July 2nd 2016


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY CFA dispute may end up burning Victorian Labor electorally

CANBERRA OBSERVED July 2: Independence Day or Groundhog Day?

EDITORIAL Expect shockwaves as Britain votes on EU exit

CLIMATE CHANGE Coral bleaching way overdone by reef saviours

EUTHANASIA Victorian report closer to truth in dissenting voices

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Trump v Clinton race revealing of state of U.S.

SEXUAL POLITICS Transgenderism and the triumph of marketing

EDUCATION Deconstruction and other rot at school

POLITICS AND ECONOMICS Two heretics: Hilaire Belloc and R.H. Tawney

FREE SPEECH From disagreement to discrimination: section 18C

LITERATURE Tolkien, Golding and Hell

SOCIETY New lease on life for freedom machine

MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT Talent shows grind down singers, grind out drivel

CINEMA Puppet people pull the plug: Me Before You

BOOK REVIEW HOMOSEXUALITY, MARRIAGE AND SOCIETY

BOOK REVIEW Friendship under fire

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BOOK REVIEW
Friendship under fire




News Weekly, July 2, 2016

 

 

DEVOTION: An Epic Story of Heroism, Brotherhood and Sacrifice

 

By Adam Makos

Atlantic, London
Distributed by Allen and Unwin
Paperback: 445 pages
Price: AUD$29.99

 

Review by Anthony Staunton

 

Devotion is the story of two naval pilots, a flight leader and his wingman, who were as close as brothers despite different backgrounds; and when the flight leader was shot down in North Korea, his wingman went to the rescue.

The flight leader was Ensign Jesse Brown, one of six children born to a sharecropping family in segregated Mississippi, where he and his brothers grew up helping their father farm the land. He became the United States Navy’s first black carrier pilot.

Although the more experienced pilot Jesse was junior in rank to his wingman, Lieutenant Tom Hudner, who had spent his summers sailing in Massachusetts. He was preregistered for Harvard but instead sought entry into Annapolis Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1946.

After graduation, Tom served aboard the cruiser USS Helena. In mid-1947 he applied for and was accepted for flight training. He first met Jessie in December 1949 when Tom joined Naval Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32). In April 1950, VF-32 converted from Bearcats to Corsairs and the following month the squadron, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Leyte, sailed to the Mediterranean for duty with the US Sixth Fleet.

Peacetime duty included training exercises as well as visits to foreign ports, but this was soon overshadowed by the start of the Korean War. Duty with the Sixth Fleet was cut short and the Leyte returned to the U.S. at the end of August for a 10-day replenishment before sailing to Korea. There was leave for the crew. Tom visited his family and Jessie saw his wife Daisy and daughter Pam.

By the time the Leyte reached the hostile waters, United Nations forces had crossed into North Korea. While the main UN force advanced north along the western side of Korea, the 1st US Marine Division landed at Wonsan on the northeast coast of the Korean peninsula and began moving towards the Chinese border.

The first VF-32 mission was flown on October 10, 1950. This mission and other missions described in the book explain carrier operations, combat flying and aircraft characteristics in an easy to follow style that enriches the story.

On November 27, the UN forces advancing from Wonsan reached the Chosin Reservoir, where they were surprised and encircled by Chinese Communist forces. The outnumbered UN force, U.S. marines and infantry, South Korean troops and British Royal Marines, were ordered to withdraw along the one viable route, a 125-kilometre road that connected Chosin Reservoir with the port of Hungnam. It was to be a 17-day fighting withdrawal in freezing weather through rough terrain.

On December 4, Jesse and Tom were in the middle of a formation of six Corsairs flying in support of the withdrawing UN troops. Jesse’s aircraft was hit, oil began leaking, power was dropping and the aircraft needed to land. The formation was north of the Chosin Reservoir and the only possible landing site was a high, flat pasture atop one of the mountains in enemy territory.

Jesse managed to land the aircraft, but was badly injured and pinned in the cockpit. All he could do was wave to the Corsairs flying cover overhead. With the rescue helicopter 20 minutes out and with smoke indicating that Jessie’s aircraft could catch fire, Tom on his own initiative, crash-landed his aircraft on the mountaintop. Tom found Jessie mortally injured. His last words for his wife were: “Just tell Daisy how much I love her.”

On April 13, 1951, Tom Hudner, was invited to the White House where President Truman presented him with the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. award for gallantry. Daisy Brown was at the ceremony to witness the presentation to the man who risked his life in an effort to save her husband.

Though the book centres on this remarkable bond of friendship, it covers in detail the other members of VF-32 and the Marine helicopter rescue crew. The stories of some of the marines who were in the Mediterranean at the same time as the Leyte and who went directly to Korea and were encircled at the Chosin Reservoir are also told.

The author’s extensive interviews from surviving pilots, marines and family members make the story. An afterword gives short pen pictures of the lives after Korea of more than a dozen mentioned in the book. Jessie’s last letter home to Daisy, all four pages, is included in the book. Tom Hudner, aged 92, is one of 76 surviving Medal of Honor recipients.

This book is a good read. It deserves to be as well received as the author’s previous book, A Higher Call, which told the extraordinary story of a German fighter pilot who instead of shooting down a badly damaged American bomber, escorted the aircraft out of danger from German anti-aircraft defences. In 1990, the pilots of both planes met and they kept in touch until their deaths, within a few months of each other, in 2008.


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