About CAPT Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., USN (Ret.)
US Navy Photograph.
Captain Thomas Hudner is a naval aviator who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on April 13, 1951 by President Harry S. Truman for displaying conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.
Born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, Thomas J. Hudner, Jr. is the son a successful businessman who ran a chain of grocery stores. Following his graduation from Phillips Andover Academy, Hudner entered the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Upon graduation from the Naval Academy in 1946, Hudner served on USS HELENA before entering flight school. Upon completion of flight training, Hudner was assigned to VF-32 flying F4U Corsairs.
At the time that the Korean War broke out, VF-32 was attached to the USS LEYTE in the Mediterranean Sea. The LEYTE briefly returned to the United States before setting sail for the war zone. Hudner flew in formation with his friend and element leader Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the son of a sharecropper from Lux, Mississippi and the first African American to complete training as a naval aviator. As the war on the ground progressed, UN forces pushed the North Koreans beyond the 38th parallel and were nearing the border with China when Chinese forces entered the fray and Marines became surrounded at Chosin Reservoir as the bitter cold winter weather set in.
US Navy Photograph.
On December 4, 1950, pilots from VF-32, including both Hudner and Brown, were flying a mission in support of the Marines who were in the midst of a fighting withdrawal from Chosin Reservoir. During the mission, Brown’s Corsair was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he was forced to crash land. Violating a standing order not to attempt to land and aid downed pilots, Hudner purposely crash landed his own plane to provide aid to Brown. Even with an injury to his back caused by his crash landing, Hudner remained with Brown until a rescue helicopter arrived on the scene. Hudner worked with the helicopter pilot in the sub-zero, snow-laden area in an attempt to free Brown from the smoking wreckage of his aircraft. Despite their valiant efforts, they were unsuccessful in freeing Brown from his aircraft who passed away in his cockpit as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. For his actions that day, Hudner would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Truman.
Hudner remained on active-duty in the US Navy for another 22 years until his retirement from the Navy in February 1973 with the rank of Captain. Following his retirement from the Navy, Hudner worked as a management consultant, served as president of the regional USO, and served as the Commissioner of Veterans' Services for the state of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1999. On November 13, 2017, Captain Hudner passed away at his home surrounded by family and friends. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on Wednesday, April 4, 2018.
Ensign Jesse L. Brown, Hudner's element leader, who was shot down over Chosin Reservoir who Hudner crash landed his plane in an attempt to rescue. US Navy Photograph.
USS LEYTE moored off Naval Operating Base, Yokosuka, during a break from Korean War operations, 1 December 1950, just 3 days before ENS Jesse Brown is shot down. US Navy Photograph.
Captain Thomas Hudner addresses the audience as the Principal Speaker at the launching of USS JESSE L. BROWN (DE 1089), at Avondale Shipyards, Inc., New Orleans, LA, 18 March 1972.
US Navy Photograph.
CAPT Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.,. USN (Ret.) addresses a group of Chief Petty Officer Selectees as part of USS CONSTITUTION's CPO Heritage training week in 2013. US Navy Photograph.
CAPT Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.,. USN (Ret.) at the Christening Ceremony for the USS THOMAS HUDNER at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works on April 1, 2017.US Navy Photograph.
Video footage of Hudner being presented the Medal of Honor. Please note that there are segments without sound. Video on YouTube.
A brief video made by the Medal of Honor Foundation about Captain Hudner. It includes an interview with Captain Hudner talking about the actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Interested in reading more about CAPT Thomas Hudner, ENS Jesse Brown, and the men they served with in Korea? Then, the USS THOMAS HUDNER Commissioning Committee highly recommends New York Times Bestselling author Adam Makos' recent book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Brotherhood, and Sacrifice (Ballantine Books, 2015).