|Pilot Ensign Jesse LeRoy Brown, 504477 (WIA / KIA / BRN / MIA) Hattiesburg, MS
Crash Landed December 4, 1950
Built by Chance Vought Aircraft Division in Stratford, Connecticut. Contract number 2720. Accepted by the U. S. Navy (USN) September 11, 1945. Delivered on February 4, 1946.
Assigned to 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 unknown. 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 97231".
On December 4, 1950 took off from the USS Leyte CV-32 piloted by Ensign Jesse LeRoy Brown on a ground attack mission over Kot'o-ri near the Chosin Reservoir. Brown was flight leader with wingman F4U Corsair 82050 piloted by Lt(jg) Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.
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.
While flying in formation over the target, this aircraft was presumably hit by ground fire or small arms fire. While flying in formation, Brown 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 F4U Corsair 82050 piloted by Lt(jg) Thomas J. Hudner, Jr. who witnessed his flight leader's crash landing and spontaneously decided to force land his aircraft beside Brown. 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 helicopter was dispatched to the site to rescue both pilots. When the helicopter arrived, Hudner used the helicopter's rescue ax in a futile attempt to cut into the aircraft's skin to free Brown's body, but was unsuccessful. The helicopter departed with Hudner, leaving Brown's body at the crash site.
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.
Fate of the Pilot
Brown was officially declared dead the day of the mission and is still listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Presumably, Brown's body was destroyed by the napalm bombs dropped on December 7, 1950. Possibly, Chinese soldiers reached the site prior to the napalm strike and recovered his body or personal effects.
Brown is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the courts of the missing, court 8. Posthumously, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Purple Heart and Republic of Korean War Service Medal. In 1972, Knox-class frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor.
Aircraft History Card – F4U-4 Corsair 97231
US Navy, VF-32 Mission Report - December 4, 1950
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) Jesse Leroy Brown
FindAGrave - Jesse L. Brown
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, Vol II 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
Valor Studios "Devotion Wingmen to the End - December 4, 1950" by Matt Hall
Corsair: The F4U in World War II and Korea page 165
Korean War POW MIA Korean War Servicemen - Ens Jesse L. Brown
Thanks to Thomas J. Hudner for additional information
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February 4, 2018