Floyd Brown spent a lot of his wartime in an Army jeep, but that didn't mean he had it easy.
The Rossville native, who turns 100 this month, said he joined up late in World War II as a replacement in the 45th Division, one of the first Army National Guard units activated in the war.
The division he was to join had fought its way from Sicily through Italy and France and into Germany, at enormous cost in lives and equipment.
"I would have been on the first call, but I had three kids," said Brown, who was a rural mail carrier in the North Georgia area before signing up.
Name: Floyd Brown
Home: Rossville, Ga.
Military branch and rank: U.S. Army National Guard, private first class
He arrived in Germany in November 1944 and became a driver with a reconnaissance unit.
"We were so busy, we were moving all the time," Brown recalled in an interview at NHC Healthcare in Rossville, where he lives.
His group scouted ahead, making things safer for the American troops advancing behind them, clearing roadblocks under the protection of a 37 mm gun mounted on a light tank but in constant danger from snipers.
"They'd usually be in a church tower or something. We'd get up close enough to fire those 37s and it wouldn't be long till there'd be smoke," he said.
Brown didn't give too many details, but the 45th was in the thick of the European campaign, holding the center at the battle of Anzio and helping liberate concentration camps. The 45th Infantry Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla., houses artifacts owned by Adolf Hitler, including a mirror taken from the bedroom of his Berlin bunker, according to the museum's website.
Brown remembers coming across the Hohner harmonica factory, founded in 1857 in Trossingen, Germany, and making away with a small wooden box of the instruments he managed to bring back to the states.
He said he eventually sold them to what's now Brody Jewelers in Rossville.
Brown saw the end of the war in Europe and he didn't even think about staying in the Army, he said.
"Being in the Army, under the control of the military, that didn't suit me much," Brown said. "When my discharge came up, I was ready to go."
He came home and got into construction, eventually helping build the forms used to construct the cooling towers at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in Soddy-Daisy.
At first, he didn't think his wartime service left that much of a mark, but he's since changed his mind.
"It really did influence my life. I began to understand that people didn't appreciate the good old USA, they just took it for granted."
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.