Fred Louis Brown was born
to Caucasian parents, Owen W. and Lilly B. Wheeler Brown, 2323 Glenwood Street; Fort Wayne in Allen County Indiana. He was
the youngest of six children. Irene was born in 1910, and died in 1994; Harriet M., born 1913, died 2003; Charles J., born
1914, died 2005; twins, Otis (male) and Leota (female) born 1915, he died in 1999, she died 1988; and Sanford E., born 1918
and died 1970. Irene’s married name was DeBolt, Harriet’s was Longardner and Leota’s was Wanas.
My research has not led me
to the conclusion that he was drafted into the military or that he enlisted voluntarily. After his enlistment he was stationed
in the South Pacific patrolling the Yangtze River in pre-war 1941.
From the Walter
In November 1940 the Asheville was ordered from China to the Philippines, as war seemed imminent. En route her engines were disabled and on 4 November she was towed by her sister ship TULSA and later the minesweeper BITTERN who took her to the Cavite Navy Yard. On May 24, 1941 the Asheville returned to Hong Kong, B.C.C on June 30 she
proceeded to Swatow, China and on July 1,
1941 departed for Amoy, China. On July 5 Asheville departed Amoy en route to Hong Kong but had engine trouble in a typhoon. On the 7th
cruiser Marblehead took her in tow and headed for Manila. On the 9th of July the tow was transferred to the NAPA and they reached Cavite Navy Yard on July 11th.
When the Japanese took the
Philippines, the Asheville and her sister
ship Tulsa was ordered to Surabaya,
Java. In a tense voyage of 2000 miles in 12 days and sailing only at night, hiding
in little island coves, etc. during the day, these little gunboats escaped the large Japanese Naval and Air force that by
the had spread all over the far east.
Later the Asheville was ordered
to Tjilatjap, java and remained there doing escort duty until March 1, 1942 when her participation in the defense of the Dutch
East Indies was declared hopeless and she received her last order to proceed to Australia as the Japanese overwhelmingly closed
their pincers on the remainder of the once formidable Asiatic Fleet.
The ships were supposed to
rendezvous at a point approximately 500 miles SW of Tjilatjap and the Asheville with her sister
ship Tulsa was moving in that direction. On March 2, 1942 they were spotted by a Japanese shipboard seaplane and decided to split up to lessen the
chances of both being caught. The Asheville proceeded on to
the rendezvous point as her engines were giving her trouble and could not keep up. Possibly,
she thought, at the rendezvous point, other Asiatic Fleet ships would be there to join up with for safety. Actually no other ship went to the rendezvous point. The order had been radioed in a simple code due to
the man nationalities involved with the Allied Forces, and for that reason the other shop captains feared that the Japanese
would pick up the message and await them at that point. That was exactly what happened to the Asheville. On March 3 the Tulsa received the following message
03833 ASHEVILLE ATTACKED 12-33s-111-35-E RRRR. The series
R’s indicated that the attacker was a surface raider and neither a submarine nor aircraft.
Later research revealed that
the Japanese ships were: destroyers Arashi (Cdr. Yasumasa Watanabe), Nowake (Cdr. Magotaro Koga) and the cruiser Maya (Capt.
Shunsku Nabeshima). The destroyers attacked with gunfire but the cruiser just
stood by. In 30 minutes the battle was over. The Asheville riddled with exploding shells, her once proud structure torn to shreds, sank beneath
the oceans crest.
After the ship had sunk, one or two of the destroyers
came by the survivors in the water and at first called out “if there were any officers in the water”, receiving
no reply, one ship threw over a line. Fireman Fred Brown from Ft. Wayne,
Indiana grabbed the line and was taken onboard the destroyer. This was presumably
to identify the ship they had sunk. Brown was taken to the Japanese prison camp at Makassar, Celebes.
The prison was; CAMP 575 - Java POW Camps D.X.Y. (Batavia)
There he suffered untold
hardships, until he died three years later from Pellagra, heart trouble and dysentery. He was returned to the U.S. in 1947 for final burial in his hometown of Ft.
No other members of the crew
were rescued and all were machine gunned and left in the shark infested water to drown.
USS Asheville (PG-21). Gunboat. 1,270 tons; 241 ft; 12 knots; 162 men; 3- 4", 9- 1" guns.
Commissioned in 1920. Served on Yangtze River patrol, with Panay (PR-5) and sister ship Tacloban (PG-22),
from 1920 to 1941; then variously in China and Philippines
until Ashville was sunk south of Java, Netherlands,
East Indies on her way to Australia on
March 3, 1942, in a surface action S. of Java.
Indiana sailors on the USS Asheville (PG-21) were:
DeForest Dye, SK3, of Chicago, Illinois but enlisted in the navy at Valparaiso, Indiana
4500 N. Malden Ave Chicago.
E McCoy, GM3; 750 Webster; Kokomo, Indiana
Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Marshall McCoy, Kokomo,
Leland White, MM2C
Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Cassius Harrison White; RR 3; Princeton, Indiana