Abel, Brent Maxwell, CAPT

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Last Rank
Last Primary NEC
111X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Surface Warfare
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1948-1960, 111X, Naval Reserve Training Center (USNRTC) Treasure Island, CA
Service Years
1936 - 1960
Foreign Language(s)
Official/Unofficial US Navy Certificates
Plank Owner

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Home State
District Of Columbia
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Steven Loomis (SaigonShipyard), IC3 to remember Abel, Brent Maxwell, CAPT.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Born in Washington D.C. Raised in Scarsdale NY
Last Address
San Rafael, Marin County, California

Date of Passing
Dec 26, 2005
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Recruiter WW II Honorable Discharge Pin US Navy Retired 20

 Unofficial Badges 

US Naval Reserve Honorable Discharge

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

Captain Brent Maxwell Abel, USNR (Ret.)

The order, “Stand by to ram”, is rarely heard on a US Navy ship—and the order LCDR Maxwell gave after USS BUCKLEY rammed U-66 and sat perched on the sub’s forecastle, “Stand by to repel boarders”, just before German sailors clambered onto BUCKLEY, had not been heard since the days of Commodore Matthew Perry 100 years earlier. 
Brent Maxwell Abel was a U.S. 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. 

After 3 years afloat, Abel was assigned shore duty at Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, as the Assistant Professor for Naval Science and Tactics. He was released from active duty in January 1946. 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.

Mr. 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.
Other Comments:

USS BUCKLEY'S C.O., LCDR Abel was awarded the Navy Cross for his combat action against U-66. In addition to the Navy Unit Commendation, awarded the BUCKLEY, her crewmen were authorized to wear a battle star on the European-African Theater ribbon.

Some high ranking Navy officers of the day considered the battle between USS BUCKLEY and U-66 to be the "most exciting" submarine kill of World War II.

The Buckley received the Navy Unit Commendation for sinking U-66 and three battle stars for her World War II service.

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Command at Sea

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Naval Reserve Forces CommandUS NavyFormal Schools and Training CoursesSubmarine Chasers (SC)
NROTC (Staff)Commander Naval Recruiting Command (CNRC)Commander Navy Reserve Forces Command (COMNAVRESFORCOM)
  1940-1941, 116X, Naval Reserve Forces Command
  1941-1942, 111X, Reserve Training Center (Staff) Corpus Christi, TX
  1942-1942, 116X, Submarine Chaser School
  1942-1943, 111X, Submarine Chasers (SC)
  1943-1945, 111X, USS Buckley (DE-51)
  1945-1946, 111X, University of Minnesota NROTC (Cadre)
  1945-1948, 111X, Navy Recruiting Station Minneapolis, MN
  1948-1960, 111X, Naval Reserve Training Center (USNRTC) Treasure Island, CA
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1943-1945 World War II/European-African-Middle Eastern Theater
 Colleges Attended 
Harvard UniversityHarvard University
  1933-1937, Harvard University
  1938-1940, Harvard University
 Other News, Events and Photographs
  USS BUCKLEY DE-51 and U-661
  May 06, 1944, NAVY CROSS2
  Jul 03, 2016, General Photos1
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