l to r: Timothy McCoy, 555th Parachute Infantry Association, Baltimore chapter; Liane Young, author and national representative of the 555th Parachute Infantry Association; Dennis Symes, National Smoke Jumpers Association; Art Hinaman, assistant, US Forest Service, Fire & Aviation, holding the plaque to be attached to Brown’s headstone; Mary Wagner, associate chief, US Forest Service and Deidra McGee National, liaison, Forest Service. (Courtesy Photo)
Malvin L. Brown, a Black soldier who died during World War II, finally got the recognition he deserved.
That’s because Brown, a member of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, an all Black group, and his grave were long considered lost. The Triple Nickles, as the 555th was known, were well-known during their time and Brown’s death was reported on in The AFRO on Sept. 8, 1945.
The Triple Nickles, who were trained to not only jump out of planes but also to fight fires, were a part of the plan to thwart possible attempts by the Japanese to fly large balloons over the West Coast that could be detonated over forests. If the forests were set ablaze, the thinking went, then much needed resources for the War would have to be diverted to fight the fires.
While the Japanese plan never happened the Triple Nickles were flown to the West Coast to fight fires. Brown died fighting one such fire on Aug. 6, 1945. Soldiers who jumped out of planes to fight fires were known as smoke jumpers.
Over the years Brown’s family and the U.S. Forest Service lost track of his grave. After some sleuthing by members of the Triple Nickles Brown’s grave was located at the Mt. Calvary Cemetery near Baltimore.
Brown was honored on Aug. 6 by the Maryland National Guard, who presented the colors, while a soloist from the District of Columbia sang the national anthem. Brown’s family received full military honors. They were: Vernell Brown, eldest niece; Tracy Telfor, son of Vernell; Juanita Hayes, niece of Malvin Brown; Susan Hayes, daughter of Juanita; and Elizabeth Lindsey, niece of Malvin Brown.
Brown was born Oct. 11, 1920 and enlisted at the age of 22.