Medal of Honor Recipient, Navy Pilot Buried With Full Honors at Arlington National Cemetery

Capt. Thomas Hudner (USN Ret.) salutes at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. / 3rd Class Mikelle D. Smith (USN)
April 5, 2018

Medal of Honor awardee Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday.

Hudner, a Navy pilot, was awarded the nation's highest military honor for his actions on Dec. 4, 1950, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.

Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty" during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. During a mission, one of his fellow pilots, the Navy's first African American naval aviator to fly in combat, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, was hit by anti-aircraft fire damaging a fuel line and causing him to crash. After it became clear Brown was seriously injured and unable to free himself, Hudner proceeded to purposefully crash his own aircraft to join Brown and provide aid. Hudner injured his own back during his crash landing, but stayed with Brown until a rescue helicopter arrived. Hudner and the rescue pilot worked in the sub-zero, snow-laden area in an unsuccessful attempt to free Brown from the smoking wreckage. Although the effort to save Brown was not successful, Hudner was recognized for the heroic attempt.

President Harry S. Truman awarded Hudner the Medal of Honor on April 13, 1951, with Brown's widow, Daisy, present. Hudner and Daisy remained friends for the 50 years following.

Hudner traveled to North Korea in 2013 in an attempt to retrieve Brown's remains, but North Korean officials told him it would not be possible to access the site due to impassable roads and weather.

Present at Hudner's internment were his wife Georgea, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, among others. Cmdr. Nathan Scherry, Commanding Officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) was also in attendence. USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), names in Hudner's honor, will be commissioned later this year.

"A hero the day he tried to rescue Jesse, a hero when he served our community, and a hero when he passed," said Scherry. "Whenever I spoke to him, he always talked of Jesse and Jesse's family. He never spoke of himself, or anything he did. It was never about Tom... We will, as the first crew of his ship, carry forward his legacy and his values of family, life, equality, and service every day of our lives."

Fighter jets from Strike Fighter Squadron 32 flew from Virginia Beach and flew in a missing man formation in Hudner's memory. The squadron was the one Hudner and Brown belonged to in 1950.

Hudner was accepted into the Naval Academy in 1943 and commissioned as an officer in 1946 before becoming an aviation officer in 1949. He served 27 years in the Navy before retiring in 1973.

Watch video of the ceremony: