Hattiesburg native Jesse L. Brown, the first African American Navy pilot, had a fatal plane crash in 1950 in North Korea.
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -
Hattiesburg native Jesse L. Brown, the first African American Navy pilot, was killed in a fatal crash in 1950 in North Korea. His wingman, Massachusetts native Thomas Hudner, made an emergency landing in an unsuccessful attempt to save him.
In 1950, Hudner promised he would return to help. Now in 2013, he is fulfilling that promise.
Hudner landed in Pyongyang, North Korea on Saturday. He will travel this week to the site where Brown's plane crashed.
"It's a very good thing," says Brown's widow Daisy Brown-Thorne of Hudner's return. "This will perhaps give him some closure as to what happened back then. He's a person who I think when he makes a promise, he likes to keep it."
Brown-Thorne says her late husband always knew he wanted to be a pilot.
"He never said what plane he wanted to fly, he just wanted to fly a plane."
Brown graduated from Ohio State University in 1947, which was something that his widow says was a dream come true given the racial turmoil at that time. Upon graduation, he entered the Navy and began his service, until two short years late, he was killed in combat.
Hudner, who turns 89 next month, is traveling this week back to the Jangjin Reservoir where Brown's plane crashed. This is also the site that was one of the Korean War's deadliest battles for Americans.
Hudner is accompanied by soldiers of the Korean People's Army. The plan is to excavate the crash site, which is a sealed site controlled by the North Korean military. It is unknown whether or not remains of Brown or the planes will be found.
Brown-Thorne hopes to have a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery if the search is successful for her late husband.
Brown was honored posthumously with the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Hudner was awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States military's highest award, for his services to Brown.
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