Brownson in early 1943
|Namesake:||Willard H. Brownson|
|Builder:||Bethlehem Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, New York|
|Laid down:||15 February 1942|
|Launched:||24 September 1942|
|Commissioned:||3 February 1943|
|1 Battle Star|
|Fate:||Sunk by Japanese aircraft off Cape Gloucester on 26 December 1943|
|Class and type:||Fletcher-class destroyer|
|Length:||376 ft 6 in (114.7 m)|
|Beam:||39 ft 8 in (12.1 m)|
|Draft:||17 ft 9 in (5.4 m)|
|Propulsion:||60,000 shp (45 MW); 2 propellers|
|Speed:||35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph)|
|Range:||6500 nmi. (12,000 km) at 15 kt|
Brownson was the first ship of the U.S. Navy to be named for Rear Admiral Willard H. Brownson (1846–1935). She was also the first of the Fletcher class to be built with a "square-bridge" configuration, which allowed greater all-around visibility than the earlier ships of the class, which had a "round bridge" or "high bridge" configuration.
Brownson was launched on 24 September 1942 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Staten Island, N.Y., sponsored by Mrs. Cleland S. Baxter, granddaughter of Admiral Brownson; and commissioned on 3 February 1943, with Lieutenant Commander J. B. Maher in command.
Brownson operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific. From her commissioning until 11 June 1943, she operated along the northeastern seaboard of the United States and in the North Atlantic as a convoy escort and anti-submarine patrol ship. She made one voyage to North Africa (12–31 May 1943).
On 18 June 1943, she transited the Panama Canal arriving in California on the 28th. She operated briefly along the California coast before getting underway for Alaska in July. Upon arrival, she performed patrol and convoy escort duty until 29 November 1943. She then steamed via Pearl Harbor to the Southwest Pacific, where she supported operations in the Bismarck Archipelago.
At approximately 14:42, 26 December 1943, Brownson was hit by two bombs from a Japanese dive bomber while screening the landings on Cape Gloucester, New Britain. The bombs struck to starboard of the centerline, near number two stack. A tremendous explosion followed, and the entire structure above the main deck as well as the deck plating, was gone. The ship listed 10 to 15 degrees to starboard, and settled rapidly amidships with the bow and stern canted upward.
The wounded were placed in rafts and at 14:50, the order to abandon ship was given. The amidships section was entirely underwater at that time. There was a single ripple like a depth charge explosion and the ship sank at 14:59. Brownson suffered the loss of 108 of her crew. The remainder were rescued by USS Daly and USS Lamson.
Footage of the sinking is included in Attack! The Battle of New Britain (~49m:57s) along with some footage of wounded survivors. Japanese losses in this action are estimated in the film as at 60 planes with a "dozen" friendly planes also lost.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- navsource.org: USS Brownson
- hazegray.org: USS Brownson