Posted by: Chuck | July 26, 2013

U.S. Vet returns to North Korea for 1st black Navy aviator


U.S. Vet returns to North Korea for 1st black Navy aviator

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Two years after he made history by becoming the Navy’s first black pilot, Ensign Jesse Brown lay trapped in his downed fighter plane in subfreezing North Korea, his leg broken and bleeding. His wingman crash-landed to try to save him, and even burned his hands trying to put out the flames. A chopper hovered nearby. Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner could save himself, but not his friend. With the light fading, the threat of enemy fire all around him and Brown losing consciousness, the white son of a New England grocery-store magnate made a promise to the black son of a sharecropper:

“We’ll come back for you.”

More than 60 years have passed. Hudner is now 88. But he did not forget. He has come back. Hudner, now a retired Navy captain, arrived in Pyongyang on Saturday with hopes of traveling in the coming week to the region known in North Korea as the Jangjin Reservoir, accompanied by soldiers from the Korean People’s Army, to the spot where Brown died in December 1950. The reservoir was the site of one of the Korean War‘s deadliest battles for Americans, who knew the place by its Japanese name, Chosin. The snowy mountain region was nicknamed the “Frozen Chosin,” and survivors are known in U.S. history books as the “Chosin Few.” The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir lasted for 17 brutal days. Some 6,000 Americans were killed in combat, and thousands more succumbed to the cold. Brown and many others who died there are among more than 7,910 Americans still missing in action from the war.

A column of troops and armor of the 1st Marine...

A column of troops and armor of the 1st Marine Division move through communist Chinese lines during their successful breakout from the Chosin Reservoir in . The Marines were besieged when the Chinese entered the Korean War November 27, 1950, by sending 200,000 shock troops against Allied forces. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though the fighting ended with an armistice signed 60 years ago July 27, North Korea and the U.S. remain technically at war. Efforts to recover remains have come in fits and starts, with little recent progress. Next week’s mission is to pick up where search teams have left off by locating the exact spot of Brown’s crash. Armed with maps and coordinates, they hope to work with North Korean soldiers to excavate the remote area, a sealed site controlled by the North Korean military.  Approval for the unusual journey comes as North Korea prepares for festivities marking the upcoming armistice anniversary. Pyongyang is expected to use the milestone to draw international attention to the division of the Korean Peninsula as well as to build unity among North Koreans for new leader Kim Jong UN.

While trains were used to transport U.S. Soldi...

While trains were used to transport U.S. Soldiers and their equipment during the Korean War, trains in North Korea were targets of attack by U.S. and other U.N. forces. Here, U.S. forces target rail cars south of Wonsan, North Korea, an east coast port city. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hudner does not plan to stay for a massive military parade expected on July 27. But he said he hopes his visit will help to foster peace and reconciliation on the tense Korean Peninsula. Japan occupied Korea for decades, until the end of World War II. Then the Soviets and the Americans moved in, backing rival fledgling governments and dividing the country halfway at the 38th parallel. War broke out in June 1950, with the communist North Koreans marching into Seoul. They were countered by U.S.-led U.N. forces that charged north, taking Pyongyang and continuing up the peninsula. By November, U.S. Marines had dug in around the Chosin reservoir and in Unsan County to the west. The plan was to push north as far as the Yalu River dividing Korea from China. That they didn’t know was more than 100,000 Chinese ground troops had slipped across the Yalu to fight for the North Koreans. They boxed in 20,000 U.N. forces, mostly U.S. Marines. Hudner and Brown were members of Fighter Squadron 32, dispatched to the region deep in North Korea’s forbiddingly mountainous interior to support the trapped ground troops and carry out search-and-destroy missions. Theirs was a close-knit squadron. But the two men, both in their 20s, came from completely different worlds. Hudner, of Fall River, Massachusetts, was a privileged New Englander who was educated at prep school and had been invited to attend Harvard. Brown, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, broke the Navy’s color barrier for pilots in 1948, months after President Harry S. Truman ordered the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces. It wasn’t an easy role for Brown to take on, Hudner recalled. “People who didn’t know him gave him a hard time just because he was black.” But those who got to know Brown grew to respect the serious, unfailingly considerate young man who impressed his peers with his dedication to flying — and his gentle sense of humor.

Hudner went onto a distinguished naval career and later served as Massachusetts’ commissioner of veterans’ services, eventually settling in the revolutionary town of Concord, Massachusetts.

English: Armistice Agreement, DPR Korea

English: Armistice Agreement, DPR Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The political complications may be greater still. The Koreas remain divided by the world’s most militarized border, and Washington and Pyongyang lack diplomatic relations. Diplomatic forays have sputtered over the years, stalled by a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Earlier this year, Pyongyang threatened to launch a nuclear war if provoked; Washington sent bombers into the region in what defense officials acknowledged was meant as a warning.

America is still Enemy No. 1 to North Koreans, who consider the posting of 28,500 U.S. troops across the border in South Korea to be an “occupation” of the Korean Peninsula.

Posters show North Koreans with eyes blazing as they attack American soldiers with bayonets. “Sweep away the imperialist American aggressors,” they read. Students file through exhibition halls that lay out the alleged toll: More than 1.2 million soldiers and civilians killed.

More than 36,000 American military personnel died in Korea fighting as part of the U.S.-led U.N. forces, including the nearly 8,000 never accounted for, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

For decades, the families of missing U.S. soldiers have pressed the government to search for their remains.

The first joint U.S.-North Korea searches began in 1996. Team’s uncovered 229 sets of remains, but in 2005, with Washington and Pyongyang locked in a nuclear standoff, the U.S. government suspended the searches, citing security concerns.

Last year, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command prepared to resume the search. But those plans were scrapped following North Korea’s decision to launch a long-range rocket — widely seen as a test of missile technology. Additionally, the search program itself has been criticized as “inept” and “dysfunctional” in an internal Pentagon study recently obtained by the AP.

“He’s a Jackie Robinson in many ways. He’s a Joe Louis,” he said. “He’s a historic figure, yet he’s lying on a Korean mountainside.” (Source: Yahoo News)

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