A hero’s legacy: 80th anniversary of first Armored Forces casualty in World War Two

On December 8, 1941, Private First Class Robert H. Brooks was killed in action in the Philippines.

SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – On December 8, 1941, Private Robert H. Brooks was killed in action in the Philippines. On the 80th anniversary of his death, he is being remembered by family and people in the community as a hero.

Wendy Young, a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Northern Elementary in Lexington, is Private Robert H. Brooks’ third cousin. According to Young, Brooks passed as white, joining the all-white Kentucky National Guard D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion in late 1940. On December 8, 1941, he was the first Armored Forces casualty in World War II, killed instantly by a bomb.

“My cousin passed as white. They thought he was white. And so when they found out he was a sharecropper–his family were sharecroppers–they were like, ‘this man is a Black man’ and they originally did not want to celebrate and honor him,” said Young.

When Brooks died, he was just 26 years old. He died just a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“It makes me proud for one. When he culturally had to pass as a white man. But then was still honored when he was found out that he was African-American. You know, it just brings pride,” said Young.

Brooks was born in MacFarland in 1915, and grew up in Sadieville. Near Sadieville’s City Hall, a historical marker details his history.

The Georgetown & Scott County Museum has an exhibit dedicated to the history of Black communities in the county. Among those honored in the exhibit is Brooks.

“Being able to share that story is so very important and it’s so interesting because when you think of veterans giving their life for the country, I think we need to do all that we can do to pay tribute to that,” said Georgetown & Scott County Museum Director Ruthie Stevens.

Young says her father and grandfather worked hard to ensure Brooks’ story did not go unheard.

“My father and grandfather really worked hard to make sure my cousin was celebrated…and I’m proud that they didn’t let this celebration go unknown,” said Young.

Young says now, more than ever, Brooks’ legacy of heroism should be shared to inspire the next generation.

“There’s so much going on in our world, young men dying by gun violence…I’m just hoping that my cousin’s death shows that we should do things to support our country and our community,” said Young.

Brooks’ influence is far-reaching: the main parade ground at Fort Knox is dedicated to him. Brooks was posthumously promoted to Private First Class.

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