Jesse Brown, Hattiesburg hero

Jesse Brown, Hattiesburg hero
Jesse Brown remembered. Photo Credit WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Jesse Leroy Brown was born October 13,1926 in Hattiesburg. One of six children, Brown grew to love planes and aspired to be a pilot.

In a segregated nation at the time, this may have seemed impossible. But, Brown was dedicated.

"He grew in a time where African Americans weren't allowed inside of a plane, so for him to say that he wanted to fly a plane and not just say it but to actually live out that dream is just amazing," said Latoya Norman, GM at the African American History Museum.

Brown would enroll at Ohio State University in 1944 and apply several times for the school's aviation program. Unfortunately Brown was denied because of his race.

While attending college, he enlisted in The U.S. Naval Reserve and was then admitted to the school's aviation program. He became a seaman apprentice, and a member of the school's Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Program.

When he graduated from college in 1947, he became an ensign in the Navy.

He earned his pilot's wings less than a year and half later, finally realizing his dream.

However, this dream would be short lived.

During the Korean War on December 4, 1950, Brown's flight was shot down by enemy forces in North Korea while trying to help Marine Corps Troops trapped on the ground.

His wing man, Lieutenant Thomas Hudner, intentionally crashed his own aircraft in an attempt to save him.

His efforts proved unsuccessful. Brown died while trapped under his aircraft.

Ensign Brown left behind a wife and daughter.

Lieutenant Hudner made a promise to Brown that he would return for him, and that's a promise that he's tried to keep.

Lieutenant Hudner was honored with the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on April 13th 1951.

WDAM spoke to New York Times bestselling author Adam Makos about his book "Devotion," telling the story of Brown, and Hudner's quest to bring his body home.

The book is centered on the relationship and bond between Ensign Brown and Lieutenant Hudner.

Makos spent extensive time with Lieutenant Hudner in an effort to get the story correct. In 2013, Makos and Hunder traveled to North Korea in an attempt to find the remains of both Ensign Brown and his aircraft.

Makos watched as the 88-year-old Lieutenant would talk directly with the Leaders of North Korea.

Makos remembers Lieutenant Hudner saying, "My friend is on your mountain side. The remains of Jesse Brown are still in his aircraft and they are lost. We can't search for them as Americans, but maybe you can."

The North Koreans commended the Lieutenant for his effort, and promised to search for Ensign Brown.

The search is still going today.