Lt(jg) Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.
U. S. Navy (USN) Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) "Swordsmen"
F4U Corsair Pilot Medal of Honor
Thomas Jerome Hudner, Jr. was born in Fall River, Massachusetts.
On December 4, 1950 Thomas Hudner took off from USS Leyte CV-32 piloting F4U Corsair 82050 on a mission over the Chosin Reservoir.
Hudner was flying as a wingman for his flight leader F4U Corsair 97231 piloted by Ensign Jesse L. Brown. While flying in formation over the target, Brown was presumably hit by ground fire or small arms fire and reported losing oil pressure and selected a snow covered flat open area to the west of the Chosin Reservoir to make a force landing. During the force landing, Brown sustained injuries and the lower half of his body was trapped inside the cockpit preventing him from extricating himself from the aircraft.
Meanwhile, wingman Hudner witnessed his flight leader's crash landing and and spontaneously decided to force land his aircraft beside Brown. After successfully crash landing his Corsair beside Brown's plane, Hudner waded through the snow, finding Brown trapped inside the cockpit and was unable to free him. Seeing smoke, Hudner used a fire extinguisher on the nose of his plane. Returning, Hudner spoke with Brown until he expired from his wounds and exposure.
Simultaneously, a Marine Corps Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter piloted by 1st Lt. Charles C. Ward, O-30663 of Marine Observation Squadron 6 (VMO-6) was dispatched to the crash sites to rescue both pilots.
Arriving at roughly 3:00pam, Ward and Hudner used the helicopter's fire extinguisher on in an attempt to extinguish the engine fire. For 45 minutes, Hudner used the rescue ax in a futile attempt to cut into the aircraft's skin to free Brow, but was unsuccessful. Brown even consented to amputating his trapped leg, but he lost consciousness and expired soon afterwards.
Before dark, the helicopter departed with only Hudner aboard, leaving Brown's body at the crash site and proceeded to Hagaru-ri Airfield. Although safely on the ground, enemy forces threatened the airfield forcing the helicopter to take off again and proceed further south to Koto-ri.
|Medal of Honor Citation
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Fighter Squadron 32, while attempting to rescue a squadron mate whose plane struck by antiaircraft fire and trailing smoke, was forced down behind enemy lines. Quickly maneuvering to circle the downed pilot and protect him from enemy troops infesting the area, Lt. (J.G.) Hudner risked his life to save the injured flier who was trapped alive in the burning wreckage. Fully aware of the extreme danger in landing on the rough mountainous terrain and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperature, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels-up landing in the presence of enemy troops. With his bare hands, he packed the fuselage with snow to keep the flames away from the pilot and struggled to pull him free. Unsuccessful in this, he returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a helicopter be dispatched with an ax and fire extinguisher. He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames. Lt. (J.G.) Hudner's exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service"
Thomas Hudner passed away peacefully on November 13, 2017 at his home in Concord, MA. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Logbook of Lt(jg) Thomas J. Hudner, USN VF-32 December 2-4, 1950
U.S.S. Leyte (CV-32) 4 December 1950, page 5
"1515I an F4U4 BUNO. 97231 crash landed in Korea behind enemy lines at lat. 40 degrees 36N, long 127 degrees 06' E. Cause: Enemy anti-aircraft hits. Pilot ENS J. L. Brown, 504477, U.S. Navy, sustained severe injuries and was unable to extricate himself. LtJG T. J. Hudner, Jr., 485270, U.S. Navy, landed hit F4U4 (BuNo. 82050), wheels up, nearby and endeavored to remove Brown who was pinned in the wreckage 1600I rescue helicopter arrived. Hudner and helicopter pilot were unable to remove Brown. Ensign Brown died of injuries, his body was not recovered. Lt. Hudner was returned to friendly lines."
F-ARS-162 "Sub acft accident report CLN para able two eight nov five zero" [Helicopter rescue report received by SBAMA Cryptographer]
Military Times "Valor awards for Charles C. Ward - Silver Star citation"
Corsair: The F4U in World War II and Korea (1979) page 165
LIFE Magazine - May 26, 1952 - Page 131
The Flight of Jesse Leroy Brown by Theodore Taylor
Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen
Chosin: Heroic Ordeal of the Korean War page 519
The Naval Air War in Korea pages 84-85
Such Men As These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies Over Korea page 351-352
Valor: A Gathering of Eagles page 158-159
The Tailhook Association page 37
Beyond Glory: Medal of Honor Heroes in Their Own Words page 117-118
F4U Corsair Units of the Korean War page 27-28
Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950 page 343 - 344, 442, 436
Air Combat Annals, Chapter 6 Tom Hudner and Jesse Brown: Brother's Keeper
he Association of Naval Aviation page 35
Navy: An Illustrated History: The U.S. Navy from 1775 to the 21st Century page 118-119
The U.S. Navy in the Korean War page 220, 240-241, 418
Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events page 74, 538
Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks page 146 (MOH photo)
Jet Mar 8, 1973 page 33
U.S. Marines in the Korean War page 697
AOL Home of the Brave "Thomas Hudner Tries to Save Navy's First Black Aviator" July 3, 2012
AP "Medal of Honor Recipient Tried to Save Wingman" July 25, 2012
AP "Destroyer's name honors aviator who tried to save comrade" April 2, 2017
Valor Studios "Devotion Wingmen to the End - December 4, 1950" by Matt Hall
Devotion by Adam Makos tells Thomas Hudner's story
New York Times "Thomas Hudner, War Hero in a Civil Rights Milestone, Dies at 93" November 13, 2017
Boston Globe "Thomas J. Hudner Jr., 93, war hero and veterans’ affairs commissioner" November 13, 2017
Associated Press "Thomas Hudner, whose name’s on BIW destroyer, dies at 93" November 13, 2017
FindAGrave - Thomas J Hudner, Jr (photo, obituary, Arlington National Cemetery)
FindAGrave - CPT Thomas Jerome Hudner, Jr (photo, biography)
Thanks to Thomas J. Hudner for additional information