b. 31/08/1924 Fall River, Massachusetts. d. 13/11/2017 Concord, Massachusetts.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 04/12/1950 Choisin, Korea.
Hudner was born 31 August 1924 in Fall River, Massachusetts. His father, Thomas Hudner Sr., was a businessman of Irish descent who ran a chain of grocery stores, Hudner's Markets. Three brothers were later born, named James, Richard, and Phillip. Hudner entered the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1939. His family had a long history in the academy, with his father graduating in 1911 and his uncle, Harold Hudner, graduating in 1921. Eventually the three younger Hudner children would attend the academy as well; James in 1944, Richard in 1946 and Phillip in 1954.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into World War II, Hudner heard a speech by academy headmaster Claude Fuess which he later said inspired him to join the military. One of 10 from Phillips to be accepted into the academy from his class, he entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1943 and graduated in 1946.
After graduation, Hudner served as a communications officer aboard several surface ships. During his initial years in the military, Hudner said he had no interest in aircraft. After a one-year tour of duty aboard the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Helena, which was operating off the coast of Taiwan, he transferred to a post as a communications officer at the Naval Base Pearl Harbor where he served for another year. By 1948, Hudner became interested in aviation, and applied to flight school, seeing it as "a new challenge". He was accepted into Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, where he completed basic flight training, and was transferred to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas, where he completed advanced flight training and qualified as a Naval Aviator in August 1949. After a brief posting in Lebanon, Hudner was assigned to VF-32 aboard the USS Leyte, piloting the F4U Corsair. He later said he enjoyed this assignment, as he considered the Corsair to be "safe and comfortable"
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Fighter Squadron 32, while attempting to rescue a squadron mate whose plane struck by antiaircraft fire and trailing smoke, was forced down behind enemy lines. Quickly maneuvering to circle the downed pilot and protect him from enemy troops infesting the area, Lt. (J.G.) Hudner risked his life to save the injured flier who was trapped alive in the burning wreckage. Fully aware of the extreme danger in landing on the rough mountainous terrain and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperature, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels-up landing in the presence of enemy troops. With his bare hands, he packed the fuselage with snow to keep the flames away from the pilot and struggled to pull him free. Unsuccessful in this, he returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a helicopter be dispatched with an ax and fire extinguisher. He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames. Lt. (J.G.) Hudner's exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
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