News / Asia

    US Veterans Return from N. Korea After Search for Pilot's Remains

    US Veterans Return From N. Korea After Search for Pilot's Remainsi
    X
    July 31, 2013 1:26 AM
    An 88-year-old American Medal of Honor winner from the Korean War this week wrapped up an unprecedented trip to North Korea to search for the remains of his wingman, who died after a crash landing in 1950. Thomas Hudner said the trip was a success, despite failing to locate Jesse Brown's plane or body. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman accompanied Hudner and reports on the rare interaction between American civilians and officers of the powerful Korean People’s Army.
    An 88-year-old American Medal of Honor winner from the Korean War this week wrapped up an unprecedented trip to North Korea to search for the remains of his wingman, who died after a crash landing in 1950.
     
    Thomas Hudner deemed the trip a success, despite failing to locate Jesse Brown's plane or body. 
     
    Brown was the first African-American naval aviator. During the Korean war, he was Hudner’s wingman during sorties they flew off the deck of the USS Leyte aircraft carrier. 
     
    The two flew single-engine Corsair (F4U) fighters to provide critical air support for Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir - a pivotal moment in the war.
     
    At a Pyongyang museum, Hudner got to see a similar pair of the planes.
     
    “It's a little difficult to recognize them in the condition they are in,” Hudner remarked. “It brings back old memories, especially that day on the slope in North Korea.”
     
    On that day, Hudner crash-landed his plane after Brown’s went down. It was ultimately a futile attempt to free a dying Brown from his crumpled cockpit -- an act for which Hudner won the Medal of Honor.
     
    Joining Hudner on the July trip to North Korea was Silver Star recipient Dick Bonelli, a Marine who was eight kilometers from the slope where Hudner and Brown brought down their planes on December 4, 1950.
     
    The group arrived in Pyongyang in July hoping to join an expedition to the mountain where Brown’s plane went down. But after their arrival, North Korean military officers explained there would be no visit to the Chosin reservoir because of heavy monsoon-season flooding.
     
    The consolation message: leader Kim Jong Un is aware of their quest, making a return trip more likely. 
     
    Hudner said his trip to the isolated country is not merely a quest to retrieve his wingman's remains.
     
    “The more cooperation we get from former enemies, the better off the world will be,” he explained. “We've done this with a number of countries who have been bitter enemies of ours [e.g. Germany and Japan] and they turned out to be some of our strongest supporters.”
     
    The United States and North Korea signed an armistice in 1953 but there has never been a peace treaty.
     
    The militaries of the two countries have cooperated in the return of war dead but a U.S. Defense Department $14 million planned field operation to Chosin and another site was suspended last year as tensions worsened between Washington and Pyongyang.
     
    Sr. Col. Pak Gi Yong told Hudner the KPA will make every effort to locate the remains of his wingman and his Corsair F4U, in Pyongyang, July 22, 2013. (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
    Sr. Col. Pak Gi Yong told Hudner the KPA will make every effort to locate the remains of his wingman and his Corsair F4U, in Pyongyang, July 22, 2013. (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
    North Korean officers, at a final meeting with Hudner, asked for his team to return with the U.S. military's forensic experts from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
     
    The Korean People's Army officers explained that American officials should not delay a resumption of the joint operations since construction of hydroelectric plants and rezoning are increasingly displacing human remains from the three-year war.
     
    They also warned U.S. journalists not to imply North Korea agrees to such operations for financial benefit or to improve bilateral relations.
     
    “Recovering the remains is a humanitarian issue. It is far from a political matter,” explained Senior Col. Pak Gi Yong from the KPA's Panmunjom mission. “We'll do our best to search for and excavate the remains of Jesse Brown.”
     
    Military history author Adam Makos, seated next to Thomas Hudner, shows North Korean army officers a photo of US Navy pilot Jesse Brown who crash landed his plane in their country in 1950, in Pyongyang, July 22, 2013. (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
    Military history author Adam Makos, seated next to Thomas Hudner, shows North Korean army officers a photo of US Navy pilot Jesse Brown who crash landed his plane in their country in 1950, in Pyongyang, July 22, 2013. (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
    Author Adam Makos, who is writing a book about Hudner and Brown's story, lamented the flooding that prevented the Americans from reaching the crash site.
     
    “We were disappointed we couldn't accomplish our mission fully but we were able to hand off the mission to our new friends from the other side,” said Adam Makos, who is writing a book about Hudner and Brown's story. “The KPA officers are going to resume the search this fall with us or without us and that's the outcome we came for - to bring Jesse home. It doesn't matter if it's us or them.”
     
    Hudner, prior to departing North Korea, told officials he would report about his unusual trip to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is also a former Navy officer.

    VOA Correspondent Steve Herman accompanied Hudner to North Korea where they spent nine days in the reclusive country
     

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Clarence Williamson from: Maryland
    August 24, 2013 9:00 PM
    Col. Hudner: Would like to accompany you when you go again this fall. Confident I can sway the PLA cadre involved, to a certain extent. Fluid in Korean. Retired Sig.Corps Officer. Please contact me.
    Clarence

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora