|Pilot Lt(jg) Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., 485270 (survived) Fall River, MA
Crash Landed December 4, 1950
Built by Chance Vought Aircraft Division in Stratford, Connecticut. Contract Number: 2720. Accepted by the United States Navy (USN) on June 18, 1945, delivered on June 20, 1945.
During June 1945, based at NAS San Diego then shipped during July 1945. Minor repairs were performed during August 1945. During September 1945 assigned to VBF-19 based at NAS North Island then to NAS Barber's Point until the end of the year.
During the first three months of 1946, repaired at NAS North Island then reconditioned, stored and repaired. During October 1946, assigned to the aircraft pool with RASRON 3 (Reserve Aircraft Service Squadron 3). During November 1946 until July 1947 assigned to squadron VMF-114 based at Cherry Point, North Carolina. During August until December 1947 assigned to VMF-461. For the first half of 1948 assigned to AFMFLANT (Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic).
During July 1948 assigned to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Overhauled on September 20, 1949. Afterwards, to NAF Litchfield Park, Arizona where this Corsair was stored, then returned to NAS Quonset for overhaul and servicing. Assigned to Carrier Air Group 3 aboard the USS Leyte CV-32 to squadron VF-32 "Swordsmen".
This aircraft had no known nickname or nose art. Tail letter "K" with a white tipped tail. Nose number 205. The fuselage had a U. S. Star with red and white striped bars with "NAVY VF 32". Below the tail stabilizer was stenciled "F4U-4 NAVY 82050". At the tip of the tail was "05".
On December 4, 1950 took off from the USS Leyte (CV-32) piloted by Lt(jg) Thomas J. Hudner, Jr. on a ground attack mission over Kot'o-ri near the Chosin Reservoir. Hudner was flying as a wingman for flight leader F4U Corsair 97231 piloted by Ensign Jesse L. Brown.
While flying in formation over the target, F4U Corsair 97231 piloted by Ensign Jesse L. 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 Lt(jg) Thomas J. Hudner, Jr. who 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 U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter piloted by 1st Lt. Charles C. Ward, O-30663 from Marine Observation Squadron 6 (VMO-6) was dispatched to the crash sites to rescue both pilots.
Arriving at roughly 3:00pm, 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 area forcing the helicopter to take off again and proceed further south to Koto-ri.
Both crash landed Corsairs were reported at approximately Lat 40° 36' N Long 127° 6' E roughly ten miles north of Yudam-ni. On December 6, 1950 an F4U Corsair from VF-32 returned to the crash site and observed Brown's body still inside the cockpit of his aircraft. On December 7, 1950 F4U Corsairs from VF-32 returned to the site and dropped napalm onto both aircraft to destroy them.
Afterwards, Hudner earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during this mission, the first earned during the Korean War [read citation]. On April 13, 1951 he was presented the medal by U.S. President Harry S. Truman at the White House. Rescuing helicopter pilot Ward earned the Silver Star.
On May 7, 2012, the US Navy announced that the 66th Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer would be named USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) in his honor. The destroyer was christened April 1, 2017 at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine with Hudner in attendance.
Thomas Hudner passed away peacefully on November 13, 2017 at his home in Concord, MA. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Georgea (Farmer) Hudner (wife)
Thomas Jerome Hudner III (son)
Aircraft History Card – F4U-4 Corsair 82050
Logbook of Lt(jg) Thomas J. Hudner, USN VF-32 December 2-4, 1950
US Navy, VF-32 Mission Report - December 4, 1950
F-ARS-162 "Sub acft accident report CLN para able two eight nov five zero" [Helicopter rescue report received by SBAMA Cryptographer]
Valor Studios "Devotion Wingmen to the End - December 4, 1950" by Matt Hall
Military Times "Valor awards for Charles C. Ward - Silver Star citation"
Corsair: The F4U in World War II and Korea 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
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, Jr. for additional information
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January 5, 2018