ENS Jesse L. Brown
Joining the Naval Reserve to help pay for attendance at the Ohio State University, was discouraged from applying for aviation duty. Overcoming the prejudices of the era, qualified for flight instruction as part of the Aviation Midshipman Program in 1947. The following year became the first African-American to complete the Navy’s flight training program. Assigned to the VF-32 Swordsmen, flew vital close air support missions from USS Leyte (CV 32) supporting embattled Marines in the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. Hit by enemy fire during a mission on December 4, 1950, skillfully crash-landed his F4U Corsair, the impact damaging the nose section and pinning him in the cockpit. Stoically endured tremendous pain and bitter cold during an unsuccessful rescue attempt by squadronmate LTJG Thomas Hudner, his last words a message to his wife— “Tell Daisy I love her.” An inspirational example of heroism and determination in the face of adversity.
LTJG John K. Koelsch
Unhesitatingly volunteering for a dangerous rescue mission deep in North Korea despite approaching darkness, shot down by intense enemy fire on July 3, 1951. Surviving the crash of his HO3S helicopter, evaded capture for 9 days along with his aircrewman and the severely burned Marine aviator they had attempted to rescue. Taken prisoner, maintained an indomitable spirit in the face of harsh conditions and mistreatment before dying in captivity on October 16, 1951. The first helicopter pilot in U.S. military history to receive the Medal of Honor, his intrepidity, devotion to duty and inspirational leadership continue to inspire generations of rotary-wing aircrew.
LCDR John J. Magda
After serving in the Battle of Midway, flew F6F Hellcats and became an ace by shooting down 5 Japanese aircraft. Selected as the fourth leader of the famed Blue Angels, led them in transitioning to jet aircraft. When the team disbanded to form the nucleus of a front-line squadron, the VF-191 Satan’s Kittens, commanded that squadron on board USS Princeton (CV 37) in combat in Korea, flying dangerous low-level missions. During a March 9, 1951, strike against a heavily defended target, pressed home attack despite his aircraft being in flames before crashing into the sea. Received the Navy Cross posthumously for his extraordinary heroism. An aviator whose undaunted courage and inspirational leadership left a lasting legacy for Naval Aviation and the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron.
CAPT Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.
Designated a Naval Aviator in 1949, eventually assigned to the VF-32 Swordsmen on board USS Leyte (CV 32). During a mission over North Korea on December 4, 1950, observed his squadronmate ENS Jesse Brown make a forced landing in the rugged, icy landscape of the Chosin Reservoir. Seeing him make no effort to get out of the cockpit despite a fire burning in the nose section of the airplane, then-LTJG Hudner intentionally made a wheels-up landing near Brown’s airplane despite the presence of enemy troops in the area. Packing snow on the fuselage to combat the flames, he discovered that Brown was pinned in the cockpit by a collapsed instrument panel. Calling in a rescue helicopter, he doggedly but unsuccessfully tried to extricate Brown from the airplane amidst gathering darkness and bitter cold. For his extraordinary valor received the Medal of Honor, his actions that day and in preserving the memory of his comrade in arms embodying selfless devotion.