AF Reunion: He loved his Town and Stood his Ground

Jim Brazzil in Philadelphia at AF Reunion

Eighty—six year old James W. (Jim) Brazzil, of Highlands, has finally realized the fulfillment of a dream that he had held onto for almost 60 years.

That dream was to someday meet again with veterans of the 13th Jungle Air Force that he served with in the Philippines during the last phase of World War II. A staff Sergeant in the Public Relations Office, Jim worked as an enlisted news correspondent and editor, attached to the 13th Headquarters Squadron. At that time the unit was based on the Island of Leyte near the capital city of Tac1oban.

Little known in the early stages of the war, the 13th is now often remembered as a powerful, aggressive force in the Pacific War.

Jim is a new member of VFW Post 00912 in Baytown, and last year he was overjoyed to find a notice in the VFW Magazine stating that the 13th had scheduled a reunion for Sept. 12—15 in Des Moines, Iowa. He was packed up and ready to go when the terrorist attack on America occurred on Sept. 11. All flights were cancelled and the reunion was called off.

This year’s reunion was held Oct. 16-20 at Valley Forge, out of Philadelphia, PA. Jim was there, accompanied by his two daughters, Bonita Tankursley and Susan Adcox, who planned and carried out every detail of the trip for their dad.

It was a busy three days, with meetings, tours, entertain-ment, a banquet, and other activities. One of the highlights was a Memorial Service for departed 13th AF members, held on the bow of the Battleship New Jersey, docked in the.Delaware River.

About 70 veterans of the 13th attended the reunion, most of them accompanied by relatives and friends. Jim was reunited with two friends that he served with on Leyte, and a good number of other veterans that he had written about during the war. They had not seen each other in some 58 years. Jim came home with his pockets filled with photos, addresses, cards, and notes, reminding him to keep in touch.

Jim’s military career began in the fall of 1942, while working for a newspaper in west Texas. After a brief stay at Lubbock Air Force Base, he was transferred to Garden City Air Force Base in Kansas, where he spent two years as editor of the base newspaper, “The Dustbowl Flyer”.

His next stop was at the Air Force Base in San Marcos, Texas. He was editor of the base newspaper, “The Asterope”, for about a year before going overseas.

After the war ended, Jim worked for a number of Texas daily and weekly newspapers before coming to Highlands in the spring of 1955, where he and his brother-in-law Alton Neatherlin started The Highlands Publishing Company and The Highlands Star. During the almost 20 years that Jim was editor of the Star, he was quite well—known in weekly newspaper circles around the state as an enterprising Country Editor who loved his town and stood his ground.

The trip to Philadelphia on a Continental Airlines 737 was Jim’s first airplane ride since World War II. Upon his arrival back in Highlands, he was asked how it felt to once again climb aboard an airplane and fly off into “The Wild Blue Yonder”.

“A piece of cake”, he said with a grin.