Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.

Hudner, born August 31, 1924, in Fall River, MA, attended the United States Naval Academy. At the start of the Korean War, he joined Fighter Squadron 32, flying an F4U Corsair airplane in support missions off the USS Leyte. After his heroic actions of December 4, 1950, (described below) he served in several positions, including executive officer aboard the USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War. After retiring from the military, he worked as a management consultant and later for United Service Organizations. He worked for several veterans organizations and, from 1991-99 served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services. When he retired from that post, he was succeeded by another Medal of Honor recipient from Massachusetts, Thomas G. Kelley.

The USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer announced in 2012, is being built at the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine.

For more information, see this oral history video and this archival video of President Truman presenting the Medal of Honor to Thomas Hudner.

Citation: 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.