakes mobile home park south of Punta Gorda, developed a hernia in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. during World War II and missed the “D-Day Invasion.”
“I got a hernia and they threw me in a ward with nothing but a bunch of guys with hernias,” the 92-year-old recalled. “When I got out of the hospital all in my group had gone to ‘D-Day.
“After basic I was sent to school to be a tank engine mechanic,” Brand said. “Then three of us were called into the company headquarters and asked if we wanted to go to Officers Candidate School. I said, ‘yes.’ I was sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds to OCS.”
From there he took a train to California. A new liberty ship took him from Oakland to Manila in the Philippines.
“The war ended while we were still on the ship going over,” Brand said. “Initially we were supposed to be part of the invasion force going into Japan.”
He and his outfit never got further east than the Philippines. They became part of an operation that turned used Jeeps and trucks into civilian vehicles for personal use.
“I was put in charge of a salvage operation in Manila. I was responsible for repairing and selling hundreds of military vehicles that ringed the city,” he explained. “Fortunately I had two master sergeants who knew what was going on.
“I was part of the 618th Ordinance Maintenance Battalion. It was our job to find and deliver broken down military vehicles which we located all over the island to a repair outfit. We’d haul them back to Manila to be worked on.
“The Philippines were in dire need of transportation. For $300 they could buy a non-working Jeep. If they paid $750 they could get a Jeep that may or may not work. If they paid $1,000 they got a Jeep that ran.
“They’d take a Jeep, cut it in half, lengthen it, install additional seats and turn it into a bus. The bus would be painted garish colors and a canvas top would be added.
“We decided one day to take an amphibious Jeep out on the Manila Waterway for cruise. This is a Jeep that had a boat-like bottom. We got out on the waterway and pretty soon someone said, ‘Hey, there’s water coming in on the floor.’ We whipped it around and barely made it back to shore before it sank.”
The next time Brand and his buddies went sailing they upgraded to an Army DAKW—an amphibious 2 1/2 ton truck.
The DAKW worked great . They spent many a weekend sailing the waterway on their off time.
Brand’s best buddy in high school ended up stationed aboard a tugboat a short distance from him at Subic Bay. He was one of the officers aboard the tug.
“We heard about a group of native people who lived up in the mountains outside Manila that needed medical help,” Brand recalled. “These people were called the Igorot. At one time they had been head hunters.
“We took a Jeep and an interpreter and headed into the mountains with medical supplies. We found the people who wore nothing but loin cloths. Many of them had huge sores on their legs.
“They were grateful for the medicine we brought them. We made two trips into the hills to bring them medicine.”
During the months Brand spent in the Army at the close of the war he watched Manila being rebuilt by Allied forces. The capital city had been demolished by the fighting during the Second World War.
“We watched Manila come back to life. They started by rebuilding of the bridges. They were trying to get the civilians back on their feet again. A bakery appeared and pretty soon an ice cream shop opened and then there was a movie theater.
“This was all an eye opener for 19-year-old kid like me,” Band said
When he returned to San Francisco in 1946 from what had been the war in the Pacific his father flew from Michigan to meet him.
With the help of the G.I. Bill, Brand graduated from Michigan State University and went to work in Ford Motor Company’s Tractor Division for a couple of years. Then he, his wife, and his father purchased a 300-acre dairy farm they ran for 14 years. He spent the next few years as the service manger for a tractor dealer. Finally, Brand was the program director for the heavy equipment repair department at Ferris State College in Michigan.
In 1986 he and his wife, Merrelyn, retired. They bought a motor home and started touring the country.
“Thirty-two years ago we came to Punta Gorda in our motor home,” he said.
The couple has four children: Kristy Kim, Shari, and Jay.
Name: James G Brand
D.O.B: 18 May 1925
Currently: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Entered Service: 9 Feb. 1944
Discharged: 2 March 1945
Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Unit: 618th Ordinance Maintenance Battalion
Commendations: WWII Victory Medal
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, March 12, 2018 and is republished with permission.
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