Born in Lyons, N.Y., 8 July 1845, Willard Herbert Brownson graduated from the Academy in 1865. He commanded the protected cruiser Detroit at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during the revolution of 1893-94 and Yankee during the Spanish-American War. From 1900 until 1902 he was Superintendent of the Naval Academy. He became Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Fleet 15 October 1906. After his retirement in July 1907 he continued on active duty as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation by order of President Theodore Roosevelt. Rear Admiral Brownson died at Washington, D.C., 16 March 1935.
(DD 518; dp. 2050; l. 376'5"; b. 39'7"; dr. 17'9"; s. 35.5 k.; cpl. 329; a. 5 5", 10 21" TT.; cl. Fletcher)
The first Brownson (DD 518) was launched 24 September 1942 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Staten Island, N.Y.; sponsored by Mrs. Cleland S. Baxter, graddaughter of Admiral Brownson; and commissioned 3 February 1943, 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 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 that overwhelmed the Japanese.
At approximately 1442, 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 1450 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 1459. Brownson suffered the loss of 108 of her crew. The remainder were rescued by Daly (DD 519) and Lamson (DD 367).
Brownson received one battle star for her World War II service.
28 November 2005