Endowed with striking looks, high intelligence, slide-rule brain, useful marital connections, exceptional flying ability, and the patronage of America’s favorite admiral, Browning seemed perfectly poised to achieve high command as aviation emerged at the cutting edge of naval warfare. And yet, not until his retirement was it deemed safe to raise Browning to flag rank. Historian Samuel E. Morison, who knew him, called Browning “one of the most irascible officers ever to earn a fourth stripe,” a considerable achievement given the many fearsome personalities who achieved high rank. Intemperateness, especially toward those he regarded as his inferiors, along with overindulgence in alcohol, a penchant for risky behavior, and inattention to detail, provided a recipe for self-destruction. Yet all went well—at first. Highly reliant on Browning as his chief of staff, Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey acted like an overindulgent parent when it came to Browning’s troubling behavior.
Out of the Jaws of Victory
Like a character in classical tragedy, blessed by the gods with nearly every advantage, Miles Browning also possessed fatal flaws that ultimately brought him down.
By Alan Rems