Navy’s First Black Pilot Buddy Back to Korea for HimBy: Mike Tuttle - July 20, 2013
“We’ll come back for you.”
It was like a scene out of a Hollywood war film … only, it probably was nothing like a scene out of a Hollywood war film. Ensign Jesse Brown, the U.S. Navy’s first black fighter pilot, had been shot down over Chosin, North Korea. He was alive, but trapped in his downed fighter plane. The plane was on fire.
His wingman, Lieutenant Junior Grade Thomas Hudner, had crash-landed his own plane in a effort to save his buddy. He was trying to put out the fire with his hands, scooping snow from the ground around the plane. Soon, a helicopter hovered nearby. Brown was losing consciousness. There were three choices: 1) Get Brown out and both men get to safety. 2) Stay with Brown, come what may, and both men die. 3) Hudner could leave, try to come back for Brown. Hudner made the only choice with any hope attached to it.
“We’ll come back for you,” he promised Brown. Brown replied, “If I don’t make it, please tell [his wife] Daisy I love her.”
But the Battle of Chosin went on for 17 days. It was in sub-zero temperatures. Over 6,000 americans died in that battle, and many others froze to death. In the end, the North had that ground. There was no going back to get Brown. Certain that he was dead, the U.S. Navy napalmed the area to keep the North Koreans from getting Brown’s body.
Over 60 years later, Fox News reports that Hudner, now a retired Navy captain is going back to North Korea. Relations with North Korea are strained mightily. The word “nuclear” is tossed around. This particular time is very tough because anti-American sentiment is high. But Hudner is going back to honor his friend.
Led by the same individual who got the Harlem Globetrotters and Dennis Rodman in and out of North Korea, Hudner is going to scour the area for any sign of where is friend might have ended up, find any remains if he can, and keep his promise. He will be accompanied by soldiers from the Korean People’s Army.