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NEWS | Nov. 23, 2022

Guard Wing Supports Film Production of First Black Naval Aviator, MOH Recipient from Korean War

By National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - “Devotion” details the heroic efforts of Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner Jr., who purposely crash-landed his own aircraft in an attempt to rescue downed fellow naval aviator Ensign Jesse Brown during the Korean War.  

Tragically, Brown – the first African American to complete Navy flight training – did not survive. Hudner’s bravery earned him the U.S. military’s highest award for valor – the Medal of Honor – for the attempt.  

The Georgia Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Wing, which supported the production of the movie from March 12-15 and March 27-29, 2021, helped turn this story into cinematic magic.   

“The filming could have been done without military support, but the contributions of the 165th Airlift Wing enabled the Department of Defense the opportunity to be a part of the coordination process, ensuring an accurate depiction of the events being portrayed,” said Christine Thompson, a National Guard Bureau entertainment liaison.

Military officials authorized the production team to “set dress” all locations with equipment, props and wardrobe that one would expect for a war movie taking place more than 70 years ago. Officials also vetted, cleared and authorized civilian aircraft seen in the movie to land at the wing’s home station, Savannah Air National Guard Base, and use a hangar during filming.

In addition to supporting logistical requirements, Georgia Air Guard members provided escorted access for approximately 250 production personnel.

“The U.S. military has assisted motion picture productions since 1927, even working on the first movie ever to win the best picture Oscar, “Wings,” said Alán Ortiz, of the DOD Entertainment Media Office. “We’re especially proud of the support the National Guard and Navy have given to this movie, helping to get this incredible, true story to the big screen so Americans can learn and be inspired by it.”

In addition to portraying Hudner’s efforts to save his wingman, the movie depicts some of the adversity Brown had to overcome.

“The contributions of Black service members are central throughout the history of the United States, back to the Revolutionary War. However, leadership opportunities for Black service members were sparse,” said Chief Master Sgt. Maurice L. Williams, command chief of the Air National Guard. “The Armed Forces did not fully integrate people of color until after World War II.”

To thank the National Guard for supporting the production, Air Force Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony Whitehead, the SEA to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, attended an advance screening of the movie Nov. 17.

“This was not a light undertaking for the Georgia National Guard, and I am proud that our Guard members contributed to honoring the valor and heroism depicted in the movie,” said Whitehead.



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