Among the African American heroes recognized during the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice on July 27 in Washington, DC was U.S. Navy Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the first African American naval aviator to die in combat. Ensign Brown was shot down while providing close-air support for units of the 7th Marines during the Chosin Reservoir battle in December 1950. Of the 600,000 African Americans who served in the Armed Forces during the Korean War, it’s estimated that more than 5,000 died in combat.
Brown was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for performing dangerous combat actions that resulted in his fatal crash. In March 1972, Brown’s widow christened a Knox-class ocean escort ship the USS Jesse Brown.
CNN recently ran several stories about the quest of one Korean War veteran, retired Navy Captain Thomas Hudner, who had recently returned to North Korean in an effort to retrieve the remains of his fallen comrade, Jesse Brown. Capt. Hudner was flying his plane to support Ensign Brown’s mission on December 4, 1950 when Brown was shot down. Hudner crashed his own plan in an unsuccessful attempt to save Brown. Capt. Hudner was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valiant efforts.