Veterans mission to search North Korea for remains of US Navy aviator

Despite our shaky diplomatic relations with the DPRK, there are things that we have an obligation to do. This is one of them.

U.S. hero pays respects in North Korea, hopes weather allows search for remains

Jesse Brown, the first African-American Navy aviator, crash landed in what is now North Korea on December 4, 1950.

Editor’s note: CNN is one of three news organizations accompanying Korean War veterans on their trip to North Korea.

Pyongyang, North Korea (CNN) — The last time Thomas Hudner was in North Korea, he was fighting for his life.

Sunday, more than six decades later, he paid his respects to the ruler who led that fight against him and his fellow Americans.

Hudner, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is leading a delegation that hopes — weather permitting — to search for the remains of Ensign Jesse Brown, the Navy’s first African-American aviator. Hudner and fellow Korean war veteran Richard Bonelli went to Pyongyang’s Palace of the Sun — the most hallowed site in North Korea — on Sunday.

Following protocol, each man stopped and bowed before the glass caskets of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder, and his son Kim Jong Il, who ruled for 18 years following his father’s 1994 death.

“It was a matter of respect,” Hudner, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his attempt to save Brown, told CNN.

Thomas Hudner made a promise to the mortally wounded pilot Jesse Brown that he would come back for him.

The visit comes ahead of the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended three years of fighting in Korea, on July 27. Hudner, Bonelli and the rest of the group are scheduled to travel to North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir, the scene of some of the most desperate fighting of the conflict, in search of Brown’s remains.Weather reports indicated heavy rain was likely in the northeastern North Korea, where Brown’s crash site is located. The Americans don’t plan to stay for the massive military parade on what Pyongyang calls “Victory Day,” but expressed hope that whether they get the chance to look for Brown’s remains or not, the visit will improve severely strained relations between the two countries.

Hudner’s biographer, Adam Makos, said the 88-year-old former pilot showed great dignity by paying respect to the North’s former leaders, as protocol required.

“He wears the gold medal for bravery, but it also represents character,” said Makos, who first suggested the trip to Hudner. “Because when you study the action of how he earned that medal, it is about great character, risking his life to save a friend. And today, he put his ego aside and he said. ‘You know, I’m going to show respect to a man once considered our foe.’ And that’s the ultimate sign of a warrior.”

Brown’s F-4U Corsair crashed in December 1950 while providing air cover for American troops who found themselves battling Chinese forces near the frozen reservoir. Hudner, then a lieutenant junior grade, was his wingman.

Hudner deliberately crashed his plane near Brown’s to try to save him, but Brown was trapped in his cockpit and died shortly afterwards. Hudner was awarded America’s top military decoration for the effort, while the Navy named a frigate after Brown in 1973.

“It was very different,” Hudner says of his first experience of North Korea. “That time we were bitter enemies. And I hope that our trip here can foster relations which will be good not only for our two countries, but for the whole world to see this.”

In the visitors’ book at the newly renovated Palace of the Sun, Hudner wrote, “It was a memorable experience.” He now knows more about the achievements of the Korean people, he wrote.

Chosin — known in North Korea as Jangjin — Reservoir was one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. More than 3,000 American soldiers and Marines and an estimated 35,000 Chinese troops were killed during a two-week withdrawal under fire by U.S. and allied forces.

Hudner and Bonelli, who was one of those badly outnumbered Marines, also saw two rooms filled with the leaders’ medals, plus the train carriages used to travel around the country and beyond. North Korean officials say Kim Jong Il died in one of those coaches.

Navy chaplains ‘baptised’ in helicopter dunker

Always good to see men of the cloth getting drenched.

Bish, bash, splash as Naval chaplains get dunked at Yeovilton

Six Navy chaplains were ‘baptised’ as they trained to escape from a helicopter ditched in the ocean.

The chaplains – more commonly known throughout the Navy as ‘bishes’ – were put to the test in the ‘dunker’ which simulates an aircraft crashing in the sea.

The vicars of Dunker are (l-r) Rev Alastair Mansfield (RNAS Culdrose), Rev Ralph Barber (Portsmouth Flotilla), Rev Simon Springett (Commando Training Centre Royal Marines), Rev Martin Evans (RNAS Yeovilton), Rev Andrew Corness (Portsmouth Flotilla) and Rev Tom Pyke RNR (HMS President). Picture: LA(Phot) Caroline Davies, HMS Yeovilton

AND you thought they could walk on water.

This is quite possibly the best photograph of Royal Navy chaplains in uniform in a swimming pool carrying out escape training from a crashed helicopter you’re likely to see all year.

The six chaplains – more commonly known throughout the Navy as ‘bishes’ – were ‘dunked’ together as they underwent training to see whether they can escape from a helicopter should it ditch in an emergency.

Because to do their job, providing spiritual and moral support to sailors and Royal Marines on the front line, they must fly regularly – and any regular flier with the Fleet Air Arm must be able to get out of a crashed helicopter.

To that end at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset there’s the Underwater Escape Training Unit – better known as the dunker (because those on the course are dunked) – for all aircrew and ‘frequent fliers’.

After strapping into the mock-up fuselage, the chaplains were lowered into the pool until completely submerged, then the helicopter turned over. For added realism, some of the exits or windows are blocked or jammed and, as the bishes may be expected to fly at night, the lights are switched off.

“To be honest, I really don’t enjoy the dunker that much,” said the Rev Simon Springett, a commando-trained chaplain who’s served from Antarctica to Afghanistan and Scotland to Sierra Leone.

“The training is essential to ensure I can perform my role, bringing spiritual and pastoral care to the men and women of

The sextet were attending the Anglican chaplains’ conference at Amport House in Wiltshire – the spiritual home of all military chaplains – and made the short trip down the A303 to Yeovilton to ensure they were ‘in date’ for their training.

There are 57 chaplains across the Naval Service – covering the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, Church of Scotland and the Free Churches.

They provide spiritual and moral support sailors and Royal Marines at establishments, air bases and on the front line – seven are deployed or are about to deploy on ships or in Afghanistan.

There are also six ‘world faith chaplains’ across the Armed Forces who advise on the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Jewish faiths.