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
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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid