Jesse L. Brown Photographs

Jesse L. Brown (1926-1950) was the first African-American US Navy pilot. Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi to sharecroppers, Brown attended The Ohio State University and enlisted in the US Naval Reserve on July 8,1946. The following spring, he accepted an appointment as a midshipman in the US Navy. Brown attended the Navy preflight school in Ottumwa, Iowa, followed by flight training at Pensacola, Florida, where he was one of only six (out of 100) to complete the training. In 1948, Brown began a tour of duty with VF-32 at Quonset Point, RI, and was commissioned an ensign on April 15th of that year. In June 1950, VF-32 was operating from USS Leyte in the Mediterranean on a routine cruise when it was diverted to the Korean War. By October 1950, Brown was flying Vought F4U-4 Corsair missions from the USS Leyte. Brown became a section leader and received the Air Medal for daring attacks against the enemy before getting shot down by enemy fire and perishing in the wreckage of his aircraft. Brown was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and on March 18, 1972, the Navy christened the USS Jesse L. Brown (DE-1098), the first time that a US Naval vessel had been named for an African-American.