Medal of Honor recipient retired Capt. Thomas Hudner salutes while taps is played during the Centennial of Naval Aviation wreath laying ceremony held at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2011. (U.S. Navy photo/Mikelle D. Smith) Capt. T.U. Sisson, commander of the aircraft carrier Leyte off Korea in December 1950, had a decision to make about the heartbroken lieutenant junior grade who had just returned from a desperate, unauthorized mission to save a dying friend.
He could recommend Thomas Hudner for a court-martial or a medal. Sisson chose the latter.
“There’s been no finer act of unselfish heroism in military history,” he said.
Five months later at the White House, President Harry S Truman awarded the Medal of Honor to Hudner, who died in Massachusetts on Monday at age 93.
Truman told the 26-year-old Hudner, who would attain the rank of captain, “At this moment, I’d much rather have received this medal than be elected the president.”
Hudner was the first person to receive the Medal of Honor for combat in Korea.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said, “The Navy lost a legendary aviator when retired Capt. Thomas Hudner passed away. Hudner was a hero in the true meaning of the word, receiving the Medal of Honor for his attempt to save fellow pilot Jesse Brown during the Korean War.”
Spencer said, “The Navy is better for his service, and his legacy will continue to inspire every sailor who serves on the future [guided missile destroyer] USS Thomas Hudner.”
“Few possess the bravery, determination, and character that Capt. Hudner displayed throughout his lifetime,” Gov. Charlie Baker, R-Massachusetts, said of Hudner, who was a former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services.
“The people of Massachusetts can be proud that a hero such as Capt. Hudner called the Commonwealth home,” Baker said. ‘If Anything Goes Wrong, Tell Daisy I Love Her’
Decades after the Korean War, Hudner said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of that day, and Jesse.”
The cliché about Hudner and Ensign Brown would be that they were an “odd couple.”
There was Hudner, the New England “preppie,” a graduate of the elite Phillips Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy , and Brown, the sharecropper’s son from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who was the Navy’s first African-American aviator.In the many interviews he gave before his death, and in the 2015 book by Adam Makos, “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice,” Hudner described his first awkward meeting with Brown.Two years earlier, Truman had signed Executive Order 9981, desegregating the armed forces against criticism that whites and blacks could not work and sacrifice together in the military.”I was changing into flight gear, and he came in and nodded, ‘Hello,’ ” Hudner said of their meeting at the naval air station at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.”I introduced myself, but he made no gesture to shake hands. I think he did not want to embarrass me and have me not shake his hand,” Hudner said. “I think I forced my hand into his.”On […]