William Ernest Brown, Sr., 97

February 21, 2019

William Ernest Brown, Sr., 97, a retired Master Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and veteran of WW II and the Korean War, died at home on Feb. 12, 2019. Bill is survived by his loving wife, Saadia Ghazzali Brown, Maryland, and his devoted children, Rodney Brown, Wisconsin, William E. Brown, Jr., California, and Darlene (Virg) Slack, Ohio.

Bill was born on Dec. 30, 1921, in Baltimore, Md., to William Thomas Brown and Jennie Elizabeth Yingling. His siblings, Mildred and Earl, soon followed. The family lived on Quail Street, where hucksters sold vegetables from horse-drawn wagons and kids played games in a nearby field. His father worked as a carpenter and loved to fish, while his mother worked as a waitress, rented rooms in their home to boarders, enjoyed dancing and cooking family favorites like chicken and dumplings, walnut cake, and chipped beef gravy. The Browns instilled in their children a strong work ethic, sense of humor, and traditions of crab feasts, dancing, storytelling, and trips to the Chesapeake Bay. As a boy, Bill picked tomatoes on Eastern Shore and earned nickels to attend the movies.

Learning his father’s trade, Bill became a carpenter. War was declared and at age 21 in June 1942, he enlisted in the Marines and trained at Paris Island, S.C. After utilizing his carpentry skills, the Marines assigned Bill to a dive bomber squadron in Camp Kearney, Calif. In December 1942, the Marines sent him with an international crew to Efate Island in the Solomon Islands. He worked at Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field in the flight line, where he learned to start up, taxi, and take care of a plane. As aircraft gunners were wounded, men from the flight line replaced them. On one nightly raid, a direct hit from the Japanese destroyed Bill’s plane.

In 1944, Bill returned to the U.S. and trained as an aircraft mechanic on F4U’s. At Long Beach Naval Base, he served as one of the Sargents of the Guard for the security and shore patrols. When discharged in 1945, he returned to carpentry work in Baltimore for three months, then re-enlisted and in 1946 and recruited for the newly formed 11th Engineer Battalion. He served at Camp Lejeune, NC In 1949, with the Reserves Training Battalion, overseeing engineers, anti-tanks and artillery during spring and summer training.

When the Korean War began in 1950, his duties changed to processing: ensuring men got physicals, clothing issue and shots. Next, he joined the newly formed 8th Engineer Battalion and received training at the Construction Foreman School at Fort Belvoir, Va., and learned to work with explosives. When the training officer chose the Marines in the class to work with dynamite, Bill said with his typical dry humor, “Sargent, either you hate Marines or we’re the only ones you trust.” While stationed in Korea, he served with B Company 1st Engineer Battalion, as Platoon Sargent, company gunny, and then as an advisor to the Korean Marines. Engineers’ roles were to build, tear down, blow-up and to plant and remove minefields.

He reported to Quantico in 1954 as NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge) for maintenance of the Guadalcanal Area’s 3 camps. In January 1956, the USMC promoted Bill, 34, to Master Sargent, and sent him to Camp Lejeune as Platoon Sargent of B Company Engineering Battalion and First Sargent. The following year, he led that battalion to help rebuild Camp Vieques in Puerto Rico, which was destroyed by a storm.

After completing recruiters School at Paris Island, he was assigned to Baltimore. In 1963, he worked in Okinawa as Section 3 Chief then Platoon Leader in the Engineer Battalion. Bill returned to recruiting duty and retired in 1966.

Medals awarded included: Good Conduct with Many Stars, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign with Three Stars, WW II Victory, Combat Action, Korean Service, United Nations Korean, and American Campaign. Ribbons: Presidential Unit Citation, Virginia National Guard Unit Merit, Recruiting Badge, Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

After he retired, Bill and his family owned and managed Park ‘N Tell restaurant in Dumfries, Va., and enjoyed horses, sailing, crabbing and fishing. He then returned to carpentry work into his late 80s.

On April 20, 1991, in Arlington County, Va., he married his beloved Saadia Ghazzali, formerly of Morocco. The couple enjoyed entertaining family and friends, fishing from their pontoon boat, picnics, and taking cruises in the Caribbean. Bill was a member of the American Legion, Moose, Marine Corps Association.

In addition to his parents, sister Mildred and brother Earl, Bill was preceded in death by his step-daughter Honey Burch. Also surviving are his grandchildren Bob Brown, Lisa Brown, Candice Bachelder, Nicholas Brown, Gabrielle Slaughter, Jeremy Brown, and Cory Slack; step-grandchildren Jeff and Nathan Burch; great-grandchildren, Megan, Colin Chez, Amelia Beauchamp, Sylvie Bachelder, Jamison, Audrey, Sydney and Ashlyn Slaughter, Angelina and Melody Brown; and great-great-grandson, Lucas Brown.

Bill also was much loved and helped by the Brown family, Saadia’s family, and friends John and Kari Jackson, and many other relatives and friends.

Viewing will be 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the service at 12 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17 at Lee’s Funeral Home 6633 Old Alexandria Ferry Road, Clinton, Md. Military burial will be held in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.