Navy's First Black Pilot Missing In North Korea: How Will Veterans Find Ensign Jesse Brown?
The U.S. Navy's first Black pilot was Ensign Jesse Brown. In December 1950's Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, Brown and his wingman Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner were downed after being shot down in subfreezing North Korea. The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir lasted for 17 agonizing days. 6,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat. Thousands died from the cold. 7,910 Americans are still missing in action from the war. U.S. veterans that survived the reservior's bitter frost are regarded as the "Chosin Few."
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Hudner rushed to Jesse Brown and tried to put the Navy's first Black pilot from the flaming wreckage, burning his hands in the process. However, Jesse Brown suffered excessive bleeding and a broken leg and could not move. When a helicopter hovered over the pilots, Hudner managed to reach the chopper and was removed from the Chosin battle zone. Losing consciousness, Jesse Brown was not so lucky.
"We'll come back for you," vowed Thomas Hudner.
Today, Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner is now 88 years old. Hudner never forgot his friend.
Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner, now a retired Navy captain, visits the North Korean capital Pyongyan on Saturday in hopes of reaching North Korea's Janglin Reservior. Accompanied by officers of the Korean People's Army, Thomas will return to the wreckage that claimed Jesse Brown's life 60 years ago. North Korea's snowy mountain region's Chosin Reservoir is now known as the Janglin Reservior.
While the brutal fighting ended with an armistice on July 27, 1963, the United States and North Korea are technically still at war. The tension between the United States and North Korea is noticeably high at this time as the communist nation has conducted a number of threatening political posturing towards both South Korea and the United States.
An unusual an unlikely cooperation between the two nations, Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner's mission to retrieve the Navy's first Black pilot and his old friend, Jesse Brown, coincides with North Korea's upcoming armistice anniversary festivities. North Korean soldiers are prepared with the necessary maps and coordinates to accompany Hudner to the remote area.
Hudner hopes his mission will foster peace and reconciliation with North Korea.
Learn more about Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, the Navy's first Black pilot, in the video below:
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