Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War hero, Navy combat pilot Capt. Thomas Hudner died on Monday at the age of 93.
Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services Secretary Francisco Urena announced Hudner’s death on Monday. Hudner previously served as commissioner for the organization in the 1990s.
Hudner received the Medal of Honor after his wingman, Ensign Jesse Brown – the Navy’s first black carrier pilot, was shot down during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir by small-arms fire. Hudner purposely crash-landed his plane in an effort to save the life of his friend. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in his effort.
His Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Fighter Squadron 32, while attempting to rescue a squadron mate whose plane struck by antiaircraft fire and trailing smoke, was forced down behind enemy lines. Quickly maneuvering to circle the downed pilot and protect him from enemy troops infesting the area, Lt. (J.G.) Hudner risked his life to save the injured flier who was trapped alive in the burning wreckage. Fully aware of the extreme danger in landing on the rough mountainous terrain and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperature, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels-up landing in the presence of enemy troops. With his bare hands, he packed the fuselage with snow to keep the flames away from the pilot and struggled to pull him free. Unsuccessful in this, he returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a helicopter be dispatched with an ax and fire extinguisher. He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames. Lt. (J.G.) Hudner’s exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Hudner was born on Aug. 31, 1924, in Fall River, Massachusetts, and was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1943 by Rep. Joseph W. Martin Jr.
He became a pilot and joined Fighter Squadron 32, flying the F4U Corsair during the beginning of the Korean War.
Last year, for Hudner’s 92nd birthday, 50 Navy Chief Petty Officers came to his home in Concord, Massachusetts, after traveling from the USS Constitution in Charlestown to sing “Happy Birthday” and “Anchors Aweigh” to honor him. The officers marched down his street and met him outside his home.
The visit to Hudner’s home was arranged by a group known as Massachusetts Fallen Heroes. The officers presented Hudner with a piece of the USS Constitution. Hudner stood on his front lawn, saluted the officers and shook the hands of all of them, thanking them for their support.
An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer was named after Hudner. The USS Thomas Hudner is scheduled to be commissioned in 2018.