Taps

In 1948, Jesse L. Brown became the first African-American to complete naval flight training and earn his wings of gold. Assigned to VF-32 on board the carrier USS Leyte (CV-32), he flew the F4U Corsair in combat missions over Korea. On 4 December 1950, his aircraft was hit by antiaircraft fire and he was forced to crash-land in the snowy landscape behind enemy lines. One of his squadronmates, Lieutenant (junior grade) Thomas Hudner, upon seeing that Brown’s plane was beginning to burn, elected to make a belly landing in the vicinity and help extricate his fellow pilot. Unfortunately, Brown’s legs were pinned in cockpit and he couldn’t be saved. Retrieved by helicopter, Hudner was later recognized with the Medal of Honor for his bravery "above and beyond the call of duty."

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Midshipman Jesse L. Brown pictured shortly before receiving his wings in 1948.

President Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Thomas Hudner during ceremonies at the White House, 13 April 1951.

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Lieutenant (junior grade) John Kemp Keller penned this letter to an old friend while serving as a fighter pilot in VF-172 on board USS Essex (CV-9) in 1951. Just hours after writing it, he was killed attempting to land his battle-damaged F2H Banshee aboard the ship. It was left to one of his squadronmates to break the news of his death and deliver the unmailed letter.


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