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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Myron Brown may be as quick with a quip as he was once adept at maneuvering a twin-engined bomber aircraft.
Wednesday, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz presented the 86-year-old Provo resident with a 60-year delayed Silver Star for his actions as a B-26 bomber pilot in Korea in 1951. Of the gold-colored star attached to a red, white and blue ribbon, Brown said, “Why isn’t silver?”
At a Saratoga Springs town meeting, the retired educator and family therapist also received the Distinguished Service Cross — the second-highest military honor to only the Congressional Medal of Honor — as well as a Purple Heart.
The awards were delayed due to "misfiling," according to a letter from the U.S. Department of the Air Force.
Sharply-dressed in still-fitting dress blues heavily-laden with military awards, Brown kept up a steady stream of humor.
He compared his military service to the 44-year-old congressman’s political service: “I think the shots he takes are worse than the ones I did.”
But Brown said he didn't mind the 60-year wait.
“Actually, it’s a lot more exciting now than it would have been in Korea," he said. “They would have just lined you up on a parade ground and pinned it on your chest.”
It was also special that around 14 family of his members could make it to the event, he added.
While Brown received the three medals for his service in the Korean War, he also flew bombers in World War II over Europe. In 1943 at age 19, he was perhaps the youngest commander of a U.S. bomber crew ever.
And years ago he also received the Distinguished Flying Cross and 14 Air Medals.
April 20, 1951, during a night bombing attack against a heavily defended railroad yard in Pyongyang, Korea, anti-aircraft fire took out one of his B-26’s engines. Instead of prematurely dropping his bomb load and aborting his mission, Brown managed to extinguish the flames, set up single-engine operations, and still hit the “critically important target,” the Distinguished Service Cross citation reads.
Then, despite a leg wound, Brown finished the second part of the mission by firing rockets, and strafing railroad cars and ammunition stores with machine gun fire.
One of the cars Brown and his crew destroyed was the site of a meeting of high-ranking North Korean generals, who had met to plan an important counter attack that would never come, thanks to Brown’s actions, the citation says.
“Brown’s commitment to his assigned mission … created a sequence of events that ultimately led to a most important ground victory.”
For that, he got the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart.
Over a month earlier, March 3, 1951, Brown led a flight of B-26 bombers against a railroad bridge, also in Pyongyang. Receiving heavy ground fire, all the plane’s controls were shot away, leaving Brown only his “trim tabs” with which he managed to barely control the plane.
“This is a task that most seasoned pilots would consider impossible,” the citation reads.
Normally, the crew would have parachuted to safety. However, the butt-end of an exploded anti-aircraft shell had shredded his navigator’s parachute. To save the man’s life, Brown nursed the bomber back to base and made a belly-landing.
For that, he got the Silver Star.
Ironically, Brown says he's embarrassed that he doesn’t even remember the name of the navigator whose life he saved. The airman was a one-time substitute for another crew member who had recently been killed.
Brown said he feels very embarrassed by the all the attention his delayed medals are receiving, and he downplays his heroics: “The military loves PR — but don’t quote that,” he said. “Did I fly on one engine with minimal controls? Yes. But they make it sound like I won the war.”
Of the 10 rows of military awards pinned to his uniform, he said, “I don’t even know what all but five of these were for," adding, “You just do what you have to.”
His memories are heavier than his medals, he says. Like the image of one of his navigators' intestines spilled out on the floor.
"That's really hard," he said.
Such memories still bring tears very close to the surface. “I’m a retired shrink and I can desensitize my patients, but not myself.”