The Heroic End of Two Navy Pilots’ Inseparable Friendship
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It was December 4th, 1950. Jesse Brown, the first African-American U.S. Navy pilot, was stricken in the mountains aboard his F4U Corsair. His friend, Tom Hudner, soon came to the rescue.
Despite enemy forces in North Korea on their way to capture the downed pilot, Hudner still flew over the stricken plane. He was relieved to see Brown push the cockpit back, but the injured pilot didn’t leave the aircraft.
Hudner was concerned the aircraft would burst into flames if Brown couldn’t get out. So, he made a brave decision – he also put his plane down in the mountainside to try and save his friend. Hudner realized that Brown wasn’t able to get out because he was caught in between the inside of the cockpit.
The rescue helicopter eventually came, but despite their best efforts, Jesse could not be freed and he succumbed to the bitter cold. They tried more extreme measures, but the weather made it virtually impossible and they were in enemy territory still.
The helicopter crew told Tom, “I am not equipped for flying at night in mountainous terrain. I’ve got to go. You can stay here, but I have to get my airplane out of here.”
It was obvious that both men couldn’t do anything for Jesse at that time. “By the time we left,” Hudner recalled, “He had expired.”