Never Leave Your Wingman: Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.

Olde Delaware

Keeper of the Bees
Deputy Minister
Citizen
Never Leave Your Wingman: Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.
February 14th, 2018
By Olde Delaware

In my last article, I asked what is a hero. In this article, I hope to help define love. I picked this day for this particular article because Valentines Day is known as a day for lovers. But love is open ended and ambiguous. It is a happy day most assuredly but it is also a day where one can reflect on the love and sacrifice made by so many.

In this case, it is the love of friendship and camaraderie, the loyalty and honor that is entrenched in the words "Never leave your wingman." The wingman term has definitely become part of the lingo of many men and women around the world. It means partner, buddy or maybe someone who is there to help you out or maybe get the boy or girl of your dreams. In the military, its roughly the same. Its someone who will support you, help you and fight along side you and perhaps even die for you or sometimes even with you.

In the military, no one walks alone.

On December 4th, 1950, Thomas J. Hudner, Jr. flew with his wingman, the first African American Naval Aviator, Ensign Jesse L. Brown during combat operations over the Chosin Reservoir. A place which has since gone down in the lore of the United States Marine Corps. Small arms fire from Chinese Infantry hit the low attacking aircraft, flying as low as 700 feet off the deck, some of which caused Ensign Brown's aircraft to begin trailing fuel. With his options dwindling and control of the aircraft becoming harder and harder, Brown dropped his fuel tanks and rockets and made an attempt to land the stricken fighter.

Instead, the aircraft skidded to a hard stop inside of a bowl shaped valley and trapped the pilot, his plane was smoking and began to catch on fire. Hudner and the other pilots thought he was dead until Brown waved for help. Hudner and the other pilots began calling a mayday, or a call for help but a helicopter was too far away. Hudner then intentionally crash landed his aircraft and ran over to help Brown out of the plane, throwing snow onto the fire and utilizing a fire extinguisher to fight back the flames to do so while trying to extract the trapped Brown from the wreckage.

Ultimately, he was unsuccessful.

Ensign Jesse Brown died at Chosin just as countless Marines had before him and after him, but his wingman never left his side and even petitioned the Navy to allow him to retrieve the deceased pilots remains, which were destroyed to deter the enemy from looting the site, to no avail. In his later years, Hudner reflected that he wasn't a hero. That "About 90" people have told him he acted recklessly. Commanders said he endangered lives and destroyed an airplane, but he defended his actions.

Sure, an aircraft was destroyed but what are material things to the love, loyalty and friendship between men like Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner, Jr. His friend and wingman were in trouble and he did everything he could to try to keep him out of harms way. Who stayed with him in his final moments and tried to go back and bring him home so he could be buried with honor and properly remembered by his family and friends. He put himself above his friend, his friends life above his own safety. The thoughts of Brown's family ahead of his own.

That to me is love and what Lt. Hudner did that day, December 4th 1950 was more out of love than it was out of anything else. So today, while we are giving Valentines and generally enjoying the fun and perhaps the pleasures of life. Lets also take a moment to remember the love and loyalty between members of our armed forces like Lt. Thomas Hudner. Men and women willing to go to the ends of the earth for their friends, teammates and wingmen.

Because those in the Military never walk alone.


 

Olde Delaware

Keeper of the Bees
Deputy Minister
Citizen
A rare unlocking for an important announcement.

Devotion, a film starring Glenn Powell and Jonathan Majors on the lives and story of Ensign Jesse Brown and Lieutenant Thomas Hudner is slated to release soon.

On this Veterans Day I ask you continue to honor the service, memories and lives of these brave men.
 
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