Much of the early personal correspondence concerns Brown's preparation for (1929-1930), nomination to (1930-1931), and acceptance into the U.S. Naval Academy (1931) including correspondence with South Dakota Congressmen Charles A. Christopherson and William Williamson, and Rear Admiral Andrew T. Long. Once at the Academy, Brown comments on the activities of the midshipmen including football games, gym tests, being on the staff of the annual
Lucky Bag and
Reef Points, courses and grades, his rank in the class, making a Morse code set to learn Morse code, a trip to the Bethlehem Steel plant at Sparrows Point, Md., practice cruises aboard the USS
WYOMING in the Caribbean (1932) and on the USS
ARKANSAS along with the
WYOMING to Europe (1934), June Week and graduation (1935). Brown also corresponded with the Navy League (1931) about a proposed naval building program. Files of U.S. Naval Academy printed materials supplement and expand these topics. Included are special orders and notices concerned with football games, crew races, June Week schedules, courses of instruction, regulations, academic calendars, brief histories of the Academy, midshipmen's pay budgets, a 1934 list of officers and instructors, and copies of
Reef Points (midshipman annual handbook), as well as schedules and information about both practice cruises, a July 4, 1934, issue of the
WYOMING' s newsletter and a 1934 copy of the
After graduating, Brown served aboard the USS
ASTORIA out of San Pedro, California. His correspondence (July 1935-July 1937) details shore duty, cruises up the East Coast and to Hawaii, and a hospital stay for appendicitis (September-October 1936). In July 1937 Brown transferred as chief engineer to the USS
REUBEN JAMES out of San Diego, California. A file on the USS
REUBEN JAMES includes a roster of officers and crew (1937), copies of questions for promotion exams (1938), a copy of the wardroom paper,
Tare Fox X-Ray (1938), and a roster (1938) of officers for ComDesBatFor (Commander, Destroyers, Battle Force). In correspondence, Brown notes the increasing Japanese imperialistic attitude and comments on their bombing of the USS
PANAY in the Yangtze River, (December 1937).
While attached to the USS
AUGUSTA (May 1939-1940), the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, Brown commented in correspondence on the increasing Japanese aggression in China, the Japanese hold on trade in Tsingtao, China, and the anti-British propaganda campaign of the Japanese there (July 1939). In the same letter he comments on the need for the British and French Marines to police the International Settlement in Amoy (Kulangsu), China, after the Japanese landed troops. He also describes short-range gunnery practice and the British naval station at Chefoo (September, 1939). In a letter to his father (August 1939), Brown gives a detailed description of Rear Adm. Harry Yarnell, Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet, and comments on the importance of his position in diplomatic activities with the Japanese. He also writes about the expansion of the Navy and the shortage of commissioned officers resulting in retired officers and officers of the Naval Reserves serving temporary active duty (November 1940). A file on the USS
AUGUSTA includes a roster of its officers as well as a roster of the Asiatic Fleet officers (1939-1940), a map of the 1939-1940 cruise and an issue of the ship paper,
Augusta Cracker (1940). The oversize file includes an issue of the
Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury (1938), which is devoted to U.S. Navy Day, 1775-1938, in which several pages concern the activities of the USS
In January 1941, Brown was transferred to the USS
SHAW. After a visit to New Zealand, the
SHAW docked in Pearl Harbor. He was stationed aboard the USS
SHAW when it was bombed at Pearl Harbor, but was not hurt. As engineering officer, he was assigned duty in the ship's reconditioning at the navy Yard at Mare Island, California. Correspondence and bulletins note the schedule for the U.S. Squadron in Auckland, NZ (March 1941); a truck accident and investigation into circumstances in which men from the USS
SHAW were injured (August 1941); and the overhaul of a machinery plant (August 1941). A file on the USS
SHAW includes clippings, correspondence concerning reimbursement for personal property lost during the attack, and a list of hull, engineering and ordnance repairs that were necessary (1942).
As executive Officer aboard the USS
ABNER READ (1943-1944), Brown was involved in campaigns in the Aleutian Islands and the South Pacific. Correspondence for the 1940s is mainly personal in nature and touches very little on Brown's Navy duties. Files on the ship are mainly concerned with censorship regulations, daily orders, and reports on battle actions. Two memorandums (February, November, 1943) discuss the policy for the promotion of officers and the details of security radio and signal tower air raid warnings. Reports on the assault and occupation of Attu Island (May 1943) and on damage to the ship (1944) in the South Pacific are also included.
As commander of the USS
AMMEN (1944-1945), he participated in screening task force duty in the areas of Dutch New Guinea and Leyte, Philippine Islands (1944). A file of notices includes information about the organization of the 7th Fleet (1944) aswell as the Pacific Fleet (1944-1945). Files on the
AMMEN include a description of a kamikaze attack at Leyte (November 1944) and note radar picket duty at Okinawa. A file of war damage reports includes an action report for Leyte (October 20-25, 1944) and a report of casualties and damage to the ship from the kamikaze attack. Other files include ship repair orders, court martial records, Okinawa action reports and dispatches (1945), rosters for the AMMEN and for destroyers in the Pacific Fleet, clippings, and a history of the ship. This last includes a list of World War II operations and notes the types of duty as anti-aircraft, shore bombardment, and escort and covering force.
After a tour of duty as an instructor in marine engineering at the Naval Academy, Brown took the junior course at the Naval War College (1947-1948). A small file on his Naval Academy duty includes a Centennial Program and Booklet (1945) and an officers pay table (1946). Files on the Naval War College include position papers on the U.S. relationship with Russia and its influence on U.S. foreign policy, the influences of atomic weapons on naval warfare, along with a bibliography of the Attu campaign; and a 1948 graduation program.
Several files document the activities of Brown's next duty aboard the USS
DOUGLAS H. FOX as part of a goodwill tour by Task Group 44.7 of Africa and eastern South America (September 22 - December 4, 1948). Official correspondence and reports note the increase of Indian immigration in the Mobasa, Kenya, area and give descriptions of the visits to Mombasa, Kenya; Capetown, South Africa; Durban, Union of South Africa; Montevideo, Uruguay; and Massawa, Eritrea. A program of the visit to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, itineraries, press releases, and clippings also document the goodwill cruise. Miscellaneous items concern the Atlantic Fleet organization, a roster of the
FOX officers, and a history of the
FOX. A separate file concerns a collision between the USS
WILLARD KEITH and the
As an instructor in the newly-formed command and staff course at the Naval War College (1950-1953), Brown prepared a Naval officers' staff manual, a Naval manual of operational planning, and the
Navy Staff. Files contain drafts of the manuals and class presentations. Also included is a Register of Officers at the College (1884-1952).
Files concerning his stint as commander of Escort Destroyer Division 62 (1953-1954) aboard the flagship USS
LLOYD THOMAS include the rosters of officers, documents of examination for promotion from commander to captain, routine orders, information on the Atlantic Fleet administrative organization, and documents detailing an investigation of the grounding of the USS
HARWOOD (1953) near Boston harbor.
As commander of Military Sea Transportation Service and naval shipping control officer for the Gulf Subarea (1954-1958), Brown was concerned with cargo operationsand marine safety. Files include summaries of cargo operations and financial operations (1955-1957), speeches, officer rosters, office directories, a 1955 MSTS Bulletin, a 1955 issue of the New Orleans
Port News, membership roster of the Propeller Club (1957) of the U.S. port of New Orleans, and a staff manual on the organization of MSTS in the Gulf Subarea.
Files on the USS
MONTROSE cover Captain Brown's tenure as commanding officer (1958-1959). Included are routine correspondence, an itinerary with ports of call in the Far East (June-December 1958), information on the history and characteristics of the ship, programs for a change-of-command ceremony, welcome aboard programs, ship menus, documents concerning the Pacific Fleet administrative organization, and emergency shiphandling course information sheets. The personal correspondence also touches on this cruise.
A file on his tour as Commander Destroyer Squadron 15 with the flagship USS
BOYD (1959-1960) includes a roster of officers, messages in code, clippings on their goodwill visit to Japan (July 1959), and a history of the squadron. Correspondence notes participation in STRIKEX (1960) with Carrier Division 7. Documents on the administrative organizations of the Cruiser-Destroyer Force (Pacific Fleet) and the Pacific Fleet (1959-1960) are also included.
A file concerned with Brown's duty as Chief of Staff, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, (1960-1961) includes a roster, a telephone directory, and a history (1953) of the base.
A final subject file (1960-1963) covers his early retirement years as he applies for the Retired Armed Services Training Program at Duke and Purdue Universities and later to teach college level math.
Several topics recur in correspondence to and from Brown's family. The economy is noted in several different ways. The reduction in the number of commissioned Army officers (May 1932), President Roosevelt's appearance at graduation (June 1933) and the fact that for the first time in many years not all the Naval Academy graduates would be commissioned (May 1933), the drain of veterans' payments on the government treasury and whether they should get a pay raise (March 1933, April 1934), and the removal from a Greek ship by Turkey of disgraced U.S. businessman Samuel Insull (April 1934) are discussed. In that year also, a bill was passed to commission all Naval Academy graduates (April-May 1934). Mention is made of the court martial of a Navy mail clerk for embezzlement (1940) while a court martial recommendation was passed for an ensign from similar violations (1943). Incidental to the economic difficulties of the depression years, Brown's father (Mathew A.) notes the suicide of a man in South Dakota because of bankruptcy (April 1932). In connectionwith family finances, M. A. Brown gives a brief history of the McGraw-Edison Company and its stock prices (January 1958).
Brown's father was a Rhodes Scholar (1908-1911) as was James Brown's younger brother Gerald (January 1938). His father discusses going to scholarship selection meetings (December 1931) and remarks that Rhodes candidates at the Naval Academy were required to resign their commission if they accepted the scholarship and attend Oxford (December 1932). Prior to the 1934 practice cruise to Europe, Brown and his father both corresponded with Sir Francis Wylie to arrange a visit to Oxford during his free time in England. Throughout the next several years, M. A. Brown comments on the number of South Dakota boys to receive scholarships as well as on his younger son's plans to attend Brazenose College, Oxford.
Illness is a recurring topic in the correspondence. Appendicitis (December 1931), a typhoid fever epidemic in Chamberlain, South Dakota (January 1933), and scarlet fever in Annapolis, Maryland (May 1935) were all described. Letters (August-October 1936) also describe Brown's operation and convalescence from appendicitis at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital. During World War II, Brown's wife comments on the shortage of nurses in the United States due to the war and her return to the profession mentioning salaries as well (May 1943). His father discusses problems with and treatment of diabetes (1957-1958).
South Dakota is a frequent topic in family letters. A letter (October 1930) from James Brown's grandfather notes the results of state elections as well as his own return to the state Supreme Court. His father details an extensive trip through south-central and southwestern South Dakota to Sylvan Lake, Mt. Rushmore, Harney Peak, Fairburn, Pine Ridge Reservation, and Rosebud on roads and trails (August 1939). Later he describes a flood in Chamberlain and along the lowlands of the Missouri River (April 1952), and a trip he took through the Southwest with flooding in Salt Lake City, and melting snow and washouts in Wyoming and in Colorado (May 1952). He also describes bridge improvements (June, November 1953), a bond issue for a new fire station (October 1956), and restaurant and motel expansions in Chamberlain (September 1958); and fluctuations in the Fort Randall Reservoir (September 1958).
Brown was a music enthusiast, and during his years away from home, wrote back about radio concerts he heard while at the Naval Academy, symphony orchestra concerts attended in San Diego, California, with Otto Klemperer conducting, and classical phonograph records he was buying (1936-1937). He also describes a punch sharpener needed for sharpening the fibre needles to his phonograph (December 1936).
Weather conditions are mentioned occasionally. A typhoon between Tsingtao and Chefoo, China (September 1939), dust storms across the U.S. (May 1934), floods in Chamberlain, South Dakota (April 1952), and damage from hurricanes Helen and Ida in Japan (September 1958) are all described.
Other correspondence includes information about the Brown family (1961); the 1932 kidnapping of the son of a wealthy man named Boettscher (1959); answers from Count Felix von Luckner to Brown's questions about his autobiography (1929); and a possible visit with Andrew T. Long, Director of the International Hydrographic Bureau in Monte Carlo, during Brown's 1934 cruise.
Files of printed materials and publications include a Navy manual on war photography,
Commence Shooting; September 16, 1939, issue of
Army and Navy Register; issues of
Life (January 5, February 16, 1942); pay tables (1942, 1944);
Standard Navy Distribution List (1945); and
Naval Directives and the Order Form (1944). Other printed material concerning Brown's personal life includes a history of St. Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore, play programs (1930s) for the Imperial and Apollo Theaters in New York City, orchestra programs (1930s) for Washington, D.C., and California, and awards and citations. Clippings mainly document Brown's military life. Photographs detail Brown's years at the Naval Academy as well as the various duty capacities in which he served. Some family photographs are also included.
An oversize file includes photographs, clippings, information concerning a proposed Naval building program along with comparisons of the navies of the United States, England, France, Italy and Japan (1931), Naval Academy Special Orders (1935), Naval War College curriculum (1947-1948), a drawing of the positions of the USS
WILLARD H. KEITH and the USS
D. H. FOX (1949), and maps of the Philippine Islands.
For related information, see Oral History #76.