Biography

Briles was born the eighth of nine children on February 2, 1914. His parents, William Henry and Ida Ellen Gouty Briles, both passed away during his youth and he lived with his sister and brother-in-law on a farm at age sixteen. On his 27th birthday, he enlisted in the army at Fort Des Moines.

Briles volunteered for military service at the Fort Des Moines recruiting center in February 1941, hoping to fulfill his military service obligation in a year and then get back to a normal life of farming and raising livestock. These plans changed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and thus the government extended Briles’ tour of duty.

His tank destroyer battalion saw action at most of the major hot spots of the European theater of operations during World War II. First, he battled the German war machine in North Africa. He was recommended for medals during this action. Next, he followed the allied thrust into Italy, the Allies first landing in Europe itself. Then, his veteran unit landed on the Normandy beaches on D-day, and the Allies pushed into Germany.

If this was not enough, he found himself confronting the Germans in Hurtgen Forest, one of the bloodiest actions of the war for the army. It was there he earned his Medal of Honor.

After he completed his service, he was honored with the Medal at a White House ceremony hosted by President Truman. He married Wilma Telfer in January, 1946 and farmed near Ankeny for a time until moving back to Jasper County where he farmed and had three sons, James, Jerry and Randy. He was part owner of Colfax Sales Barn. He was a member of the Colfax American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Medal of Honor Society and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He died July 17, 1994.