Film 'Devotion' tells story of war heroes Thomas Hudner, Jesse Brown – Fall River Herald News

FALL RIVER — They were two men with vastly different backgrounds: a Fall River kid who came from a family of shopkeepers and studied at an elite boarding school, and a Black kid from Mississippi who grew up in dire poverty and battled discrimination. Though each walked his own path to get there, both found themselves in the Navy as pilots in the Korean War — then became fast friends whose lives were forever linked in one of the most brutal battles of modern warfare. 
The extraordinary true story of Fall River native and Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr. and his friend Ensign Jesse Brown is soon to hit the big screen as “Devotion,” a war epic produced by Columbia Pictures, opening Nov. 23. 
The film, directed by J.D. Dillard, stars Jonathan Majors (“Loki,” “Lovecraft Country,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”) as Brown, the Navy’s first Black combat pilot. Glen Powell (“Hidden Figures,” “Top Gun: Maverick”) co-stars as Hudner. It’s playing only in movie theaters and is rated PG-13.
“It’s a story of a true American hero,” said state Sen. Michael Rodrigues. “Think of the strength of Jesse Brown, and the strength of Tom. Those were two strong men. For it in any way to be associated with the city of Fall River is something we should all be proud of.” 
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Hudner and Brown’s story has become legend among military historians. The two were serving as Navy combat pilots in the Korean War; on Dec. 4, 1950, while fighting in what would become known as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Brown’s aircraft was shot down by Chinese infantry and he crash-landed behind enemy lines in deep snow and subzero temperatures. Seeing Brown still alive in the burning wreckage and waving for help, Hudner intentionally crash-landed his plane and ran to his side to try to free him.  
With his bare hands, Hudner used snow to douse the flames from Brown’s destroyed Corsair, and stayed with the badly injured Brown as he lost consciousness, continuing his efforts when a rescue chopper arrived. But as time wore on, the area slipped into darkness, and so did Brown — the helicopter was forced to take Hudner away, leaving behind Brown’s body. For his selfless actions, President Harry S. Truman awarded Hudner the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest honor. 
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From the film trailer, “Devotion” focuses not just on this act of bravery, but on the struggles that Brown faced for acceptance and the deep friendship the two men forged at a time of racial segregation. 
“When you hear the story, the most compelling part of it is Jesse Brown. He’s the one that died,” said Jim Lopes, park interpreter at Heritage State Park. “But it’s about their friendship. It’s about their relationship.” 
Hudner died in 2017 at age 93, having made attempts to locate Brown’s remains in North Korea and return them to the United States. He kept in contact with Brown’s family for over half a century. The visitors center at the park was renamed in 2021 for Hudner, an effort spearheaded by Swansea businessman Paul Burke and Rodrigues to honor a Fall River hero. 
“We’re in the Thomas Hudner Memorial Building, yet when I promote the story, I promote the story of the two men,” Lopes said. “I mention both names all the time. Hudner was who he was because of his relationship with Brown, and the experience that they shared.” 
“He was an officer and a gentleman — he fits that picture,” Burke said of Hudner.  
Burke, who knew Hudner personally, admired him, and served with him on the Battleship Massachusetts‘ board of directors, said he was a humble person despite his stellar Naval record — so there’s “no question” that Hudner would be somewhat abashed to see himself portrayed in a Hollywood blockbuster. 
“Whatever war that anybody serves in, they take care of each other,” Burke said. “When you’re in battle, you’re taking care of each other.” 
Lopes said the visitors center will be showing the “Devotion” film trailers and documentaries about the lives of Hudner and Brown at its theater every day after it reopens for the season on Nov. 13, “so people have the backstory before they go see the movie.” He said he’s hoping to link up with Battleship Cove to help promote the movie, and to see if they can score some movie memorabilia to put on display. 
“I’m just so excited that this movie’s being made,” Rodrigues said, “and of course I’m going to watch it and my ears will be peeled for any reference to Fall River in the movie.” 
Burke said he hopes “Devotion” stirs interest among young people in learning more about the lives of Brown and Hudner, and the brotherly love they had for each other. 
“And his story, for a city like Fall River, which is multi-ethnic, is the right story to tell.” 
Dan Medeiros can be reached at [email protected]. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.


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