William Brown, 82, of Northern Liberties, a retired postal worker and retired Army sergeant who was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts during the Korean War, died Tuesday, Dec. 14, of a heart attack at home.
Mr. Brown's daughter Yvonne Lento said her father never spoke about his war experiences. "We knew he had medals, but never knew how he got them until we found newspaper articles after he died," she said.
In an article published in August 1950 in the Evening Bulletin, Mr. Brown's parents, Emmons and Rose, shared a letter they received from their son after he was wounded. "There were 72 of us against 1,500 North Koreans - every one of the North Koreans had a brand-new Russian machine gun," he wrote.
After a full day of fighting, a slug from an enemy rifle ripped through his right hand, and another bullet smashed a bone in his right forearm.
"I was pretty lucky to get out alive," Sgt. Brown wrote. "I had a machine-gun platoon of 28 men. There were 16 killed, 5 wounded, and 7 OK."
Another article in the Bulletin described the circumstances that earned Sgt. Brown a Silver Star a month before he was wounded.
He and his heavy-machine-gun division were fighting to keep the enemy out of Inchon as long as possible. According to the Silver Star citation, Mr. Brown drove off two waves of enemy attacks, but when a third started to form, his machine gun ran out of ammunition. He grabbed a smaller weapon and started to fire.
Then, again low on ammunition, he fixed his bayonet and, "with total disregard for his own safety, charged the enemy line until the remainder of his ammunition had been expended. He then began firing discarded enemy rifles and throwing grenades, which resulted in confusion among the enemy, forcing them to retreat."
Mr. Brown's mother told the Bulletin that her son wanted to join the Army during World War II, when he was only 15. "By the time I'm old enough," he complained then, "all the action will be over."
He left Northeast High School in his junior year and worked as an office boy and as a machinist apprentice before enlisting at 17 with his parents' consent.
Mr. Brown spent two years in occupied Japan before reenlisting. He was among the first U.S. troops to make an amphibious assault landing in Korea in July 1950 as part of the U.N. police force that responded to the invasion by North Korea.
After service in Korea, Mr. Brown was stationed at a Army base in Texas and at Fort Dix. While in the service, he earned a high school diploma and took college courses.
He retired from the Army in 1966. Having seen enough combat, he wanted to leave before he was deployed to Vietnam, his daughter said.
As a civilian, Mr. Brown was a mail handler at the post office at 30th Street. He retired in 1987.
He enjoyed reading and exercised regularly to keep fit, his daughter said.
Since 1961, Mr. Brown had been married to Eva Sauchak Brown. They met in Philadelphia while he was on leave from the Army.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by daughters Susan Elbert and Linda Racela; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.