Rufus Brantley was born on Halloween, 1923. He was and is still a treat. He may appear to be a typical WWII veteran, but Mr. Brantley’s story is anything but typical.
Entering the U.S. Army at the age of 20, Private Brantley was soon deployed, as the popular song says – “Over There”. That song title became a refrain as Private Brantley’s over there deployments took him first to Africa with a Tank Destroyer Battalion, then to Italy for the Allied invasion. From Italy he went over there to France for the southern invasion and crossed the Rhine River with Patton’s 3rd Army. They proceeded through France, Germany, and Austria.
Are you keeping up?
The 1945 Washington DC Times Herald reads: …the action occurred late in January when 25 German tanks with infantry support came out of a wood in Alsace, France. Five of our tank destroyers were waiting. Sgt. Rufus Brantley of Georgia was gunner on one of the two tank destroyers on the North side of the road. (Brantley had received his Sergeant stripes the day before.) He opened fire at 1200 yards. “I thought I was hitting one tremendous tank,” he said. “It blazed up beautifully after my second shot. Then I saw it was actually two tanks, a Panther and a Mark IV.” Other gunners followed. Within two minutes the whole German force, tanks and infantry were destroyed or routed — with no American casualties.
When I asked him if he remembered any close calls, he told me: “In a tank destroyer you have an open observation turret. If you want to find your target, you have to expose yourself to enemy fire. I still hear the sound of bullets whizzing by our heads. It was in France that I felt something wet rolling down my back and I asked my commander to check it out. When he pulled up my jacket, he said ‘you’ve been hit.’ It was my own blood that I felt. That was the first Purple Heart and a close call. It came from an artillery fragment that went in between my shoulder blades and settled against the front wall of my chest. Almost went clean through me.”
When the war was over, he decided to stay in the Army and was commissioned during his two tours of duty in Korea and Japan. First Lieutenant Brantley was honorably discharged in 1954. During his time of service he was awarded the Bronze Star, Three Purple Hearts, The Meritorious Service Medal, several clusters for campaigns and battles in the European Theatre…. just for starters!
Transitioning to civilian life, Rufus spent the next forty years at the Brantley Appliance Company. He was ordained into God’s ministry in 1956. After working six days a week, on Sundays he served as Route Pastor for six churches and also had a radio ministry every Sunday. He told me that he believed it was always in the plan for him to be a minister and he felt God was in charge, so he was just following orders.
At age 90, he’s as spry as ever and preaches on Sunday at Benton Village in Stockbridge, where he resides. Rufus Brantley. A man who has and is still serving his God and country with honor and distinction.