November 14, 2017

Remembering Capt. Thomas J. Hudner ’43

Beloved Medal of Honor recipient passes away

The Academy mourns the loss of Medal of Honor Recipient Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr. ’43

Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr., a Korean War hero, retired U.S. naval officer, and former naval aviator, died November 13, 2017. He was 93. Hudner received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman in 1951 for his valiant actions in trying to save the life of a downed wingman during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.  

On December 4, 1950, Hudner and wingman Ensign Jesse L. Brown—the Navy’s first black pilot—were patrolling near the Chosin Reservoir when Brown’s Corsair was struck by ground fire. Hudner intentionally crash-landed his own aircraft on a snowy mountain to help Brown. Despite Hudner’s best efforts, Brown died of his injuries; Hudner was later forced to evacuate before Chinese troops closed in.  

In 2013, at the age of 88, Hudner returned to North Korea in a hopeful yet unsuccessful attempt to locate Brown’s remains and bring them home to the United States.  

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in 2012 that the next Arleigh Burke–class destroyer would be named for Hudner. The USS Thomas Hudner was christened at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, in April 2017, with Hudner, his family, and many from the Andover community in attendance.  

Hudner’s other military decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal. He held positions aboard several U.S. Navy ships and with a number of aviation units, including a brief stint as executive officer of the USS Kitty Hawk during a tour in the Vietnam War. Since retiring from active duty in 1973, he has worked on behalf of various veterans’ organizations throughout the United States.  

Hudner was a guest of honor in 2015 at Andover and the Military’s annual Veterans Day dinner in Paresky Commons, at which time his official portrait, painted by Chas Fagan ’84, was unveiled. That portrait now hangs aboard the Hudner. In November 2016, Hudner returned to campus to receive the Andover Alumni Award of Distinction at All-School Meeting in Cochran Chapel.

Tributes to Hudner can be found in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Boston Herald and other media outlets. The Globe tribute was written by Joe Kahn ’67.  

Hudner is survived by his wife of 49 years, Georgea; children Kelly Fernandez, Stan Smith, Shannon Gustafson, and Thomas III; 12 grandchildren; one great-grandson; and siblings Mary Hammer and Philip Hudner.  

Tribute to Captain Thomas J. Hudner Jr.

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