|Birth: ||May 6, 1916|
District of Columbia
District Of Columbia, USA
|Death: ||Dec. 26, 2005|
US Naval Reserve Officer during WW2. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions as commanding officer of the destroyer escort USS BUCKLEY (DE-51) when it pursued, rammed and sank the German submarine U-66 during the night of May 5-6, 1944 off the coast of North Africa.
Abel was born in Washington, D.C. but raised by his mother in Scarsdale, N.Y. He attended Harvard College where he was a French major and participated in NROTC. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1940, he moved to San Francisco, California where he practiced estate planning and taxes.
Called to active duty at the start of World War II, he spent a year at Corpus Christi, Texas before assuming command of a sub chaser escorting tanker convoys from refineries in the Caribbean to the mid Atlantic to provide fuel for the European theater of operations. In 1943 he was selected as the commanding officer of the newly- commissioned destroyer escort USS BUCKLEY (DE-51), lead ship in her class of ships whose primary mission was anti- submarine warfare in "hunter killer groups" with escort aircraft carriers (CVE's).
During the pre-dawn hours of his 28th birthday (6 May 1944), Abel's ship engaged a surfaced German submarine, U-66 in the Atlantic about 500 nm off the coast of North Africa in what has been called the "most exciting" submarine engagement of WW2. After the U-boat sank, about half its crew, 36 German sailors, were rescued and taken prisoner by BUCKLEY. This battle is probably the closest naval combat of modern warfare, as BUCKLEY'S crew battled German sailors who swarmed about the destroyer with shell cases, fists and coffee cups, after BUCKLEY rammed the submarine and rode up on its back.
BUCKLEY'S crew received a Navy Unit Commendation and Abel was awarded the Navy Cross for valor. The citation for his Navy Cross reads:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Commander Brent Maxwell Abel, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer Escort U.S.S. BUCKLEY (DE-51), in offensive action against a German submarine during while patrolling the Atlantic Coast on the early morning of 6 May 1944. Lieutenant Commander Abel expertly directed his command and made an undetected, high-speed approach in bright moonlight to a surfaced German U-boat. With skilled seamanship, he silenced its guns within four minutes after contact, despite a heavy barrage of enemy torpedo and automatic weapon fire. Narrowly escaping another torpedo, he then closed on the wildly maneuvering submarine, raked it with all available fire and rammed, with the enemy attempting to board the vessel in retaliation. Withstanding the desperate attacks of the enemy ship, which tried to ram after the combatants became disengaged, he persistently held to his target until the submarine, with its conning tower shattered and burning fiercely, all hatches open, abandoned by its crew and completely out of control, disappeared beneath the surface of the water and exploded. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy of the United States.
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 345 (December 1945)
After 3 years afloat, Abel was assigned shore duty at Minneapolis, Minnesota. Returning to civilian life after WW2, for many years Abel was a partner in a large San Francisco law firm where most of his co-workers had no idea of his wartime service that he rarely mentioned.
Years later, one of the German crew survivors contacted Abel and told him, "All of us survivors of the U-66 have always had the desire to get to know our wartime adversaries in the war on the sea and if the opportunity presented itself to say thank you for the fair treatment on board the Buckley and for saving our lives." Mr. Abel then helped organize a reunion of the former foes in Germany where he expressed regret that he could not have saved more lives. Abel remained in the active Navy Reserve
and retired as a captain in 1960. He was 89 years old when he died at his home in San Rafael, California in December 2005.
Created by: John Donne
Record added: Mar 09, 2014
Find A Grave Memorial# 126105748