On To The Pacific

Finally in early August 1943, the BRAINE was ready for war and was ordered to join the Fleet in the Pacific Theater of War. The BRAINE embarked silently to sea and her appointment with destiny. After a brief stop at Norfolk to rendezvous with the Cruiser USS CHESTER - CA27, the BRAINE immediately encountered an enemy--not one of the Axis powers, but Mother Nature herself. Off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the convoy encountered a hurricane. For two days the BRAINE was tossed about by the stormy seas, gigantic waves breaking over the superstructure. At times the ship was in danger of being swamped. At one point the CHESTER reported that the BRAINE had disappeared from its radar. Ensign Donald Johnson, the Officer of the Deck, reported that the ship rolled past the 45 degree inclinator, but another monstrous wave up righted the ship.

Passage on the main deck was impossible and the crew moved on the superstructure clinging to lifelines for support. Serving meals was out of the question, not only from the rolling and pitching of the ship, but all but the most experienced seafarers were sea sick. The Chief Stewards Mate, Hubert Brownlee, an old hand at rough seas, walked around with piece of ham fat hanging out of his mouth, the sight of which sent many a sailor to the rail. It was thought that one man had been lost, but he was so sick he lashed himself to the 20mm gun shield on the fantail to spill his guts over the side.

At last the storm subsided and the weary, seasick crew assessed the outcome. There were no personnel casualties, except for queasy stomachs. The side of No. 1- 5" gun turret was caved in from a wave. The BRAINE was ordered to Trinidad for repairs and then passed though the Panama Canal. The ship continued north and training continued for the crew at their battle stations. The ship passed under the Golden Gate to San Francisco. The ship was refurbished with stores and ammunition and passed under the Golden Gate again; this time on her way to the serious business of war, as part of a screening escort for troopships bound for Pearl Harbor.

As the BRAINE drew close to Hawaii, the sight of the Diamond Head came into view and as the ship entered Pearl Harbor they witnessed a "monument" all had heard about and seen in newsreels.

As the crew, dressed in whites, stood at attention and honored the entombed crew of the USS ARIZONA and the realities of war struck home. Much of the carnage from the Pearl Harbor attack was still visible. The BRAINE continued training for combat, particularly with the anti-aircraft weapons, firing at a towed target. The BRAINE took on stores and ammunition and left Hawaii on her first combat assignment. In late September the BRAINE left Pearl Harbor and once underway at sea, Captain Newman announced our mission. The BRAINE would be part of the submarine screening force for a high speed carrier task force attack on Wake Island, a small dot on the map of the Pacific Ocean, but its name is synonymous with Bataan, Corrigedor and Guadalcanal.

The BRAINE was part of the anti-submarine screen for a Task Force, consisting of six carriers, battleships, cruisers and other screening destroyers. This task force crossed the International Date Line on 4 October 1944 at Latitude 20'N and the crew of the BRAINE became members of the Imperial Domain of the Golden Dragon. The task force encountered no enemy action, except for anti-aircraft defense of the island. On the return trip a pilot from one of the carriers stalled on take off and crashed into the sea. The BRAINE was the nearest destroyer and rushed to pick up the pilot, returned him to his carrier and received the traditional treat of ice cream for the crew. The task force returned to Pearl Harbor without further incident. The crew was excited and pleased to participate in an action against the Japanese and earn their first of many battle stars.

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