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CHIPS Articles: Ensign Jesse L. Brown - First African-American Naval Aviator

Ensign Jesse L. Brown - First African-American Naval Aviator
By Naval History and Heritage Command - February 19, 2015
Jesse LeRoy Brown was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Oct. 13, 1926. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1946 and was appointed a Midshipman, U.S. Navy, the following year.

Brown became the first African-American to be trained by the Navy as an aviator. After attending pre-flight school and flight training, he was designated a Naval Aviator in October 1948. Midshipman Brown was then assigned to Fighter Squadron 32. He received his commission as Ensign in April 1949.

During the Korean War, Brown also became the first African-American Naval Aviator to see combat when his squadron operated from USS Leyte (CV-32), flying F4U-4 Corsair fighters in support of United Nations forces.

On Dec. 4, 1950, while on a close air support mission near the Chosin Reservoir, Ensign Brown's plane was hit by enemy fire and crashed. Despite heroic efforts by other aviators, he could not be rescued and died in his aircraft. Ensign Jesse L. Brown was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his Korean War combat service.

USS Jesse L. Brown (DE-1089) was named in honor of Ensign Jesse LeRoy Brown.

To learn more about U.S. Navy history, please go to the Naval History and Heritage Command website: www.history.navy.mil/.

Midshipman Jesse L. Brown photographed at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, October 1948, while serving as a Naval Aviation Cadet. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
Midshipman Jesse L. Brown photographed at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, October 1948, while serving as a Naval Aviation Cadet. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Ensign L. Brown takes the oath of office on board USS Leyte (CV-32), 26 April 1949. Administering the oath is the ship's Commanding Officer, Captain William L. Erdmann. Lieutenant Commander E.D. Williams (center) is witnessing the ceremony. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
Ensign L. Brown takes the oath of office on board USS Leyte (CV-32), 26 April 1949. Administering the oath is the ship's Commanding Officer, Captain William L. Erdmann. Lieutenant Commander E.D. Williams (center) is witnessing the ceremony. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

In the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, circa 1950 , Ensign L. Brown was the first African-American Naval Aviator, and flew with Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) from USS Leyte (CV-32). Official U.S. Navy Photograph.
In the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, circa 1950 , Ensign L. Brown was the first African-American Naval Aviator, and flew with Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) from USS Leyte (CV-32). Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Featuring Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the first African-American trained by the Navy as an aviator, and such, became the first African-American Naval Aviator to see combat. USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor. The original artwork was created circa 1976 by William M. Moser, of the Navy Recruiting Command. U.S. NHHC Photograph.
Featuring Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the first African-American trained by the Navy as an aviator, and such, became the first African-American Naval Aviator to see combat. USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor. The original artwork was created circa 1976 by William M. Moser, of the Navy Recruiting Command. U.S. NHHC Photograph.
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