Matt Brazil Recuperating


The U.S. National Archives database of WW II POWs lists Matt Brazil as having been a prisoner, but the record doesn’t include a camp name.

A couple of things mentioned in Laura Rawson’s article, “The Story of Sergeant Matt Brazil….,” and the Fog Horn article seem to reinforce that he was in Camp 59:

The article above mentions two British doctors. The two British doctors in Camp 59 were J. H. Derek Millar and Adrian Duff, both Scottish. The article also mentions a dentist—who was named Hogson, according to Giuseppe Millozzi.

Matt mentions getting mail regularly, which was not true in all camps.

Camp 59, though not in Ancona, is near to it. Matt’s estimate of their being around 1,300 prisoners (about 1,100 British and 200 Americans) in camp is close. The number in Camp 59 at the time of the escape is generally estimated at 2,000. Giuseppe Millozzi refers to Italian military authority records in giving the count of prisoners in March 1943—close to the time Matt would have arrived there—as 1,445 British and 464 Americans.

In “The Story of Sergeant Matt Brazil,” Laura Rawson wrote, “After the Italian surrender the prisoners were guarded less closely, so Brazil and six other men escaped. A day or two later all the prisoners were released.”

The Italian armistice was signed on September 3, 1943, and publicly declared on September 8. Word of the armistice reached the prisoners on the morning on September 9.

On September 10, Captain Millar, who was in charge of the men within the camp, was informed of the Allied “stay put order”—that the prisoners were to remain in camp until Allied forces reached them. It therefore seems likely that Matt and the six men who escaped with him left camp around September 10–13.


The Fog Horn
Saturday, May 6, 1944

Sergeant, Army Air Force

One of the first of our men to see service in Italy, one of the first to be taken prisoner of war, one of the first to escape and make his way back to the States, is the distinction of Matthew P. Brazil, not a patient at Letterman General Hospital.

Sergeant Brazil, a native of Santa Cruz, California, was awarded the Purple Heart on March 27 in a ceremony at Letterman Hospital.

Military service started for the Sergeant in October of 1941 when he went into the Air Corps as an armorer of guns and as a flight gunner. After nine months of training in this country, he was sent overseas, where he took part in over twenty missions, covering Tobruk, Ben Gassi, Crete, Tripoli, and Naples.

He was in the first mission over Italy and the first squadron over the southern part of that country. It was in Naples that the twenty-four year old sergeant was shot down and made an unexpectedly long stay in Italy. An Italian MA 202 plane came up on the tail of the ship in which he was flying and, in the first burst of fire, shot down the two men stationed next to the sergeant on the number four engine. When Brazil returned the fire, the firing pin on his own ship snapped, and he manned the waist gun, whose gunner had been killed. In two bursts he had the satisfaction of seeing the enemy catch fire and do a dive into the ocean. By that time things were happening fast and furiously. The sergeant called the pilot to inform him that number four engine was throwing oil, and as he did so the engine prop came around, hitting the number three prop, causing both of them to fall to the water. They were flying too low to keep going and were forced to make a crash landing in the ocean about one hundred yards off shore, where they found themselves surrounded by three row boats filled with Italian fishermen.

Seven of the crew, most of them badly injured, among them Sergeant Brazil, were picked up by the fishermen and were taken to a small barracks, where they were given first aid. Eighteen hours later found Brazil in a hospital, where he spent the next four months and was then sent on to a prisoner-of-war camp.

The high light of the six months spent in the prison camp was the weekly parcel from the Red Cross. Even now the sergeant dwells with pleasure on each item in those parcels. There were dried fruits; Prem or Spam; bully beef; soap, which was a rare treat; coffee and sugar; candy; biscuits, oleomargarine; salmon or sardines; cigarettes; and lemon powder to make a drink. Most of the prisoners supplemented their meager daily rations by extracting one item at a time from their Red Cross parcels. The normal menu provided by the camp was no breakfast, a lunch composed of a piece of bread made of acorns and chestnuts, accompanied by hard cheese. Dinner was a small ladle of water with spaghetti or rice floating limply in it. Even after four months at home, Brazil claims he can’t eat as much as he wants.

Sanitary facilities for the number of prisoners was inadequate. It was possible to bathe by ladling water over oneself by the dipperful, but showers were so few that a man averaged only one a month. Two English doctors and a dentist, also captured, did all they could to aid the others.

One great aid in breaking the monotony was the supply of books constantly sent in by both the English and American Red Cross. There was little else to do but read.

Another one of the most vivid memories of his prison life for Sergeant Brazil is the day, after six months internment, when the first mail came through. On that day he received a letter from his mother and two from his sweetheart. After that the mail arrived with fair regularity.

After his escape and arrival in this country, Brazil lost no time in pursuing an interest dear to his heart. He landed in America in November 21 and on November 28 he gave up his new-found freedom to become the husband of Miss Doris Greenquist of San Jose, California, author of the first two letters to reach him while he was a prisoner of war.

After his leave, he returned to Letterman, where he is now recuperating from his wounds.


Matt was awarded his first medal while still a prisoner of war in Italy.

Air Medal Given S.C. [Santa Cruz] Lad Who Is Prisoner Of War

He may be a prisoner of war in Italy, but he has been given a medal, just the same.

Sgt. Matthew P. Brazil, son of Mrs. Jennie Brazil, 108 Myrtle street, has been awarded an air medal, according to word from Cairo.

Sgt. Brazil enlisted in the army air corps more than a year ago and was reported missing in action in the North African area last December. Later Mrs. Brazil received word that the plane in which her son was known to have been flying was seen to land in the ocean near Italy, and Italian radio communique confirmed the fact that Brazil was among prisoners interned in Italy.

Educated in Santa Cruz schools, Brazil was working in San Jose as a printer at the time of his enlistment.


Additional medals were awarded to Matt in September 1944, while he was recuperating in Menlo Park, California.


30 Sept 44


Sgt. Matthew P. Brazil, 39013867

Is authorized to wear the following ribbons and medals:

Air Medal
American Defense
European Theatre of Operations with 3 bronze stars
Purple Heart
Good Conduct
Over Seas-stripes two (2)
Service Stripe 1 (one) (hash mark)
Silver Star

1ST Lt. MED. ADM. O.

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