Oct 18 2018
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Vietnam veteran and decorated airman Lieutenant Colonel (retired) James Hudson in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Hudson, who resides in Conway, grew up in Dover, New Jersey as the youngest of four children. He was raised in a family rooted in strong military history. His dad served in the Navy and his brother served in the Army in WWII. Hudson followed in this family tradition initially as a member of the Delaware National Guard.
“I always had this idea of what it might be like if I could get up in that sky around those clouds, so I started doing some research.” Hudson said. He discovered the Air Force’s Aviation Cadet Program and passed the written and physical tests required for acceptance.
Hudson’s goal was to become a pilot, but it would be two years before he could join a class so he participated in observer, pre-flight training at Lackland Air Force Base. He continued his training at Harlingen Air Force base for navigation. He says the training he got there was the foundation for his career.
He completed radar observer training at Connally Air Force Base in Waco, Texas where he flew B-25s and then at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts to fly the F-94C.
“One of the things I learned real quick right at Otis is that this is a risky business. I lost four of my best friends from the original crew at Otis,” Hudson said. “There was no fanfare. That was the way it was” he said of the sacrifices that he and his fellow airmen made for the job.
Hudson continued to hone his skills as a pilot. He shared his expertise in the cockpit as an instructor pilot, flight examiner and test pilot. In these roles, Hudson evaluated the F-106, taking this new plane to Mach 2. “Going to Mach 2 in an F-106, I’m not going to say it’s a thrill,” he said. “Most of the time I could get to Mach 2 but there were a number of times when I got to .85 or .9” before the plane’s shuddering would force him to ease back on the throttle.
Hudson was called on to support air operations in Vietnam. Although he was trained in air-to-air combat, this assignment required additional training. He calls his preparation for flying the F-4 “wonderful.”
During his deployment, he was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam and flew 224 missions. He preferred to work and stay busy because he “didn’t want any time off.”
He is critical of the restrictions placed on him and his fellow aviators, believing they prevented them from protecting more people. “We developed an attitude that we’re not going out to kill as much as we are going out to save.”
Hudson earned the Distinguished Flying Cross on one mission and remains humble about this recognition. “It just happened that that was a special place and a guy took a little notice,” Hudson said. “You weren’t there for medals.”
Following his tour in Vietnam, Hudson was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where he became involved in reviewing and analyzing proposals, including the F-15, for modernizing air superiority. “My deduction was the F-15 was the airplane to go with.”
Hudson’s military memorabilia includes a certificate of the maiden flight of the F-15. “I consider that one of the greatest honors I ever had.” He is quick to point out that this plane is still part of the Air Force fleet today, more than 40 years after his retirement from military service.
“James Hudson’s memories offer a unique perspective of the selfless sacrifice of the airmen who put their lives on the line in duty to our country in combat. His efforts helped strengthen our air power superiority which continues to this day. I am pleased to honor his military service and preserve and share his memories of his time in uniform for future generations,” Boozman said.
Boozman submitted Hudson’s entire interviewto the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.