Albert S. Brown was a Sergeant in a machine gun section of H Company, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division during the Second World War. Brown joined the division shortly before its landing at Anzio in Italy in January 1944, and by December his unit had fought through Southern France and was in positions near Sigolsheim, in Alsace. At the age of 20, having been in combat for nearly a year and experiencing his first Christmas under fire, Brown reflected on the scene surrounding him on Christmas Eve.

[O]n December 24, 1944, my machine guns were in the basement of a farmhouse on the outskirts of Sigolsheim, France. . .
It was brutally cold and a time to be indoors whenever possible. The temperature outside was below zero with more than a foot of snow. . . Our machine guns, being water cooled, required the use of antifreeze to keep the water from freezing. We were out of antifreeze, so we had filled our guns with schnapps. . .
Above us, on the second floor, leaning against the sill of an open window, was a German soldier, frozen stiff. He was still holding his rifle pointing in the direction from which we had attacked earlier that day. He was older than the average frontline soldier. I guessed him to be forty-five to fifty years old. He was wearing military-issue, wire frame glasses with circular lenses. On his finger was a wedding band. He was obviously a husband and, in all probability, a father. He would never see another Christmas with his family. How sad. . .
Then suddenly, at around 10:00 p.m., there was an intense incoming artillery barrage in front of our position. It lasted only a minute or two, and then it was over. A reconnaissance patrol from one of our rife companies had been detected as it was returning from its mission, and the enemy was really giving it to them.  
A couple minutes later, the patrol entered our basement carrying a badly wounded soldier and left him with us. There was nothing anyone could do for him. His brains were protruding through a shrapnel hole in the center of his forehead. . . the man just lay there motionless, except for light breathing. . .
So this was my Christmas Eve 1944 - a dead enemy above me and a dying fellow soldier at my feet. While my men slept around me, I had no desire to sleep. I just sat in a chair, wondering if there was something I could and should do for this man. But nothing came to mind. It must have been about 2:00 a.m. when I could no longer see signs of breathing. He had made it to his last Christmas. One thing for certain, I knew that I would never have another Christmas Eve without this night coming back to me. I was so right. [1]
Staff Sergeant Albert S. Brown, circa 1945-46. Courtesy of

Brown would be wounded in action a month later as his company fought against German units in the "Colmar Pocket," but would return and fight through the final months of the war in Europe.

Reflecting on his wartime experiences, Brown recalled "I was jubilant when the war was over, then hit bottom again when I thought how many we left along the way." [2] In his memoirs, Brown often reflects on the "human slaughter" he witnessed, and in a poem titled "Why Not Me?" pondered his own survival:

Why Not Me? . . .
Again and again we charged the enemy lines.
We moved against bullets, shells, and mines.

We moved together, my comrades and I.
How was it determined who should live and who should die?
For years I have pondered this mystery.
Why was it them? Why not me? [3]

Brown passed away on December 8, 2018 at the age of 94. [4] His memoirs, My Comrades and Me: Staff Sergeant Al Brown's WWII Memoirs, are available from and several interviews with Brown have been posted on the Witness to War website.


[1] Albert S. Brown, My Comrades and Me: Staff Sergeant Al Brown's WWII Memoirs, (TX: Xlibris Corporation, 2011), 234-35.

[2] "Al Brown: H Company, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division - Army." Witness to War: Preserving The Oral Histories of Combat Veterans. Accessed December 12, 2020.

[3] Brown, My Comrades, 288, 312.

[4] "Albert S. Brown MARCH 20, 1924 – DECEMBER 8, 2018." Accessed December 12, 2020.