A Dying Comrade and the Medal of Honor-Two American Heroes

There is an interesting article in the Spring issue of AARP.

I am not a member of AARP but a friend gave me a copy knowing of my interest in history.

The article features nine short stories from veterans that reflect their personal memories of the conflicts they were involved in from World War 2 to the War in Iraq in 2005. Significant in each story is the remembering of people they served with.

The one titled Chosin Reservoir tells the story of Tom Hudner a Navy pilot who served in the Korean War (1950). Hudner was the wingman of Jesse Brown, the first African-American Navy pilot.

Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner, 1950 as F4 Corsair pilots, Korean War

Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner, 1950 as F4 Corsair pilots, Korean War

They flew F4U Navy Corsair fighter-bombers of WW2 vintage but still effective in the Korean conflict.

F4U Corsair, pic from Wikipedia

F4U Corsair, pic from Wikipedia

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir is famous in Marine Corps history.

After pushing the North Koreans almost to the Chinese border US Marine and Army units found themselves surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Red Chinese who poured across the border to save North Korea from being defeated after the North Koreans invaded South Korea.

The UN forces of which the US Marines and Army were part of were taken completely by surprise and suffered severe losses fighting their way out in sub-zero weather in the mountainous terrain.

Hudner and Brown were flying a support mission for the trapped US forces when Brown’s Corsair was shot down with Brown unable to bail out.

Hudner knew that Brown was still alive and he was determined not to leave him on the mountain side for the Chinese to find or to let the sub-zero weather claim his friend’s life.

Hudner crash landed his own Corsair in an attempt to save Brown stating he knew that Brown would do the same for him.

Hudner found Brown alive, but his lips were turning blue and he was nearly frozen already. Brown’s legs were trapped in the wreckage  and Hudner was unable to free him.

A Marine rescue helicopter did land to extract them but it was not possible to get Brown free. Brown told Hudner to tell his wife that he loved her.

Hudner had to make the agonizing decision to leave his friend for to stay with him would mean certain death. The Marine helicopter had to leave because it could not fly at night in the mountainous terrain.

Hudner told Brown that he would return the next day but reported later he believed his friend to have passed by then.

The Navy later napalmed the crash site of the two airplanes so that the Chinese would not get intelligence from the planes or Brown’s effects. Brown’s remains or effects were never recovered despite a second search made in 2013 by an aging Hudner and a former Marine who served in the Chosin battles.

The second search although approved by the North Koreans was not allowed upon their arrival because of the monsoon season (you think the NK’s would have told them that prior to their arrival).

Never-the-less, Hudner believed the trip a success because he believes it opens the door for another search to made later.

Hudner received our country’s highest honor for his rescue attempt of his friend. He received the Medal of Honor. Hudner retired from the Navy in 1973.

The nine story article in AARP is a composite based on interviews by Andrew Carroll, Michael Dolan and Mike Tharp and is part of AARP’s Memorial Day Tribute. My summation above is based on their interview with Hudner and some of my INET research.

I was intrigued more than usual because Brown was the first African-American to become a Navy Pilot.

The US Armed Services had become fully integrated following World War 2 but it still was difficult for African-Americans to become Navy pilot officers.

Yet Brown persevered breaking down yet another barrier to full integration. His story can be found here (Clarion-Ledger).

The story of Hudner’s second “rescue” can be found here (USA Today).


2 comments on “A Dying Comrade and the Medal of Honor-Two American Heroes

  1. I remember researching the Chosin operation and the Chosin few. The Marines needed these special pilots!!

    • I’d like to say it was an epic battle but some how the over use of that word cheapens what occurred at Chosin. Brave Marines and soldiers and pilots doing their best to keep the Chicoms away. Thanks for stopping by GP.

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