|Born||10 Apr 1897|
|Died||29 Sep 1954|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseMiles Rutherford Browning was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, United States to stock broker Oren Fogle Browning, Jr., and poet Sarah Louise Smith Browning. In 1914, he enrolled in the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, United States, and graduated on 29 Jun 1917. He served aboard the American battleship Oklahoma and then the French cruiser Lutetia during WW1.
ww2dbaseDuring the inter-war years, Browning served aboard battleship Pennsylvania and destroyers McKean, Crane, Howard, Badger, and Kidder; he served as the executive officer with USS Kidder. On 10 May 1922, he married Cathalene Isabella Parka, stepdaughter of Vice Admiral Clark H. Woodward. Between 1922 and Jan 1924, he served aboard cruiser Charleston and then destroyer Thompson. In Jan 1924, Browning began flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, United States, earning his wings on 29 Sep. Aboard carrier Langley, minelayer Aroostook, and battleship Idaho, he piloted observation aircraft. In the late 1920s, he served two years as the Operations Officer of Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia, United States. In Jul 1929, he received his first command as the commanding officer of Scouting Squadron 5S aboard light cruiser Trenton. In Jul 1931, he joined the Bureau of Aeronautics in the Material Division, in which role he contributed to the direction of American naval aircraft of in the 1930s. In 1932, he was injured as a test pilot as his aircraft crashed, putting him in a San Diego, California, United States hospital. Between Jun 1934 and Jun 1936, he was the commanding officer of Fighting Squadron 3B aboard carrier Langley, later transferred to carrier Ranger. Between Jun 1936 and 1937, he studied at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, United States. In 1937, he became an instructor at the US Army Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field. In late 1937, he became Admiral William F. Halsey's Air Tactical Officer. In Jun 1938, he was transferred to carrier Yorktown as the air wing's commanding officer. In 1940, as Halsey became the commander of Air Battle Forces, Browning was selected as Halsey's Operations and War Plans Officer. In Jun 1941, he became Halsey's chief of staff aboard Enterprise.
ww2dbaseWhen the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, United States, drawing the US into the war, Browning was aboard carrier Enterprise en route to Wake Island. Browning organized unsuccessful attempts following the attack to search for the departing Japanese fleet, and then launched offensives in Feb and Mar 1942 against Japanese positions in the Central Pacific. In Apr 1942, he participated in the planning of the Doolittle Raid.
ww2dbaseImmediately before the Battle of Midway, Halsey was kept ashore due to severe psoriasis, and Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance took over Halsey's command of carriers. A battleship commander, Spruance relied heavily on Halsey's lieutenants, among whom Captain Browning. Spruance found Browning difficult to communicate with, particularly with Browning's emotional unstableness. However, "Spruance was fighting a war [and] not running a charm school", said historian Peter C. Smith, and Spruance came to rely fully on Browning's capabilities in the upcoming battle. Browning's performance, however, was mediocre at best when all numbers were tallied at the end of the Battle of Midway. Instead of concentrating his forces, dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and fighters all arrived at the Japanese fleet separately, thus resulting in uncoordinated attacks that were struck down relatively easily by Japanese defenses. Part of the fault, though, was shared by Spruance, who interfered with Browning's decisions at several key points during the battle. Numbers aside, however, it was he who launched the key strikes that sank Japanese carriers and turned Midway into one of the major turning points of the Pacific War.
ww2dbaseIn the summer of 1942, Browning had an affair with the wife of a fellow officer. Together with his known problem with alcoholism, he was temporarily removed from command due to his ungentlemanly conducts. He returned to the front lines in Oct 1942, and once again became a member of Halsey's staff. Browning's careful planning of air strikes against Japanese installations played a role in the eventual victory in the Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands campaigns. In a letter to Admiral Chester Nimitz on 1 Jan 1943, Halsey wrote, "Miles has an uncanny knack of sizing up a situation and coming out with an answer", largely in attempt to save Browning's career, which by now starting to become rather uncertain as the temperamental Browning made more and more political enemies, including Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and Admiral Ernest King.
ww2dbaseIn Jul 1943, Browning became the commanding officer of carrier Hornet. In this role, he was instrumental in major air strikes against Japanese garrisons at Truk and Palau islands, as well as participating in the Battle of the Philippine Sea near the Mariana Islands.
ww2dbaseIn the spring of 1944, during a showing of a film on Hornet's hangar deck, someone discharged a carbon dioxide canister, triggering a stampede that threw two sailors overboard, and one of them drowned. Browning's political opponents took the opportunity to attack him, successfully removing him from front line command in May 1944. He was transferred to the General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, United States as an instructor, in which role he remained through the rest of WW2.
ww2dbaseAfter the war, Browning toured Japan in 1949, noting that long term radiation damage from the atomic bombs was a "myth". On 1 Jan 1947, he retired from service, and was retroactively promoted to the rank of rear admiral. Between 1950 and 1952, he was appointed the Civil Defense Director of New Hampshire, United States. He passed away of systemic lupus erythematosus at Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. He was buried on 6 Oct 1954 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, United States.
ww2dbaseAmerican comedian and actor Chevy Chase is his grandson, the son of Browning's only daughter Cathalene Parker Browning.
Peter C. Smith, Midway: Dauntless Victory
Last Major Revision: Jun 2008
Miles Browning Timeline
|10 Apr 1897||Miles Browning was born.|
|29 Jun 1917||Miles Browning graduated from the United States Naval Academy.|
|10 May 1922||Miles Browning married Cathalene Isabella Parka, stepdaughter of Vice Admiral Clark H. Woodward.|
|29 Sep 1924||Miles Browning was certified a US Navy pilot.|
|1 Jan 1943||In a letter to Chester Nimitz, Bill Halsey described Miles Browning as someone who "has an uncanny knack of sizing up a situation and coming out with an answer" in an attempt to save Browning's career as the temperamental Browning had made many political enemies.|
|1 Jan 1947||Miles Browning retired from the US Navy.|
|29 Sep 1954||Miles Browning passed away of systemic lupus erythematosus at Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.|
|6 Oct 1954||Miles Browning was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, United States.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945