From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Melvin Brown '70

Date of birth: May 21, 1948

Date of death: August 23, 1979

Age: 31

Lucky Bag

From the 1970 Lucky Bag:


Hugh was lost on August 23, 1979, when he crashed near Tonopah (Nevada) Test Range airfield. He was piloting a Soviet MiG-17F that belonged to the Air Force's 4477th Test and Evaluation Flight, though he was a member of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 4. He is buried in Roanoke.

From the December 1979 issue of Shipmate:

Lt. Melvin Hugh Brown USN was killed when the specially modified test aircraft he was flying crashed in the Nevada desert on 23 August 1979. He was a member of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four (VX-4) and assigned to Nellis AFB, Nevada, as part of an ongoing joint Defense Department test program at the time of the accident.

A native of Roanoke, Virginia, he was graduated from the Naval Academy with the Class of 1970 and in 1972 he was designated naval aviator and received his Master of Science degree from the University of West Florida. He later reported to VF-126 at NAS Miramar as an instrument flight instructor in the TA-4J aircraft, then was ordered to VF-121 for training in the F-4J Phantom II. This duty was followed by deployment with Fighter Squadron 21 aboard RANGER. He also was a graduate of the fighter weapons school and he was assigned to VX-4 at Point Mugu, California, in 1978, with additional duty at Nellis AFB.

He is survived by his widow, Linda, of 4134 Pequeno, Las Vegas NV 89120; two sons; and his mother and father.


From the Class of 1970 40th Reunion Book:

Melvin Hugh Brown came to USNA from Roanoke, Virginia. His dad was a 30-year CPO, so Hugh knew what to expect at USNA. He adapted effortlessly, or so it appeared to the rest of us. He always seemed bemused by what was going on around him, even when doing pushups into a pool of sweat. Hugh was a gifted athlete, laconic and kind, irresistible to women (a great dancer), and always gracious.

Before flight school, Hugh went to Eglin AFB, and met Linda, a 19-year old girl even more charming than he. In September 1972, several of us attended his wedding in Virginia. On his second shore duty tour in San Diego, he and Linda were joined by Brady and Brian. Hugh loved being a father – even changed his name tag to “Daddy.”

Hugh was a respected, accomplished pilot. As described by his commanding officer: Hugh Brown was a good pilot without being brash … he was a wonderfully warm man with a great sense of humor. He was a great guy to have on your team because he didn’t care who got the credit.

According to Bupers, Hugh was at Nellis Air Force base, but his true assignment was Tonopah, Nevada, as “Bandit 12,” part of a black operation flying MiG-17s assembled from scavenged parts. With no NATOPS for the MiG-17, pilots learned to fly them with skill, experience, and luck. On August 23, 1979, as Hugh was making a high-speed turn back toward his adversary, his MiG inexplicably entered a spin. Trying to save a rare asset, he stayed with it too long and failed to eject.

Hugh Brown was one of the good guys – no one ever had a bad thing to say about him. We of the 30th Company are missing one of our best.

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Claude Conner '70 was also in 30th Company.

Class of 1970

Melvin is one of 20 members of the Class of 1970 on Virtual Memorial Hall.