1916 Members Are Treated To A History Lesson
From left to right; 1916 Commander, Wayne Unrath, guest Jay Wildfong, member Art Nachtigal.
The historic story of Reedsburg's Everett "Red" Brill was shared last week when VFW Post 1916 welcomed guest Jay Wildfong, a shipmate of Brill's. Brill and Wildfong served together as Navy Armed Guards on cargo ships during WWII.
Even before the U.S. entered the war, German subs were sinking American cargo ships en route to Europe. This led to the Navy installing guns for defence on cargo ships, called "Liberty Ships" Brill and Wildfong manned those guns.
The ship they served on, the Jacques Laramie, arrived in the Leyte Gulf one day after American troops landed for the invasion to retake the Philippines from the Japanese.
By that time, Japan was losing the war and getting more desperate. They began sending kamikaze pilots to attack both war and cargo ships. Such was the case on Nov. 12, 1944 as the Jacques Laramie was attacked in the gulf. Red Brill was the stern gunner, manning a 20mm gun.
When a Japanese plane started its suicide run on the Laramie, Red Brill waited patiently until the plane was within range and opened fire. His shots caused the plane to veer off and crash into the water, saving many lives, among them Jay Wildfong. For his actions, Brill received a commendation.
Wildfong was invited to the VFW meeting by Art Nachtigal who served in the Merchant Marines durring WWII. The Merchant Marines were the ones who operated and the cargo ships on which some of the Navy Guard served.