A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS BROWNSON DD-868
The Tin Can Sailor, April 2001
The BROWNSON (DD-868) was commissioned at New York on 17 November 1945 and in November 1946 took part in the polar expedition led by Admiral Richard E. Byrd. Her first deployment with the Sixth Fleet was in 1948.
On 8 November 1950, the BROWNSON and CHARLES H. ROAN (DD-853) were engaged in night operations some 265 miles off Bermuda. At 0103 the task group commander ordered the two destroyers to change station, a maneuver that required them to cross paths. Steaming at twenty knots and running dark, the ships were on a collision course before anyone could take action to avoid disaster. At 0110, with sirens blaring a warning, they collided. The BROWNSON’s bow tore a large hole in the ROAN in the area of the after engine room and machine shop. Within fifteen seconds the ships had broken clear of each other revealing that the collision had sheared away a large section of the BROWNSON’s bow and several forward ordnance storage compartments were flooding. Aboard the ROAN, a sailor in the machine shop went into the sea through the hole torn in the hull, but within minutes the BROWNSON’s boat had recovered him. He was a lucky one. As a result of the collision, five of the ROAN’s crew died—three instantly, two later— and several were injured, two requiring hospitalization.
Among those on hand to assist the stricken ships were the DENNIS J. BUCKLEY (DDR-808), MYLES C. FOX (DDR-829), and SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DD-823). At 1445, with flooding under control and the forward bulkhead shored up, the BROWNSON got underway for Bermuda with the quickly assembled task group. The ROBERTS, which was later relieved by the LUISENO (ATF-156), followed with the ROAN in tow. Her injured crewmen were sped to Bermuda aboard the PALAU (CVE-122) and BENNER (DDR-807). The BROWNSON and the task group reached Bermuda on 11 November. The ROAN reached port on the 12th.
Following repairs, she returned to a normal routine. NATO exercises in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, cruises to South America and the Caribbean, duty in the Far East, and a tour in the Persian Gulf carried her through 1956. Two years later, the BROWNSON joined Destroyer Development Group Two whose task was to develop, test, and evaluate new equipment.
She took part of the Cuban quarantine in October 1962 and in June 1963 underwent fleet rehabilitation and modernization (FRAM) conversion. Following her 1964 Mediterranean deployment, the BROWNSON was outfitted with two DASH helicopters. In 1965, she operated along the East Coast, participated in NATO exercises in the North Atlantic, and visited thirteen ports in Northern Europe. During 1966 she served as a destroyer school ship with the GAINARD (DD-706) and HARLAN R. DICKSON (DD-708) conducting training exercises in Narragansett Bay and the Caribbean.
In October 1966, the BROWNSON got underway for the Western Pacific and on 21 November, with the CHARLES P. CECIL (DD-835), joined the FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA-42) on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. Completing plane guard duties on 29 November, she proceeded to the I Corps area of South Vietnam to conduct gunfire support operations, shelling enemy positions. She returned to plane guard duty until 26 December when she conducted antisubmarine warfare exercises with the STODDARD (DD-566) and CARBONERO (SS-337). While in Kaohsiung Harbor, Taiwan, the BROWNSON’s crew helped fight a fire in the hold of the Panamanian merchant ship SS ORIANA. She was back in Vietnamese waters in January 1967, firing on Vietcong buildings, troops, and bases in the III Corps area.
Back home in April 1967, she conducted midshipmen and destroyer school training cruises in the Caribbean with the HARLAN R. DICKSON and HUGH PURVIS (DD-709). She was involved in tests of experimental sonar equipment during much of 1968 and then got underway for a Sixth Fleet deployment in 1969, steaming east in company with the WILLIAM R. RUSH (DD-714) and O’HARE (DD-889). That summer she operated in Northern Europe and the Arctic Circle with the WASP (CVS-18), VOGE (DE-1047), KOELSCH (DE-1049), O’HARE, BORDELON (DD-881), and WILLIAM V. PRATT (DLG-13). In the Caribbean in September 1969, as plane guard for the FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, she rescued two men overboard from the carrier. A day later, the destroyer helped search for two A4 pilots involved in a mid-air collision near St. Croix. Fishermen recovered one pilot, but all that could be found of the other was his flight helmet.
Over the next two years, she engaged in operations out of Newport and exercises in the Caribbean and off the Virginia Capes with the BASILONE (DD-824), CHARLES P. CECIL (DD-835), GARCIA (DE-1040), KOELSCH, BARRY (DD-933) and BELKNAP (DLG-26). A transfer to Mayport, Florida, Mediterranean deployments, exercises in the North Atlantic, surveillance of Soviet antisubmarine warfare exercises, a Caribbean cruise, and a final tour of duty to Africa, Pakistan, and the Persian Gulf ended her career. She was decommissioned and stricken from the navy’s list on 30 September 1976 and sold for scrap in June 1977.