War hero known for trying to save Hattiesburg pilot to be buried at Arlington

War hero known for trying to save Hattiesburg pilot to be buried at Arlington
Hudner earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, where he crashed his plane in enemy territory trying to save fellow-aviator Jesse L. Brown, of Hattiesburg. (Photo source: US Navy)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A Medal of Honor recipient who intentionally crash-landed his plane behind enemy lines in an attempt to save a Hattiesburg pilot during the Korean War will be interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday.

Navy Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr., a naval aviator from Concord, MA, died on Nov. 13, 2017, at the age of 93. Hudner earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, where he crashed his plane in enemy territory trying to save fellow-aviator Jesse L. Brown, of Hattiesburg, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Brown, who was the first African-American to be trained as a naval aviator, was shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire while providing air support to American troops in December 1950. Hudner saw that Brown was alive and trapped in his plane, so he crashed his plane near Brown's to offer aid.

Hudner tried to pull Brown out of the wreckage while packing snow in the smoking engine, but Brown's right leg was crushed under the damaged instrument panel. A U.S. helicopter arrived to help, but they were not able to free Brown, who was drifting in and out of consciousness.

As night approached, Hudner and the helicopter pilot were forced to leave Brown behind, because they could not fly in the dark. Brown died shortly after.

Hudner was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 13, 1951. He served 27 years in the Navy and was active in the veteran's community of Massachusetts, serving as the Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services.

A U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer has been named in Hudner's honor. The future USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 1116) is currently being built in Maine.

Strike Fighter Squadron 32, the squadron Hudner flew with when he earned the Medal of Honor, will perform the missing man formation flyover during Wednesday's ceremony.