Photos and story by Scott Jankowski
In late 2022 the movie Devotion premiered telling the real-life story of VF-32, U.S. Navy Pilots Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the first African American Aviator and Lieutenant JG Thomas Hudner Jr. A major part of the story takes place when war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, with VF-32 assigned to the U.S.S Leyte Gulf flying the World War II vintage F-4U Corsair. Brown and Hudner were not only squadron mates but had become close friends during training and previous deployments leading up to the start of the Korean War. In December of 1950 during a mission to support besieged U.S. Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, Brown’s Corsair was hit and made a forced landing in North Korean territory. Hudner proceeded to crash land has own airplane in an attempt to rescue Brown but was unsuccessful in doing so. Despite Hudner’ s best efforts to free Brown from the wreckage of his aircraft, Brown did succumb to his injuries after a U.S. Marine Corps rescue helicopter arrived on the scene. All though the rescue attempt failed, Hudner did receive the Medal of Honor and Brown the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously. The two families have remained close to this day. EAA devoted the Thursday Airshow to the Brown and Hudner families as well as VF-32 and the F-4U Corsair.
When war broke out on the Korean Peninsula in 1950, propeller powered aircraft were still very much in use as jet fighters were not widely developed or produced just yet. The Corsair was still the primary fighter used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps at the time, with the Gull Winged aircraft being used in the Close Support Role and as a Night Fighter. The Corsair’s used its 20mm cannons, napalm, iron bombs, and unguided rockets for its ground attack role. The Corsair also saw air combat as well, with the only U.S. Navy Ace of the Korean War, Lieutenant Guy Bordelton of VC-3. The Corsair once again proved itself in another war, it seemed fitting for AirVenture to honor this great aircraft and movie this year.
On Thursday, a total of six Corsair’s took part in the afternoon airshow with the 1945 built Chance-Vought F4U-4 Corsair that is owned and operated by the EAA itself was on hand at Boeing Plaza. N6667 or serial number 97259, taken on by VF-32 in 1949 and did see combat in the skies over Korea. This particular Corsair was flown by Lieutenant Hudner and several of his squadron mates. This aircraft was donated to the museum in 1982 and spent many years undergoing restoration work before being placed on display. The six Corsair’s that took part in the afternoon airshow flew several passes and was also joined by a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet of the present day VFA-32.
The present day VFA-32 nicknamed the “Fighting Swordsmen” flies the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet and is based at Naval Air Station Oceana VA and has flown the Super Hornet since 2005. Their current mission is: “Strike Fighter Squadron 32, as a part of U.S. Naval Aviation, utilizes the F/A-18F aircraft to project power ashore and at sea, to defend the fleet against air and sea threats, and to carry out all other missions which may be assigned by cognizant authority.” The unit has flown such iconic aircraft as the Grumman F-8F Bearcat, Vought F-8 Crusader, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom, and the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in its many years of service. Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet Bureau number 166812 flew in the afternoon airshow while bureau number 166628 was part of the static display.
The weather was perfect on Thursday with sunny, blue skies for this tribute to the fine Aviators and aircraft past and present of VF-32 and VFA-32. Look for additional AirVenture coverage to come. Until next time, “Blue Skies To All!”