WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) released the following statement today on the passing of former U.S. Navy Captain Thomas Hudner, a Medal of Honor recipient and the namesake of the future USS Thomas Hudner, an Arleigh Burke Class destroyer currently under construction at Bath Iron Works.
“At the christening of the USS Thomas Hudner, I recited this quote from President John F. Kennedy: ‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words of thanks but to live by them.’ Captain Thomas Hudner would never utter the word ‘hero’ in reference to himself, but that’s how he lived. A man who was willing to risk his life for that of his wingman, Captain Hudner was bravery personified. Though he will be missed, there are hundreds of men and women working tirelessly at Bath Iron Works to build the ship bearing his name, and ensure his legacy of service and sacrifice is known across the world for generations to come.”
Hudner, a veteran of the Korean War, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on April 13, 1951 for displaying uncommon valor during an attack on his fellow airman, the first African American naval aviator, Ensign Jesse L. Brown. During the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War, anti-aircraft fire hit Brown's aircraft, causing him to crash. After it became clear that Brown was seriously injured and unable to free himself, Hudner proceeded to purposefully crash his own aircraft to join Brown and provide aid. Hudner injured his own back during his crash landing, but he stayed with Brown until a rescue helicopter arrived. Hudner and the rescue pilot worked in the sub-zero, snow-laden area in an unsuccessful attempt to free Brown, who ultimately succumbed to his injuries, from the smoking wreckage.
The future USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) was christened in April at Bath Iron Works. Senator King delivered remarks at the event and met Captain Hudner, who attended the christening. The ship is currently scheduled to be commissioned in late 2018.