The U.S. Navy has commissioned its latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Thomas J. Hudner (DDG-116) at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Bath, Maine. She is the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and the 36th of the DDG-51 class of destroyer. And she is one sleek looking beauty too.
The USS Hudner is the first to ship to be named after the naval aviator and Medal of Honor recipient, Thomas J. Hudner, Jr. I wrote about Hudner a while back.
It is a powerful story of brotherhood and courage.
During the famous battle at the Chosin Reservoir in Korean War in the winter of 1950, Hudner and his wingman, Jesse Brown, were part of the carrier based fighter air support defending the beleaguered Marines who were in a battle for their lives against superior numbers of Chinese troops. His wingman and best friend, was the Navy’s first African-American aircraft carrier based pilot. Brown’s fighter was hit by enemy ground fire, and he crash landed it near the snowy hills not far from the reservoir in enemy territory. Smoke was coming up from Brown’s plane and Hudner couldn’t get Brown to respond on the radio.
He circled overhead and came down low to get a look and saw that Brown was still alive and was struggling to get out of his crashed jet, but couldn’t.
At that moment, Hudner made a profound and dangerous decision. It was a decision that defied both logic and convention. But that was his friend down there and the enemy was most likely all around the area.
He decided to crash land his own plane near Brown’s and try to help his friend out of the wreckage before the rescue helicopters could arrive.
He did just that.
Hudner found Brown to be badly injured and wedged into the wreckage of the cockpit. He could not get enough force to bend the metal away from Brown and the plane was still burning. Even when rescuers arrived they were unable to get Brown out before he died.
Brown’s last words to Hudner were to tell his wife that her loved her. Brown has ship named for him too, the USS Jesse L. Brown is a Knox-class frigate.
The USS Thomas J. Hudner (DDG-116) will bear a very honorable name into its service as one of United States Navy’s latest warfighting ships. She will be a fast, deadly and powerful part of the fleet. Those who will serve aboard her have a name and a reputation to live up to.
The Veterans Site sends its best wishes to the officers and crew who will be assigned to the USS Thomas J. Hudner. We wish you all “Fair Winds and Following Seas.”
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.