CAPT Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.

2018-9-19 Hudner

Thomas Hudner had no particular interest in airplanes when he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946. He wanted only to serve aboard a ship. But in 1948, after he had been at sea for several months and had worked as a communications officer at Pearl Harbor for a year, he was ready for a new challenge and volunteered for flight training. He was briefly stationed in Lebanon before being assigned to the carrier USS Leyte as an F4U Corsair pilot.

By the fall of 1950, Lieutenant Hudner was flying combat missions in Korea. On December 4, he was one of a flight of six fighters sent out on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Korea. Hudner was wingman for a Navy flier named Jesse Brown, the son of a Mississippi sharecropper who had attracted a good deal of attention—and some discrimination—as the Navy’s first black pilot.

While strafing enemy positions at a low altitude, Brown’s plane was hit by antiaircraft fire. Smoking badly and without power, the aircraft was too low for Brown to bail out or clear the snow-covered mountains. Hudner followed Brown down, calling off a checklist to help prepare him for the crash landing.

Brown put his plane down in a wheels-up landing in a clearing below. The impact buckled the fuselage at the cockpit, and Hudner was certain that Brown was dead. To his amazement, Brown opened the canopy and waved weakly, but he appeared to be unable to free himself. Knowing that rescue helicopters had a long distance to travel, Hudner decided to help Brown get out of the plane himself. He didn’t ask permission from the flight leader because he knew it would be denied.

Hudner radioed, “I’m going in,” then dumped his ordnance, dropped his flaps, and landed wheels up, hitting the hilly area hard. He got out and struggled through the snow to get to the downed plane. Hudner saw that Brown’s right leg was crushed by the damaged instrument panel, and he was unable to pull him out of the wreckage.

Hudner kept packing snow into the smoking engine and talking to Brown as he drifted in and out of consciousness. When a U.S. helicopter arrived, the pilot worked with Hudner for forty-five minutes trying to get Brown out. They hacked at the plane with an ax, and even considered amputating Brown’s trapped leg with a knife. The snow packed on the bottom of their boots prevented them from getting any firm footing on the plane’s wing. As nightfall approached, bringing temperatures as low as thirty degrees below zero, it was clear that Brown was dead. Hudner hated to leave the body behind, but the helicopter pilot couldn’t fly in the mountainous terrain after dark. Reluctantly, the two men returned to base camp.

The next morning, reconnaissance showed that Brown’s body, still in the cockpit, had been stripped of clothing during the night by enemy soldiers. Because of the hostile forces in the area, it was impossible to retrieve it. The following day, the commander of the Leyte ordered four Corsairs to napalm the downed plane so that Brown could have a warrior’s funeral.

By February 1951, the Leyte was back in port in the United States. In mid-March, Hudner found out that he was to be the first American serviceman in the Korean War to receive the Medal of Honor. Daisy Brown, the widow of Jesse Brown (who had been posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross), was present when President Harry Truman put the medal around Thomas Hudner’s neck on April 13, 1951.

We honor you, Thomas Hudner Jr.

(#Repost @Medal of Honor Speakout)

MM3 Doris Miller

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Doris Miller is credited with shooting down several Japanese planes with a machine gun from the deck of the U.S.S. West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor. When news of his actions reached the public, the African-American community saw him as their symbol of patriotism and pride. They wanted him to give speeches, named Boys Clubs after him, and started a write-in campaign to have President Roosevelt admit him to the Naval Academy. Although he did not attend the Naval Academy, Miller was decorated for bravery and continued to serve on active duty. Miller lost his life in the explosions and subsequent sinking of the Liscome Bay early on the morning of November 24, 1943.

We honor you, Doris Miller.

(#Repost @A People at War)

LTC Hubert Menno Amstutz

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“The things that you’ll have to take care of in the Army are things that you will never see any place else.” (Video Interview, 6:52)

War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army
Unit: 97th Evacuation Hospital, 1st Army

At 41, Hubert Amstutz was older than your average enlistee in 1942, but as a practicing physician he had a lot to offer the U.S. Army. He trained at the University of Pennsylvania in surgery on “everything from the neck up.” Amstutz became an important member of the medical team that worked in the days after the Normandy invasion to treat soldiers with wounds in the most vulnerable areas of the anatomy. Interviewed at the age of 101, Amstutz displayed a remarkable memory for the details of those perilous times.

We honor you, Hubert Amstutz.

(#Repost @http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp-stories/loc.natlib.afc2001001.05141/)

SGT William Jennings Arnett

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War or Conflict:  WWII, 1939-1945

Dates of Service:  1941-1945

Entrance into Service:  Enlisted

Branch of Service:  Army

Unit of Service:  818th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 5th Infantry Division and 26th Infantry Division

Location of Service:  Texas; Normandy, France; Germany; European Theater

Battles/Campaigns:  Battle of the Bulge, Central Europe, Northern France, Normandy, Northern Europe

Highest Rank:  Sergeant

Prisoner of War:  No

We honor you, William Arnett.

(#Repost @http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/bib/loc.natlib.afc2001001.00998)

WASP Violet Clara Thurn Cowden

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Violet Cowden served with the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, a stateside program that enlisted female pilots to ferry supplies cross-country, thus freeing up male pilots for combat roles. For Cowden, serving as a WASP gave her the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of flying while doing her patriotic duty. “I thought, ‘Well, what better way to serve my country than to fly and do the thing that I love most, and I didn’t have to pay for the gas.'”

As the war wound down and male pilots returned home, the program was discontinued. It would not be until 1977–over thirty years later–that the WASP contributions were recognized by the federal government and they were given official veteran status.

We honor you, Violet Cowden.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

PVT Kenneth Brown Hart

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From Bunker Hill to Baghdad, the citizen soldier has played a vital role in our military history. These patriots laid down their plow shares and took up the sword when our nation called. Many gave their lives on foreign soil to preserve our freedom here at home.

One such citizen soldier was Kenneth B. Hart of Knoxville. Quiet and of a slender build, he was an unlikely warrior. He wore wire-rimmed glasses; loved to play his clarinet; and had an aptitude for math. Kenneth was a ’38 graduate of Knoxville High where he was a member of the band. He completed 2 years at the University of Tennessee as engineering major. As a member of the UT marching band he participated in the Orange Bowl an Rose Bowl parades. In 1940, he joined the Tennessee National Guard. One year later he married his high school sweetheart, Hazel.

Assigned to the 191st Field Artillery Band, he continued to play his clarinet. Kenneth and Hazel spent 2 years together at an Army Post in California where he trained for combat. Their final good-bye was in the spring of ’44 in New York as Kenneth shipped out for Germany. By June, he had entered the European Theater and had been reassigned to the 1st Infantry Division, 18th Regiment, 1st Battalion Company C. The “Big Red One” helped to chase the retreating Germans across France to the Siegfried line.

Control of the Dams of the Roer River Valley was a major objective of the allies. All that stood between them and the Dams was 70 square miles of dense fir trees and rough terrain known as the Huertgen Forest. It was infested with determined German troops that were intent on repelling the Americans. The Germans had reinforced this natural barrier with concrete bunkers, pillboxes, and heavy artillery. Often overshadowed in history by Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge, the Huertgen Forest has been referred to as a m”meat grinder”. The records show that for every yard gained, it took more lives than any other American objective in Europe.

Against this backdrop, Kenneth’s unit fought through the Huertgen Forest. November 22, 1944 was cold and rainy, mixed with intervals of snow. Company C was trying to take Hill #203 according to battle reports. The Germans had the high ground and launched a deadly barrage of mortar and artillery and almost decimated Company C. Kenneth Hart died instantly that day from artillery shrapnel while taking shelter in a foxhole. Company C fought on despite the losses. On November 27th, a platoon from that company charged that hill. After 10 minutes of savage hand-to-hand fighting, the hill was in American hands. Only 2 American officers and 6 enlisted men were left of that platoon. Hill 203 has been described by members of the 1st Battalion as the fiercest fight they encountered in the war. The Americans finally took the Huertgen Forest and the Roer Valley. The final butcher’s toll was over 24,000 American dead, killed or missing. Another 9,000 were victims of frostbite, trenchfoot, and battle fatigue. It took 5 months, 9 divisions, a parachute regiment, and a Ranger battalion to take the Huertgen Forest.

We honor you, Kenneth Hart.

(#Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)

Carl Wicklund

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This is my grandfather Carl Wicklund during WWII, he served during the war in the United States. I believe he was in administration – Army. He didn’t really talk about his service.

Carl Wicklund was the son of Swedish immigrants to Seattle, his family spoke Swedish at their house. He and my grandmother stayed in West Seattle all their lives- and raised three kids including my dad. Carl passed when I was a teenager.

We honor you, Carl Wicklund.

(Submission written by: Patrick Wicklund)