The Navy’s first black pilot Jesse Brown is being remembered by white veterans.
Ensign Jesse Brown died in combat in North Korea more than 60 years ago, but the Navy’s first black pilot is still remembered.
Retired Navy captain Thomas Hudner was a Lieutenant during the Korean War. He and Jesse Brown were among the “Chosin Few” involved in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, also nicknamed the “Frozen Chosin.” The battle lasted for 17 days and 6,000 Americans were killed in combat.
Jesse Brown’s fighter plane was downed over North Korea and crashed, breaking his leg and causing other injuries. Although a rescue chopper hovered nearby, Hudner could only save himself due to the threat of enemy fire all around and Brown was losing consciousness. Still, Hudner promised the Navy’s first black pilot that “we’ll come back for you.”
Jesse Brown died from his injuries, but Hudner still remembered his promise that day. Accompanied by the Korean People’s Army, Hudner returned to the spot where Brown died in December of 1950 to honor the memory of the Navy’s first black pilot. Next week, the site will be excavated to discover the exact spot of Jesse Brown’s crash. North Korea is even helping in this endeavor to mark the upcoming armistice anniversary.
The Navy’s First Black Pilot Remembered
Recently, Jesse Brown’s grandson Jamal remembered the Navy’s first black pilot in speech given in Jacksonville by Commanding Officer Captain Jeffrey Maclay:
“Today and throughout our Navy’s history, African-Americans have seized opportunities to serve. They have led and excelled in challenging assignments, and their contributions have shaped our legacy. Since the Revolutionary War, African-Americans have participated in every war fought by and within the United States.
“As others attacked and held off enemy troops, Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner landed nearby and struggled desperately to get Brown out. I would like to tell you they both made it and over the years have become the best of friends, but that was not to be. Brown died on that slope in Korea. When Brown risked his life to help a Marine regiment that day, he didn’t consider their race. And when his fellow pilots saw him in danger, they did not think about the color of their skin. They only knew he was an American in trouble.”
Jamal remembers the Navy’s first black pilot as the “son of sharecroppers” in Mississippi who was “often told about everything that he couldn’t do or become.” Thus, the word “can’t” became Jesse Brown’s catalyst for a desire to “not only to fly, but to fly and be of service to mankind. He wanted to be a Navy pilot.” Despite being “berated and discriminated against daily,” Jesse Brown worked his way to his dream, becoming the Navy’s first black pilot in 1948.
What do you think about how the Navy’s first black pilot, Jesse Brown, is being remembered?