May 28, 2011
Cortland man remembers cousin
Remains of pilot missing since World War II were found last year
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Phil Clarke, of Evergreen Street in Cortland, holds a paper with information about his cousin, Flight Lt. Carlos Brown, who went down in his plane during World War II. Brown’s remains were discovered last year in Germany.
City resident Phil Clarke remembers hitchhiking hundreds of miles through Germany at the end of World War II, searching for his cousin and his plane that was shot down in 1943.
Clarke, a World War II veteran, said the streets were teeming with U.S. Army vehicles at the time.
“All I had to do was stick my thumb up and I had a ride,” said Clarke, 89.
Clarke did not find his cousin, Carlos Brown, at the end of the war, but last year a German student in the search area found Brown’s plane in Brandau, Germany.
“It was very emotional,” Clarke said. “I was very happy to have some closure.”
Brown attended Beaumont College, a private school in England, in the early 1930s. Clarke also attended the college from 1936 to 1940.
Clarke and Brown met in 1935 in Berlin. Clarke was just 13 years old at the time of the meeting.
“He showed me around Berlin,” Clarke said.
When thinking about his cousin, Clarke called Brown a “blithe spirit.” He stressed that his cousin was a “staunch anti-Nazi.” He said Brown fought against the “depravities of Hitler and the Nazis.”
As the war broke out in 1939, Brown took his motorbike and fled from Berlin, traveling from Italy to Spain, and Portugal before making his way back to the United States.
“When the war clouds developed, he got on his motorbike and went to Paris,” Clarke said.
Brown, who had lived in New York City, Connecticut and Florida in the years before the war, tried to join the U.S. Army, but the country had not yet entered the war. Instead, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he became a flight lieutenant.
The last time Clarke saw his cousin was in New York City in the early 1940s, as Brown was preparing to go to Europe.
“He had no illusions about where he was going,” Clarke said.
In November 1943, Brown traveled from England to a bombing mission in Frankfurt, Germany. On the way back from the mission, Brown’s plane, a Lancaster bomber, was shot down and crashed in Brandau.
Clarke received a letter from his aunt, Elena Rodriguez, asking him to search for Brown. He traveled more than 100 miles searching for his cousin, but did not find him in Brandau.
Last year, a German student found parts from the missing plane. Clarke said finding the plane provided some degree of closure for him after nearly 65 years.
“It meant a lot for our family to see his plane recovered,” said George Clarke, Phil Clarke’s son. George Clarke said Brown’s remains may have been burned in the crash.
Clarke and his six children visited England between May 18 and Tuesday, during which they attended the 150th anniversary of the now closed Beaumont College. They also visited a memorial honoring Brown and other members of the Royal Air Force.
Clarke said it was an emotional time for his family and that he was thankful that his cousin’s memory would be preserved.
“I was delighted that his name will live on for a long time,” Clarke said.
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