Curiosity became a quest for Navy veteran

NEIGHBORS

February 20, 2002|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ABOUT 40 YEARS ago, Conrad Sigmon of Manchester found a metal printing plate that dated to the Korean War. It featured a Navy pilot in an advertisement for war bonds.

The Navy pilot was Lt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr., receiving his Medal of Honor for trying to save a fellow pilot during the Korean War. Finding the hero became a quest for Sigmon.

Sigmon served as a signalman in an 11-man Navy unit aboard the USS George Westinghouse, a Navy supply ship, during World War II and has remained a loyal veteran. He found the printing plate while poking through a box lot bought at a yard sale.

The image of the heroic pilot struck a chord. Both had served in the Navy. What if it had been Sigmon in the picture? Wouldn't he want to have the plate for a memento? Sigmon figured it was unlikely the pilot was alive, more unlikely he would be able to find him. He stored the plate in the garage.

"I kept that plate all these years," Sigmon said.

Sigmon has sought the servicemen he knew from his tour of duty. He added the Hudner name in what has become a lifelong quest.

"I travel, and when in another state, I'd look through phone books to find him," Sigmon said. The phone books didn't help.

In December, as Sigmon flipped through the latest issue of American Legion Magazine, he spotted the pilot. He was pictured receiving the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on April 13, 1951.

"I headed straight for the garage, and it didn't take too long to find this was the same person as on the plate I have," Sigmon said.

The plate was an illustration of Hudner, who had tried to rescue Jesse L. Brown, who became the nation's first black naval aviator in 1948. On Dec. 4, 1950, both Navy pilots were flying near Communist China. Brown's plane crashed, but he signaled he was alive. Hudner saw him and decided to try a risky landing on a rocky mountain.

Hudner landed without wheels into snow at temperatures of 30 degrees below zero. He smothered smoke and flames in the engine of Brown's plane by packing it with snow. Hudner realized Brown was trapped in metal wreckage. The rescue crew signaled for by Hudner couldn't free Brown and, by nightfall, he died.

Brown was remembered when the frigate USS Jesse L. Brown was commissioned in 1973, the year Hudner retired from the Navy with the rank of captain.

After finding the picture in the magazine, Sigmon's son entered the quest. He found Hudner on an Internet site and relayed the news Sigmon had been hoping for.

"He's still living, up in Massachusetts. Now I want to get this plate to him in some fashion, if he wants it," Sigmon said.

He hasn't contacted him.

"It's strange to me. I never thought I'd find him after all this time," Sigmon said.

Golf tournament

The Athletic Boosters of North Carroll High is planning the ninth annual golf tournament at Oakmont Green Golf Course in June.

The group holds the tournament to raise funds for uniforms and equipment for varsity, junior varsity and freshmen sports teams. The items they provide are not paid for by the county Board of Education.

Foursomes and individuals placed into foursomes will play a shotgun start at 7:30 a.m. June 28. A continental breakfast and lunch are included in the entry fee of $70. Greens fees, cart and prizes are included.

Contests ranging from best and worst scores, putting, closest to the pin, longest drive and a 50-50 drawing are held during the tournament.

Tournament volunteers are needed for athletic and nonathletic tasks.

Sponsors for holes can sign up now. Holes are available for $100, and include an advertising sign on a tee box.

Volunteers or registration: Steve Carl, 410-876-2421 or Paul Kraushofer, 410-239-4142.

Pat Brodowski's North neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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