02 March 2007

Someone you should know

This past week I attended a lunch function with my local Navy League and they were talking about diversity in the US Navy. One of the people that they brought during this lunch was an Ensign named Jesse L. Brown.
Jesse L. Brown was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1926. He went to Ohio State University and joined the US Naval Reserve as an enlisted man in 1946. In 1947, his enlistment was terminated and the US Navy accepted him as Midshipman, upon graduation from Aviation Officer Candidate School in 1948, Midshipman Brown was accepted to VF-32, "The Swordsmen" on board the USS Leyte (CV-32). On the 15th of April, 1949, Brown was promoted to Ensign and had complete flight training in the F4U-4 Corsair with the Swordsmen.
From my understanding although Ens. Brown did face trouble from some officers in the Navy. Inside his squadron once he proved himself as a capable pilot, he disappeared to become another Ensign in the ship.
In June of 1950, North Korea went south of the 38th Parallel. In October of 1950, the USS Leyte joined Carrier Task Force 77 off the coast of North Korea. Ensign Brown rose to be a section leader, was awarded an Air Medal during their first line period. On December 4th 1950, while flying in support of the Tenth Corps fight in and around the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Ensign Brown's plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. His aircraft crashed landed behind enemy lines up near the reservoir. His wingman, then Ltg J.G. Thomas J. Hudner observed that Ensign Brown's plane crashed and that Ensign Brown was still alive. Lt. J.G. Hudner crash landed his own plane in an attempt to get Ens. Brown out of his plane. In a period of a few hours Lt. JG Hudner tried in vain to get Ensign Brown out of his plane. the cockpit had collapsed around Ens. Brown's lower body and trapped him inside. Hudner tried to radio for salvage equipment by the helicopter at the time couldn't lift both the heavy equipment up the altitude that the planes had crashed at. Nor was there enough daylight left for the helicopter to make the trip out to its ship, get the equipment and return before night time set in. Ens. Brown told Hudner to get out on the helicopter and thanked him for attempting to save him. Hudner got out and the next day when VF-32 aircraft over flew Brown's position the plane was still there, but there was no movement from Brown nor was there an answer on the radio.
At the end of the day the first Black Naval Aviator died, but not for the lack of his fellow shipmates to save him. Ensign Brown was awarded the DFC for his actions up to his crash. Lt. JG Hudner was awarded the Medal of Honor for his attempt as rescue of Brown.
A ship was later named in honor of Jesse L. Brown. FF-1089, a Knox class frigate.

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